Percocet Addiction: Abuse, Dependence
and Treatment Options for Women
Percocet abuse and addiction have become serious problems in the United States; for women in particular. Women are much more likely to be prescribed this type of medication, and they are also more likely to take it long-term than men. It is so important to understand the dangers of this drug and what needs to be done to recover.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for anyone with a Percocet addiction. But the reality is that many women may not realize that they are abusing or addicted to this drug. If they do realize it, they may feel stuck and unable to get the help they need to get off it.
The best approach is professional treatment, but first, we should discuss the risks involved with continual use. While recovering from this addiction can be difficult, with the right support, it can be done.
What is Percocet? Is it an Opioid?
Percocet is a controlled substance, or narcotic, that is only available by prescription. It is an opioid, which means it attaches to the opioid receptors in the body to help control pain. This drug is made with a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Acetaminophen helps to increase the effects of the oxycodone to help reduce pain levels.
Because Percocet is an opioid, that means that it can be HIGHLY addictive. Doctors should only be prescribing it to treat severe pain on a short-term basis. Taking it long-term is likely to have serious consequences, which we will discuss in just a moment.
This medication is very strong, and the pain relief people experience when taking it is apparent. That, in combination with the drug’s euphoric effects are what makes it so easy to become addicted.
Doctors prescribe Percocet to treat several different types of moderate to severe pain. It is often given following surgical procedures for pain relief. For those who are having back pain, it may be offered as a short-term solution. It can also be used to help relieve pain associated with cancer and other debilitating diseases.
The problem is that people often take Percocet long-term without realizing the damaging effects it can have. Many do not realize that it is an addictive drug, and they are surprised to find out that they have become dependent upon it.
Percocet and oxycodone are not the same medication, but as we mentioned earlier, oxycodone is one of the ingredients in Percocet, along with Acetaminophen. It is very common for people to assume that they are the same, and although they slightly differ, it is the opioid part of Percocet and Oxy that are addictive.
A doctor may choose to prescribe Percocet over oxycodone if they feel that more pain relief is needed. The added acetaminophen can accentuate the way oxycodone works in the body. Those with severe pain may experience faster relief when they are taking the combination of the two drugs.
An opiate is a drug that is directly derived from the poppy plant. Opioids include heroin, but the classification also includes prescribed medications that are made in a lab, but that work on the body’s opioid receptors, such as Percocet.
Morphine – another opioid – is often used to treat pain, but it is generally not given to patients to use on their own at home. It is more likely to be given via IV in a hospital setting. Heroin is different from both of these drugs because it is illegal. It is considered to be a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
Understanding the Side Effects
Like with other drugs, Percocet does have side effects. Some of them will be persistent during the time the patient takes this medication. Others may go away with time.
Some of the more common side effects of Percocet include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- An upset stomach
- Feeling drowsy or sleepy
- Itching all over the body
- Blurry vision
- A dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
Some people may experience some serious side effects from taking Percocet, and they include:
- Respiratory depression
- Respiratory arrest
- Low blood pressure
- Circulatory depression
- Going into shock
There have even been people who experienced such a strong reaction to Percocet that taking it became fatal. This is a powerful drug, and any of the above should be reported to a doctor right away.
The short-term effects of Percocet include all of the side effects listed above. Most people take it for its pain relieving qualities. But there are additional short-term effects that may be experienced whether the individual is using it for pain, or as a way to get high. They include:
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Sensations of euphoria
- Constricted pupils
Even with short-term use, constipation is a major concern for someone who is abusing Percocet. Their condition can quickly become severe, and even result in a medical emergency because of fecal impaction.
The longer a person takes Percocet, the more at risk they are for experiencing some of the drug’s more dangerous side effects. Some of the long-term effects of this drug include:
- Severe constipation (possibly to the point of impaction, bowel obstruction, or bowel perforation)
- Possible liver damage
- Possible kidney failure
- Urinary retention
- Decreased testosterone levels in men
- Drug tolerance
- Physical and psychological dependence and addiction
Again, Percocet is a drug that was never intended to be taken long-term. But its euphoric qualities can become addictive, which is why so many people get hooked on it.
Percocet Abuse: Why is it a Problem for Women?
According to the CDC, women are especially at risk for opioid abuse and addiction. In fact, they state that approximately 18 women die every day because of a prescription painkiller overdose. There are still more men who die from these types of overdoses, but the gap between men and women is narrowing quickly.
Women are much more likely than men to go to the doctor to get treatment for moderate to severe pain. The fact that they go through childbirth and often need painkillers afterwards only makes them more susceptible to abusing Percocet. This is the drug that many doctors prescribe to women after they have a baby; whether they gave birth naturally, or they had a cesarean section.
Likewise, women are more likely to stay on Percocet for a longer period of time. That puts them at a higher risk for abusing it and becoming addicted to it. But in addition to that, the stress that women face on a daily basis may cause them to seek out the euphoria that taking Percocet offers to them. So many women are juggling children, taking care of the home, and working full time jobs. It can be difficult for them to cope with all of these responsibilities.
There are also women who suffer from anxiety and/or depression, among other mental illnesses. Taking Percocet may bring them temporary relief for their symptoms, which makes the drug much more attractive. Eventually, many will form addictions to the drug, which will result in a co-occurring disorder that needs professional treatment.
How Does Abuse Leads to Addiction?
Most women begin taking Percocet because it was prescribed by their doctors to treat pain. They intend to take it short-term, and they do not give any thought to the fact that it might be addictive. But as they continue to take it, their risk for getting addicted increases with every dose.
