Percocet Abuse and Effects on the Body

benzoMany who are addicted to Percocet began using the medication to treat pain or discomfort following an injury or surgical procedure.

Others may have opted for it in lieu of availability of other opioid painkillers or heroin. Whatever the case, it is easy to become dependent on Percocet in just a few weeks of typical use. As soon as tolerance takes hold, individuals may begin using more of the drug more often, and soon, they find they can no longer function without it. The cascade of side effects that stem from Percocet abuse can seem endless, but the damage can be repaired before it’s too late.

Opioid painkillers have grown in popularity among people who abuse drugs in recent decades, and the problem is showing no signs of easing up. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports 135,971 cases of opioid overdose were managed in emergency rooms across the United States in 2010, and many of these cases involve prescription drugs. There were 31.9 million prescriptions filled for Percocet in 2011, per USA Today.

Percocet’s Effects on the Brain

Opioids like Percocet don’t just impact the physical body. While the autonomic system and organs are working hard to repair themselves every time they are hit with another dose of drugs, the mind is trying to stay balanced as well. A breakdown in mental faculties isn’t uncommon in light of opioid drug abuse. Prolonged abuse of these drugs leads to mental impairment.

It isn’t only cognitive functioning that slows down. People who abuse Percocet can develop depression, and it may not go away even after they stop abusing the drug. A quality treatment program that addresses addiction as well as co-occurring disorders can help clients deal with depression and sadness in healthier ways that don’t involve opioid abuse.

Effects on the Liver and Kidneys

The liver’s job is to filter out toxins and protect the body from them. This doesn’t just mean poisons that the body should never be exposed to, but also medications, whether they are used in copious amounts or medicinally.

When it comes to Percocet, the harm done to the liver isn’t just from filtering and storing all the oxycodone in the medication. The primary harm comes from filtering and storing the acetaminophen in Percocet. MedPage Today notes that acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the country.

The kidneys also filter toxins and may incur damage when substantial amounts of Percocet cause the temperature of the body to rise too high.

Effects on the Digestive System

The stomach and intestines are also affected by Percocet abuse. Constipation is one of the major side effects of abusing opioids. The drugs slow down the digestion process dramatically for some people. This is why many who enter treatment will have a fairly immediate onset of diarrhea when they stop using opioids. Those who are placed on maintenance treatment medications will usually still have this side effect as the body adjusts to a lower dose of opioids over time.

Risk of Overdose

Death is the ultimate price that some people end up paying due to addiction to opioid painkillers like Percocet. Every single day, roughly 46 people die from an overdose on this class of drugs, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if people would have reached out beforehand for appropriate treatment.

Signs That Someone Needs Help

woman abusing Percocet is sitting on sidewalk next to used drug syringes and cigarettes

Oftentimes, loved ones are the first to notice that something is amiss, and they are often the ones that encourage the individual in need to seek help. Those who are struggling to determine whether a loved one needs help should look for red flags that point to addiction. While some signs are clearer than others, multiple signs often indicate that a person needs help.

If the person has dramatically changed direction in life, it can be a sign of substance abuse. For example, if they used to be determined and career-oriented, and are now slacking on work responsibilities, it can be a sign that there’s a problem. Likewise, if they are not fulfilling familial commitments, not interested in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities, and missing other social engagements, it may be due to continued substance abuse.

Changes in behavior and emotions can be clear signs of opioid abuse as well. Anger and lashing out at those who try to confront them are huge warning signs that something is amiss. If the person becomes defensive about their substance use, it’s generally a sign that something is wrong.

Physical signs also often accompany opioid abuse. Weight loss, poor grooming habits, and slow reaction times can all be signs of opioid abuse. In addition, the person may experience withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to use Percocet. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and overall malaise.

If you suspect a loved one has been abusing, or may be addicted to, Percocet, it’s time to reach out to them.

You can approach them in a one-on-one conversation, but do so when they are likely to be sober. Take care not to be accusatory or hostile, and instead stress your love and care for the person.

In many instances, it may be more appropriate to stage a formal intervention, along with other loved ones. In a professional intervention, an interventionist leads the discussion, helping to keep things on track and ensuring greater chances of success. The ultimate goal is that the person in need agrees to get professional help.

Treatment Options

residential treatment

Individuals who are dependent on Percocet need professional treatment to stop abusing the drug. This isn’t an issue that can be tackled alone. In fact, around 95 percent of all people who attempt to quit using these drugs on their own relapse, Wired Magazine reports. In fact, medical detox is always recommended for opioid withdrawal, due to the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms.

Rehab will not only help the person to stop using, but it will also guide them in managing co-occurring disorders and addressing stressors that may have led them to self-medicate with drugs in the first place.

Choosing a treatment center starts with deciding what kind of treatment is necessary. In some cases, an addiction to Percocet can be treated on an outpatient basis. Some individuals – such as those struggling with co-occurring disorders, those who have received treatment in the past, and those with long-term or severe addictions – will need additional forms of therapy that may or may not warrant a need for inpatient care.

If the person has a family or children to care for, then inpatient treatment may not be ideal if they have no one else to rely on for fulltime childcare. If there isn’t outpatient treatment available nearby for opioid addiction, some individuals will have to travel long distances, making inpatient care a better option for them.

Others might have careers that limit their ability to take extended leave. As a result, outpatient treatment with evening hours may be ideal.

Insurance coverage also factors into the decision. While insurance coverage certainly makes treatment more feasible for many, it isn’t a deal-breaker if one doesn’t have insurance. In 2011, 59.6 percent of people aged 26 and older who were admitted to treatment didn’t have health insurance, per SAMHSA; they still got help.

The decision between outpatient or inpatient treatment should be made by the individual client in conjunction with the recommendation of the intake team at the treatment center.

Learn More

When someone makes the decision to get help, they should be able to rely on their chosen treatment center to inform them of what to expect. For opioid addiction, the first part of the treatment process involves detox. Withdrawal symptoms may occur, and these include:

  • Pain in the muscles and bones
  • Fatigue
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Cramping and diarrhea
  • Seizures and tremors
  • Upset stomach
  • Trembling
  • Nightmares

Medication-assisted treatment is often used for opioid addiction. This involves the use of a replacement medication, such as methadone or buprenorphine, to slowly wean the person off opioids altogether. Over time, the dosage is lowered until the person is wholly free from drugs. Drug War Facts reports that 98 percent of all people who sought rehab through opioid treatment centers in 2012 did so via methadone maintenance therapy while just 2 percent chose buprenorphine.

If medications are used during the withdrawal and treatment process, they should be part of a larger treatment plan; medication on its own does not constitute treatment. A comprehensive treatment program should include therapy, in both an individual and group setting, to effectively address issues related to Percocet addiction. Therapy makes up the backbone of addiction treatment and sets the foundation for a future life in sobriety.