Percocet Abuse & Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

Percocet is a prescription painkiller that consists of two ingredients, oxycodone, and acetaminophen. Oxycodone, which is an opioid, interacts with the central nervous system to alleviate pain and promote sensations of relaxation and mild euphoria. Acetaminophen assists with pain relief and also decreases fever. Percocet is most commonly prescribed to individuals who have been experiencing moderate to severe pain.

When a person uses Percocet in the manner that is consistent with the direction of the prescribing physician, he or she may experience the beneficial effects of this medication with little risk of harm. However, Percocet can be dangerous if it is abused, either as a means of self-medication or solely for recreational purposes. An overdose of oxycodone can depress heart rate and respiration, and taking too much acetaminophen can cause irreversible liver damage, which means that Percocet abuse can be dangerous or even deadly.

Also, oxycodone is an addictive substance, so individuals who use Percocet for reasons other than legitimate medical purposes run the risk of becoming dependent. An addiction to Percocet or any other substance that contains an opioid can be extremely difficult to overcome without proper professional help. Both powerful drug cravings and the onset of physical and psychological distress can quickly overwhelm an individual’s desire to end his or her Percocet abuse and can drive him or her even deeper into the destructive cycle of Percocet addiction.

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Statistics

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), opioid use disorder, the type of substance use disorder that includes Percocet addiction, affects about 0.37% of the adult population in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the annual number of prescription opioid overdose deaths increased dramatically in the first decade of the 21st century, increasing by 265% among men and by 400% among women. Data provided by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) indicates that about two million Americans had a substance use disorder involving prescription medications in 2015.

Causes and Risk Factors for Percocet Abuse

The likelihood that a person will abuse or become addicted to Percocet may be influenced by a variety of factors, including the following:

Genetic: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that genetic factors can directly and indirectly influence a person’s risk for developing an opioid use disorder. According to the APA, individuals who inherit certain personality traits, including novelty-seeking and impulsiveness, have a higher likelihood of abusing and becoming addicted to opioids, which would put these individuals at higher risk for Percocet dependence.

Environmental: The peers with whom one chooses to interact can raise or lower a person’s risk for abusing opioids, and the APA also notes that individuals such as medical personnel who have easy access to opioids may be at greater risk for abusing these dangerous drugs.

 Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Being female (women are at increased risk for Percocet dependence)
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Personal history of a prior substance use disorder
  • Suffering an injury or chronic condition that is treated with Percocet
  • Early exposure to substance abuse
  • Novelty-seeking
  • Impulsivity

Signs and Symptoms of Percocet Abuse

Percocet abuse and addiction may make itself known via a variety of signs and symptoms that may vary in nature and intensity from person to person. The following are some of the more common signs and symptoms that may suggest Percocet abuse or addiction:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Trying but being incapable of stopping or reducing one’s Percocet use
  • Visiting multiple doctors or otherwise attempting to fraudulently obtain a Percocet prescription
  • Trying to borrow or steal Percocet that was prescribed to someone else
  • Trying to borrow or steal money to buy Percocet
  • Using Percocet when it is clearly risky or dangerous to do so, such as when also using other substances or prior to operating a motor vehicle
  • Taking Percocet in greater quantities or for a longer period of time than intended
  • Continuing to abuse Percocet even after having experienced negative effects from prior use

Physical symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Poor coordination and/or balance
  • Fatigue and/or exhaustion
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Shallow or irregular breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Slurring speech
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking Percocet

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inability to focus or concentrate

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Anger and aggression
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Percocet Abuse

Continuing to abuse Percocet without seeking effective treatment can expose a person to a variety of negative effects, including but not limited to the following:

  • Onset or exacerbation of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Vision problems
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Physical injuries due to Percocet-related impairment
  • Strained or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Family discord
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Poor academic and/or occupational performance
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial devastation
  • Social withdrawal or ostracization
  • Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

People who develop an opioid use disorder involving Percocet may also be at increased risk for the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Percocet withdrawal: When a person’s body becomes dependent on Percocet, stopping or significantly reducing his or her use of Percocet can trigger several painful withdrawal symptoms, including the following:

  • Dysphoria
  • Overwhelming cravings for Percocet
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Raised body temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Twitches and tremors
  • Diarrhea

Effects of Percocet overdose: As noted earlier on this page, both of the ingredients in Percocet, oxycodone, and acetaminophen, can cause serious problems when a person ingests an unhealthy amount of the drug. Anyone who exhibits the following symptoms after ingesting Percocet may have overdosed and may be in need of immediate medical attention.

  • Slurring speech
  • Slow, shallow, or labored breathing
  • Faint heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Powerful cramping
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
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