When a woman starts taking Percocet, she experiences the euphoria that goes along with opioid drugs. That euphoria is the result of excess dopamine being released in the brain when the medication attaches to opioid receptors. It is a good feeling, and it is one that she may want to experience again; even if she does not need pain relief.
Over time, continuing to abuse Percocet in this way can and often does lead to an addiction. At that point, she feels as though she needs the drug to get through each day.
The Opioid Epidemic and the Risks Involved With Long-Term Percocet Use
When opioid drugs first became available as a way to treat severe pain, the medical community was excited. Pharmaceutical companies assured physicians that they did not have to worry about any risk of people getting addicted to them. With that assurance in mind, prescribers started giving to their patients willingly.
Eventually, widespread misuse and diversion began, and people started to abuse opioids as a way to get high. But by that time, it was too late. The opioid epidemic was on its way to becoming a public health emergency. The number of people overdosing on opioids was climbing with every passing year. But it took a very long time before anyone took action to solve the problem.
For women who are addicted to opioid drugs like Percocet, the risks of using it long-term are very real. Because this medication is not as readily available as it once was, people are seeking out alternatives. In their searches, they often decide to turn to heroin.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who take prescription painkillers are at a much greater risk for abusing heroin. When they no longer can obtain Percocet or similar drugs, heroin offers them the pain relief and euphoria they are looking for. In one study, 86% of people admitted to using prescription opioids prior to using heroin. It is a much more affordable option, but it is also easy to find on the streets.
Opioid Abuse and Addiction Statistics in the U.S.
The CDC offers many statistics that indicate just how big a problem opioid addiction has become in the United States. They state that:
- Between 1999 and 2017, there have been more than 700,000 people who have died from a drug overdose.
- In 2017 alone, there were around 70,200 drug overdose deaths.
- 68% of those deaths involved an opioid drug.
- By 2017, the number of opioid overdose deaths had become six times higher than it was in 1999.
- Around 130 people in the U.S. die every day because of opioid overdose.
Percocet is, by no means, a benign drug. It is an opioid that is partly responsible for the loss of so many lives. That is why it is so important for women to understand the risks involved with using it and abusing it.
Signs of Percocet Addiction
It is not uncommon for women to be completely unaware that they have gotten addicted to Percocet. Most are only taking it because it helps with their pain, and because it was prescribed by their doctors. Addiction has a way of taking hold of a person without them realizing it is even happening.
That is why it is important to recognize the signs of addiction, which include:
- Being unable to stop using.
- Continuing to use even if doing so is leading to health problems.
- Using the drug solely as a way to handle problems, and not for pain relief.
- Becoming obsessed with the drug.
- Taking risks that the person would not normally take when high, or to obtain the drug.
- Sacrificing activities and hobbies that the person once enjoyed.
- Always making sure there is enough of the drug on hand, and stashing some away.
- Becoming secretive and isolated from friends and family.
- Denying that they have a substance abuse problem.
- Consuming unsafe amounts of the drug.
- Having legal issues that can be tied to the drug use.
- Experiencing financial problems because of the amount of money spent on drugs.
Once an addiction has formed, there are other symptoms that usually become apparent as well. The person may go through withdrawal once the effects of the drug wear off. They may suffer from sleeplessness or illnesses that were caused by the drug as well.
Does Quitting Percocet Lead to Withdrawal?
When a woman stops taking Percocet after she has become addicted to it, withdrawal almost always occurs. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can even become debilitating.
Some of the more common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Feeling agitated
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Achy muscles
- Trouble sleeping
- Eye tearing
- A runny nose
- Nausea and vomiting
- Goose bumps
- Stomach cramps
Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s way of responding once a drug has left a person’s system. It takes time for the body to balance back out again, but quitting is something that should only be done under professional supervision.
The Best Treatments for Women Suffering From Percocet Addictions
Far too many women attempt to get off Percocet on their own, without going to treatment. But when they do, the run the risk of a deadly opioid overdose, which happens most often when people relapse.
That is why it is so important to get professional help during recovery. Quitting cold turkey, using natural detox methods, or investing in drug detox kits often seem like easier options. But they are not effective, and the risks involved are simply too great.
The first step in the Percocet addiction recovery process is usually to go through drug detox. There are many forms of treatment that can help women get through the worst parts of withdrawal.
Detoxing can take on many forms. But for women who are addicted to opioid drugs like Percocet, medical detox is often recommended. This allows them to take medications to help with their symptoms. There are several drugs that have been approved by the FDA for this purpose, such as:
Vivitrol is a medication that is not an opioid (unlike the ones listed above), and it has shown to be very effective for this type of withdrawal. It is given once per month by injection, and patients must participate in a counseling program simultaneously.
Once detox is concluded, drug rehab is the next step. During rehab, women will have the opportunity to get therapy to help with the psychological aspect of the addiction. This is very important because determining the root cause and treating it is the only way they will successfully recover.
Every drug rehab should provide their patients with personalized treatment plans. That way, the patient receives the type of help she needs, and she will be much more likely to experience a positive outcome long-term.
In some cases, going through detox and rehab simply is not enough. Many women may find that they need long-term care. For them, sober living offers that possibility.
Sober living homes provide women with a lot of support to help them quit using drugs like Percocet and stay clean. They are all very different, and some offer in-house treatment, while others require patients to attend an outpatient program. People can remain there for several months, which is exactly what a lot of women need.
Recovery From Percocet Addiction is Possible – Why Not Start Today?
At Women’s Recovery, we know how you feel if you are addicted to Percocet or any other substance. We offer various treatment options that can work for you, if you are ready to be free from your opioid addiction.
We have two facilities in Colorado; one in Denver and one in Summit County. Our outpatient treatment program is designed to speak to your unique needs while allowing you the flexibility you need to get help.