Percocet is an opiate prescription drug that contains a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen. When patients take Percocet, oxycodone interacts with special endorphin receptors in the brain, releasing a wave of dopamine that creates sensations of pleasure while lessening pain.
Oxycodone is related chemically to heroin, and both opioids have similar effects on the brain. Percocet is also considered a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Responsible doctors only prescribe it for short-term treatments and intense pain, such as after surgery or a broken bone, and only when other non-addictive pain relievers have failed.
Patients who only take Percocet for a short time may still notice side effects from oxycodone. These can include intense joy or sadness, depression, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, sleepiness, tiredness and constipation. Parents who suspect teen use may look for text messages with the terms Percs, Paulas or blue dynamite, names used on the street for this drug.
Signs of abuse show up when patients start taking more Percocet than prescribed, refuse to stop taking the drug or turn to theft to support their habit. Addicted patients may also visit multiple doctors looking for additional prescriptions. Addiction to oxycodone is often easy to notice because of intense physical, emotional and mental changes:
Not all patients become addicted to oxycodone, but virtually all develop some type of dependence. As the brain gets used to receiving a regular dopamine “high,” it starts to adapt to the substance. When patients stop taking Percocet, the body can experience strong negative reactions.
Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms including intense cravings for the drug, severe anxiety, irritability, a faster-than-normal heart rate, stomach problems, sweating, thoughts of suicide and muscle pain. These symptoms typically last five to seven days. Patients who have an addiction to Percocet or another oxycodone drug need professional help, and they need it quickly.
Because Percocet is an opioid, it’s possible for patients to overdose. This is a life-threatening condition, and friends or family members need to act quickly by going to a hospital emergency room immediately. In addition, people who misuse Percocet are in danger of overdose from oxycodone and from acetaminophen.
In an oxycodone overdose, the patient can pass out or stop breathing, resulting in blue lips or fingernails. Too much acetaminophen leads to liver damage, causing vomiting, stomach pain, dark urine and yellowing skin or eyes.
Acting quickly in the case of Percocet overdose can save the life of a loved one. Now that doctors have started to become aware of the extent of the opioid epidemic, they’ve started to keep Naloxone on hand for emergency treatments. Naloxone reverses the strongest effects of oxycodone overdose so the patient can keep breathing.
Treatment for Percocet addiction is a serious matter, just like any other misused narcotic. Patients often need medical help from a drug abuse treatment program, including detox, behavioral therapy and family counseling.
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