Percocet is a combination narcotic painkiller containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is a less potent, non-narcotic painkiller that enhances the effects of hydrocodone. As one of the most commonly abused painkillers in America, Percocet is frequently circulated in social circles and shared among friends and family members without a legitimate prescription.
Why is Percocet Addictive?
Like all narcotic painkillers, Percocet is addictive, and when taken recreationally, can quickly lead to addiction. While not all who take this drug become addicted to it, the hydrocodone in Percocet binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This causes a flood of dopamine in the brain, which stimulates the reward center and produces a euphoric feeling in the user. A natural response to euphoria is a repetition of the causal action (in this case, taking Percocet), and this is by design. Natural euphoria, to a much lesser degree than the effects of Percocet, is what reinforces the repetition of sex, eating, and exercise.
The euphoria associated with Percocet can be a double-edged sword, as it is a side effect of the drug’s ability to dull the brain’s perception of pain, but it is also what reinforces the repeated use of the drug. When Percocet is repeatedly used, the brain builds a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance is defined as the act or capacity of enduring, which is to say that the brain adapts to endure the effects of the drug. An example of this is the difference between how Percocet may affect a first time user and how it affects the same individual after multiple days of the same dosage.
The first time use of Percocet may produce effects such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme euphoria
- Constricted (pinpoint) pupils
- Muscle weakness
After multiple days of the same dosage of Percocet, a user’s brain will endure the effects of the drug as a result of increased tolerance to it, and all of the effects mentioned above will lessen. While the action of Percocet in the brain is no different, the brain itself changes to tolerate the effects and try to create a more functional existence. To achieve the same original effects of the drug, Percocet users will take higher doses in higher frequencies, prompting the brain to once again, adjust and increase tolerance, and so the cycle continues.
With growing tolerance and higher and more frequent doses of Percocet, an individual can quickly become addicted to the drug. Addiction to Percocet happens on two levels, physical and psychological.
Physical Addiction to Percocet
The physical dependence one may develop to Percocet can result in withdrawal symptoms when an individual suddenly stops or drastically reduces his or her use of the drug. The physical effects of Percocet use are widely opposite those of withdrawal, which is outlined in the table below:
|Physical Effects||Physical Withdrawal Symptoms|
|Constricted Pupils||Dilated Pupils|
|Muscle Weakness||Muscle Pain and Spasms|
|Slowed Heart Rate||Increased Heart Rate|
Physical dependence on Percocet can be a major factor in deterring an individual from getting off of the drug, as the withdrawal symptoms are often uncomfortable and excruciating enough to lead to an individual continuing to use, just to avoid these symptoms.
Psychological Addiction to Percocet
Despite the unpleasant physical withdrawal symptoms associated with Percocet use, the psychological addiction is what is actually damaging and leads to the bizarre behaviors often exhibited by Percocet addicts.
When an individual becomes addicted to Percocet, he or she feels a need to take the drug, and without it, experiences feelings of depression, anxiety, hostility, and intense cravings for more. When the brain receives abnormally high amounts of dopamine resulting from Percocet use, the brain responds by reducing the amount of dopamine that is naturally produced. When this happens, the only way for an individual to experience the euphoria, sense of well-being, satisfaction, and pleasure associated with Percocet use, is to use more. Over time, nothing else fills the void of reduced dopamine production other than Percocet, which is why addicts “need” the drug to feel normal.
Once an individual stops or drastically reduces his or her intake of Percocet, there are psychological withdrawal symptoms, just as there are physical. Some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Intense cravings
- Mood swings
Psychological addiction to Percocet can do much more than produce withdrawal symptoms, as it is also responsible for the dangerous behaviors associated with Percocet addiction. Since an individual addicted to this drug feels that his/her life revolves around getting and using it, the behaviors and actions of the individual could become dangerous and bizarre.
Many of these behaviors are the signs of Percocet addiction and are considered to be drug-seeking behavior. They include things like:
- Using Percocet in unintended ways (i.e., snorting and injecting the drug).
