Percocet Addiction & Overdose Treatment
Abuse of pain relievers is a major public health concern in the U.S. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2017, around 11.1 million people in the US abused prescription drugs in the past year. Out of this number, it is estimated that 3.7 million people misused oxycodone products, which is the category that includes the pain reliever Percocet. Out of the 19.7 million people who develop substance use disorders, 1.7 million people suffer from a disorder that includes a prescription pain reliever.1 Individuals struggling with addiction or have a loved one who is, should consider seeking specialized Percocet treatment options.
What Is Percocet and What Does It Do?
Percocet is the brand name of a prescription pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe acute (or short-term) pain.2 It is manufactured by Endo Pharmaceuticals and it was officially approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1976.3
The active ingredients of Percocet are:2
- Oxycodone, a semisynthetic opioid agonist whose main effect is analgesia. In addition to reducing pain, it decreases anxiety, relaxes the user, and may cause euphoria.
- Acetaminophen, a non-opiate substance that reduces pain and fever.
The drug is also referred to by the nickname “Percs.”4
Percocet is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means that it has high potential for abuse and physical and psychological dependence.5 Due to the fact that oxycodone, one of the components of Percocet, is a morphine-like opioid, this medication is attractive to drug abusers and people suffering from AUDs.2 Percocet abuse can lead to overdose and require immediate Percocet overdose treatment and assistance.
How Is Percocet Used?
Percocet is intended for oral use. However, when diverted, it may also be crushed and then snorted, or crushed and dissolved in water and injected like heroin.6
Percocet pills are available in six combinations of oxycodone hydrochloride and acetaminophen, with different appearances (yellow, blue, or pink tables for example) with oxycodone strength ranging from 2.5 mg to 10 mg.2
It is prescribed when pain is severe enough to require an opioid analgesic, in cases when alternative non-opioid treatment options are inadequate.7 They are commonly used to treat migraines. Over 50% of emergency department migraine visits are treated with opioid medication. However, Percocet headache treatment carries a risk of medication overuse headache, as it happens when opioid drugs are used more than ten times per month. If the person uses opioid drugs frequently, they can become dependent.8
What Are the Signs of Percocet Overdose?
Percocet overdose happens when someone intentionally or accidentally takes too much medicine. The patient may accidentally take too much of the medicine if they do not feel that they are getting satisfactory pain relief from the normal dose. This can happen with patients undergoing Percocet headache treatment. On the other hand, the person may intentionally take too much of the medicine in order to get high or hurt themselves.9
The symptoms of Percocet overdose are:10
- Slow heartbeat.
- Slow or shallow breathing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Loss of appetite.
- Increased perspiration.
- Abdominal/stomach pain.
- Dark urine.
- Yellowing eyes/skin.
Although symptoms such as nausea or sweating may appear earlier, it is not possible to obtain clinical and laboratory evidence of liver toxicity before 48 to 72 hours after drug ingestion.2
Severe overdose may cause stopped breathing and cardiac arrest, as a result of which the person can die. Another directly life-threatening effect of Percocet overdose can be liver damage (hepatonecrosis). These fatal outcomes are rarely reported with doses of less than 15 grams, but even if not immediately life-threatening, overdose effects are dangerous and require Percocet overdose treatment.2
How Does Percocet Overdose Treatment Work?
In cases of life-threatening overdose, the FDA-approved medication naloxone is used for reversing the severe effects of opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist used against respiratory depression that occurs when too much oxycodone is present in the body.2
Percocet overdose treatment may involve supportive measures in order to reestablish normal breathing and circulation. These include cardiac massage, defibrillation, assisted or controlled ventilation, oxygen, intravenous fluids, and vasopressors.2
To remove the unabsorbed drug from the body, stomach pumping is used even when the patient has already vomited spontaneously. Activated charcoal is also used for this purpose, but never prior to stomach pumping.2
Physical dependence on Percocet means that the person’s body adapts to the presence of the drug after regular use and experiences withdrawal symptoms when suddenly reducing or ceasing to use the drug. Clinically significant dependence can be detected after several weeks of high dosage therapy.2
The factors that have an impact on the severity of withdrawal symptoms are:2
- Daily dosage of the opioid.
