Percocet is designed to deliver a one-two punch to pain. Each dose contains acetaminophen (a painkiller) and oxycodone (a narcotic), so people who take Percocet in response to pain should feel their discomfort ease and their sense of contentedness rise. That’s vital help for people dealing with pain.
Typically, this medication is only provided in small doses for a short period of time. That’s because, as Mayo Clinic points out, acetaminophen can cause liver damage in high doses. Doctors wouldn’t want to give a damaging drug like that to people who need a lot of help over a long time period.
People can and do develop addictions to the narcotic ingredient that lives inside each Percocet dose. When they do, they may take the high doses that have been associated with damage, and they may do so for a long time period.
Thankfully, people who develop Percocet addictions can get better with the right help, and families could play a key role in the recovery process.
Percocet is a remarkably common drug, and it’s handed out in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and dental clinics all around the nation. Anyone who gets a prescription for the drug could become addicted to it, but an article in Pain Physician Journal suggests that the typical prescription drug abuser is a young, white man. These men tend to abuse painkillers because of behavioral issues, while women who abuse painkillers do so because of emotional difficulties.
While some people who abuse Percocet have a valid prescription for the drug, research in Pain Medicine suggests that most painkiller abusers get their drugs from:
People with Percocet addictions don’t obtain these pills for the thrill of getting drugs they shouldn’t have. They obtain these pills because of the euphoria they can deliver. The narcotic ingredient inside Percocet latches to receptors in the brain, and once those particles are attached, they produce a sensation of extreme happiness and joy. People on Percocet feel overwhelmed with pleasure, willing to do anything to get the drug again.
Most people know that abusing Percocet isn’t safe and accepted, so many people who abuse the drug might attempt to hide that fact. People who are addicted may show addiction symptoms that are impossible to ignore, including these from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
People like this may spend most of the day looking for more Percocet, so they might skip out on work or family obligations. They may seem slow and sedated most of the time, due to the impact of the drug.
When the high of mania is augmented by drugs, and the low of depression is deeper due to drug withdrawal, recovery seems difficult or impossible.
The greatest risk of Percocet use lies in its addictive potential. This is a drug that seems custom-made to deliver a big dose of happiness to the brain, and that’s the sort of impact that the brain just can’t forget. Little traces of damage are left behind after each dose a person takes, and that damage makes each dose of Percocet less effective. In time, people must take massive doses of this drug just to feel even a touch of joy.
Each dose has a sedating effect, as doses can slow breathing rates to a crawl. People taking very high doses of the drug can overwhelm the brain’s vital systems, and when that happens, they can overdose and stop breathing. It’s a medical emergency, and if it’s not treated, it can lead to death.
In time, the brain can’t function without Percocet. People in the throes of an addiction just don’t feel normal unless they have access to the drug. Without it, they feel ill and jittery, racked with flu-like symptoms. That keeps these people using, as Percocet makes the illness fade away.
Percocet can also cause very serious short-term health problems in people who choose to abuse it. For example, as a case study in The Journal of Emergency Medicine makes clear, people with Percocet addictions may choose to inject the drug instead of swallowing it. An injection makes the drug work faster, so it tends to make the high happen faster, too. But Percocet pills aren’t made to hit the bloodstream. When they do, they can clump together and form a clot that can move to the brain or to the lungs and cause death.
Percocet can also be dangerous in the short-term, as dealers may sell drugs that look like Percocet but that contain something else altogether. In one case study in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, researchers report on the case of a young man who thought he was taking Percocet, but who was really taking a different medication made to help heart disorders. This man had seizures as a result.
Dealers aren’t required to prove that the drugs they sell are pure, and people who are duped into taking the wrong drug really have no one to report the issue to. Anyone who buys Percocet from a street dealer is taking a real risk of serious harm that could happen just as soon as the drug starts to work on vital body tissues.
An analysis in Pain Medicine suggests that prescription painkiller abuse costs American society about $55.7 billion per year. It’s a very serious problem, both for the families of those with addictions and the communities that support those families. Doctors are doing their part to help curb the very serious consequences an addiction can bring about.
The Utah Addiction Center suggests, for example, that doctors follow a nine-step process before providing medications like Percocet to their patients. In this process, doctors would determine the level of pain the person is feeling, along with the person’s history of drug abuse. Doctors would then advise addicted people on programs that could help, and/or the doctor would prescribe the drug with close monitoring requirements.
Steps like this could, in theory, reduce the new cases of Percocet addiction that appear in this country, but these steps may come far too late for people who are already addicted. For these people, doctors can be a drug dead end, so they’ll just head right to dealers. The legislation changes won’t help them with an addiction. But their families might.
Families that spot a Percocet addiction can be immense forces for change. They can hold a structured conversation, known as an intervention, and educate the person about the addiction process. In this talk, the family will outline the symptoms of addiction they’ve seen and the reasons the person should get treatment. A professional interventionist will supervise the talk, so the conversation doesn’t go south, but the family will do the convincing and persuading. At the end of that talk, the person should be ready to enroll in treatment.
This is where things get a whole lot better. In a structured Percocet program, people with addictions have the opportunity to get sober in a safe and supervised environment with medical support, so they’ll go through withdrawal without feeling ill or upset. Then, they’ll head into therapy sessions that can help to build up their relapse-prevention skills, so they’ll be able to maintain that sobriety for the rest of life. Support group work can play a role, too, helping people with these addictions to understand that they’re not alone.
In a Dual Diagnosis program, people with Percocet addictions and mental illnesses can learn how the two conditions intersect and combine, and they can develop in-depth skills that keep them away from self-medication with drugs. Rather than reaching for a Percocet bottle when mental illness symptoms grow stronger, they’ll know how to use science-based techniques to move past the tough spot and into a happier, healthier life.
If you need help with a Percocet addiction, we’re here for your family. Call us to find out more about the help we can provide.
Integrated Treatment of Substance Abuse & Mental Illness