Percocet is a popular name-brand version of the opioid painkiller oxycodone. Percocet contains a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer.
While Percocet is an effective pain reliever, the drug is habit-forming. A person can become physically dependent on Percocet in as little as two weeks. With chronic use, a person can quickly spiral into full-blown oxycodone addiction.
You can become dependent on opioid painkillers after just a couple of weeks of continual use. When that happens, your body has adapted to the drug and you can’t function normally without it.
The behavioral signs of addiction, including cravings and compulsive Percocet abuse in spite of the negative impact to your work and relationships, often follow as neurochemical changes occur in the brain.
Some red flags for a Percocet addiction include:
Vanessa Vitolo was 23 years old when a doctor prescribed Percocet to treat a shoulder injury. The New Jersey woman started out taking one a day.
As her tolerance for the drug grew, she began taking more. Two pills became three pills, and eventually she was taking 10 Percocet daily. When her prescription ran out, she began buying a stronger form of oxycodone, OxyContin, on the streets. Eventually her Percocet abuse became an Oxycontin addiction and led her to heroin, which was cheaper and easier to get.
“Very quickly, I lost everything,” Vitolo recalled at a 2017 White House listening session on opioids and drug abuse. “I was homeless. I chose to be homeless. I was living on the streets of Atlantic City.”
Vitolo cycled in and out of jail, but eventually got a lucky break. “I was lucky enough to see some kind of light where I became a drug court participant — a drug court system that we have in New Jersey, which saved my life.”
People who are physically dependent on Percocet will become very ill if they suddenly cease taking the drug.
Signs and symptoms of Percocet withdrawal include:
Oxycodone withdrawal usually begins within six to eight hours after the last use of the drug and can last for up to a week.
If you have a Percocet addiction, you are dealing with a life-threatening disease.
People who abuse Percocet or have an oxycodone addiction have a high risk of overdose. That’s because Percocet acts on the brain stem and can cause severe respiratory depression or death.
Signs and symptoms of a Percocet overdose include:
Mixing oxycodone and alcohol increases the risk of a Percocet overdose. Alcohol enhances the drug’s sedating effects and can dangerously suppress breathing. Mixing oxycodone and Xanax can also be deadly. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned physicians not to prescribe both medications to people at the same time.
Treatment can help you overcome a Percocet addiction and get your life back on track.
Opioid addiction treatment usually begins with detox. While some people are able to detox on an outpatient basis, others require assistance. A detox center can help you safely stop using Percocet and treat the most distressing symptoms of withdrawal.
Once the drug is out of your system, you’ll begin a specially tailored treatment regimen. You may receive medications to help stabilize your brain chemistry and reduce cravings. This is known as opioid replacement therapy and involves long-term use of prescription medications such as buprenorphine or methadone.
Addiction treatment also involves intensive behavioral therapy as well as individual and group counseling. Depending on your personal situation, treatment may be provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
After completing rehab, many people transition to sober living homes. The facilities offer a safe, supportive and drug-free environment where a person can work on their sobriety and get back into the routine of daily life.
Vitolo says rehab and sober living gave her a new lease on life. She got a job, quickly moved into a management position and got her own apartment. Today, she is a public speaker on drug addiction and recovery and has appeared in advertisements for New Jersey’s opioid crisis hotline.
“Three year ago, I didn’t have a place to live, and today I’m here to represent the light that can be born out of the defeat of this darkness,” Vitolo told the White House panel. “There is hope, and there is a tomorrow, and there is a day after that. You just have to fight for it.”
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