- Duration of therapy.
- Medical status of the individual.
The symptoms of withdrawal are:2
- Anxiety and restlessness.
- Nervousness and irritability.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Muscle aches.
- Tremor and goosebumps.
- Sneezing, rhinorrhea, lacrimation.
- Excessive sweating.
- Abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If a person is addicted to Percocet, they seek ways to illegitimately obtain drugs. In the case of prescription medication, examples of such drug-seeking behavior involve tampering with medical records or avoiding testing and examination.2
Treatment for Percocet Addiction
Since Percocet contains an opioid agonist, Percocet addiction is treated as other opioid addictions. The standard approach to treating opioid use disorders is medication-assisted treatment, which involves combining medications and behavioral therapy to help the patient recover from addiction both physically and psychologically. This approach has been shown to have the highest success rates in opioid abuse treatment.11
In addition to standard FDA-approved medications used in addiction treatment, there are also some over-the-counter medicines that are helpful in overcoming unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as nausea or pain.12
Frequently Asked Questions
The usual daily dosage of Percocet is one or two tablets every six hours, depending on the strength of the medication. For example, for Percocet 2.5 mg/325 mg, the maximum daily dosage is 12 tablets, while for Percocet 10 mg/650 mg it is 6 tablets.2
Although the drug can remain in the body longer than its effects may last, blood concentrations of oxycodone are practically nonexistent after 24 hours. It is possible to trace it in urine samples a bit longer, between two and four days following the last use. Hair tests are the most sensitive ones and can identify oxycodone even several weeks after the person has stopped using the drug. Of course, this all depends on the dosage and individual metabolism.13
In cases of severe intoxication, it is necessary to call an emergency to receive specialized Percocet overdose treatment. Help is also provided by local poison centers which can be reached by calling the toll-free helpline (1-800-222-1222). In situations when naloxone is available, it should be applied immediately, to reverse the dangerous effects of overdose.14
If the person needs to be weaned off Percocet, this process should be carried out gradually. The rapid discontinuation may cause severe withdrawal symptoms and the person may resort to other drugs. It is advisable that the tapering schedule is agreed to by the patient and that mental health support services are provided in addition to medical supervision.7
When a person is dependent on oxycodone (the opioid component of Percocet), withdrawal begins 8-12 hours after the last drug use. The symptoms peak in the period 36-72 and most of them subside in 7-10 days.12 Percocet withdrawal treatment provided by certified addiction treatment facilities may help the patient go through this challenging period and not resume using the drug.
Pregnant women should avoid the use of Percocet, as the drug could cause narcotic withdrawal symptoms in the infant after delivery. Percocet is classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Category C medication, which means it should only be given to pregnant women if the healthcare provider believes that the benefits to the woman outweigh any possible risks to the unborn child.2
1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. (2018). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
2. Endo Pharmaceuticals. Oxycodone and acetaminophen tablets.
3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Committee on Pain Management and Regulatory Strategies to Address. (2017). Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic.
4. National Institutes of Health. (2018). Street & Commercial Names.
5. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Scheduling.
6. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Oxycodone Extended-Release Tablets.
7. DailyMed (2020). PERCOCET- oxycodone hydrochloride and acetaminophen tablet.
8. American Headache Society. Opioids and Migraine.
9. Medline Plus. Hydrocodone/oxycodone overdose.
11. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. (2021). Medication-Assisted Treatment.
12. Providers’ Clinical Support System. Management of Opioid Treatment and Overdoses.
13. Medical News Today. (2020). How long does oxycodone stay in the system?
14. Medline Plus. (2019). Hydrocodone/oxycodone overdose.