- Doctor shopping to get multiple prescriptions for Percocet.
- Using overseas online pharmacies to get Percocet.
- Taking or stealing Percocet from others for whom it has been prescribed.
- Making frequent trips to emergency rooms to get prescriptions for Percocet.
- Use of other depressant drugs like alcohol, heroin, benzodiazepines, or other opioids to enhance the effects of Percocet.
- Increased isolation from friends and family to use Percocet.
- Emotional use of Percocet (i.e., use it to cope with stress, disappointment, anger, or pain).
Dangers of Percocet Addiction
Like any addiction, Percocet addiction ruins lives and devastates the loved ones of the addict as they watch their loved one engage in unfathomable behaviors, and experience negative consequences repeatedly, without any foreseeable end. The problem with drug addiction is that it is a progressive and fatal disease, meaning without treatment, addiction will continue to get worse until the addict dies. Unfortunately, until an addict gets help for his or her addiction, it only gets worse, and as such, the consequences of addiction become more extreme.
Some of the most dangerous aspects of Percocet addiction are the lengths to which addicts will go to maintain addiction. It is in these efforts where many family members finally realize the extent of the damage done by addiction. Some of the things Percocet addicts may do to maintain their addiction can include:
- Theft to obtain money for more Percocet
- Forgery and fraud to get money for more Percocet
- Sexual favors and prostitution to support addiction
- Pawning or selling cherished possessions and family heirlooms for money
- Willingness to separate from family and friends to maintain addiction
- Financial hardships as a result of spending excessive money on Percocet
- Legal trouble resulting from charges related to Percocet use and abuse
All of the behaviors mentioned above associated with Percocet addiction are often continued and intensified despite an addict experiencing negative consequences repeatedly. The reason for this is because the psychological addiction to Percocet is so strong that an individual is often unable to connect his or her negative experiences with Percocet use. It is very common for addicts who do experience negative consequences as a result of Percocet addiction to blame other people and circumstances for their condition, rather than accept it as a result of their addictive and destructive behaviors caused by the addiction.
Ending Percocet Addiction
Although Percocet addiction, like all other addictions, is a progressive disease, it can be treated and overcome. Millions of Americans have struggled with Percocet addiction and managed to overcome it through addiction treatment programs of all kinds. The first step in overcoming any addiction is for the addict to admit that his or her life is out of control resulting from addiction and that he/she needs help. Unfortunately, not all addicts will make this admission easily and may require the influence of an intervention. Interventions are conducted with the loved ones of an addict attempting to persuade him or her to accept the gift of addiction treatment from his/her family. Typically very successful, interventions are effective tools in helping guide resistant addicts to the path toward recovery.
Once an addict has agreed to accept treatment for his or her addiction, it is of vital importance to choose the right kind of addiction treatment program for the individual. Many of the 11% of addicts in need of help who receive it have but one chance to change their lives and reclaim health and sobriety for themselves. It is imperative that individual needs, preferences, and belief systems be considered when deciding on an addiction treatment program for yourself or your addicted loved one.
At A Forever Recovery, we understand the hardships of addiction and the urgency of recovery. We have developed an individualized treatment plan that can be tailored to the personal needs, preferences, and belief system of each so that every person can create his or her path toward recovery. We know that a broad approach won’t work for everyone and that each person’s path to healing is just as unique as he or she is as a person. If you have a loved one struggling with an addiction to Percocet or any other drug, please contact us to speak with a trained counselor who will work with you to develop an individualized treatment track that is most conducive to the needs and preferences of yourself or your addicted loved one. We work with you on an open-ended basis, which means that your treatment program is results-based, not on a time limit, and we will continue to work with each individual until such time that he or she is truly ready to complete the program.
If addiction is ruining your life, don’t wait any longer, and don’t take chances with a time-restricted program, or one that doesn’t fit your needs. Call us now and talk to us about how we will empower you or your loved one to make the changes that are necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery from addiction. There is a brighter day, and we can help you create the path to get there.