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Percocet is the brand name of an addictive painkiller medication that combines the opiate oxycodone with acetaminophen (the ingredient in the over-the-counter pain reliever, Tylenol). As a member of the opiate family of narcotic medications, Percocet is also among the most prescribed prescription drugs in America.
The opiate agent, oxycodone, is what makes Percocet so addictive and a leading contributor to America’s heroin and opiate epidemic. Oxycodone, which is one of the two most abused painkillers in today’s prescription drug epidemic, relieves pain by binding to the body’s opioid receptor sites in the brain and nervous system. These receptors serve to mediate both physical and emotional sensations of pain, with the result that when oxycodone binds to them, that binding action produces a euphoric high.
This signature high is also reportedly why, when given a choice, those who abuse opiates prefer oxycodone over hydrocodone, according to a recent national survey by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, and Nova Southeastern University, in Miami. By a significant margin, oxycodone was the preferred “drug of choice” among 3,500 clients in 160 opiate treatment programs across the country.
For these and millions of other Americans hooked on opiates, detox, as the process by which a drug is eliminated from the system, is the critical first step to recovery from chemical dependency and addiction. What follow are thus five key things you should know about detox from Percocet, based on insights from the world of addiction science and the experience of those who work in the field:
- Withdrawal from Percocet typically manifests both physical and psychological symptoms. It can be easy to view Percocet abuse as exclusively a physical dependency — and similarly, to then assume that withdrawal symptoms will be purely physical. This is not the case. In fact, withdrawal from Percocet typically is characterized by a combination of both physical and psychological symptoms, which admittedly can vary between individuals.Physical symptoms can include: abdominal cramps; dizziness; flu-like fever, headache and nausea; chills; changes in appetite; insomnia; high blood pressure; muscle aches; and itchiness.
Psychological symptoms can include: mood swings; irritability; anger and anxiety. These usually dissipate with time as the body adjusts to being free of the drug.
- The exact length and severity of withdrawal from Percocet will vary on an individual basis. Every person’s detox experience will vary in length and severity of withdrawal symptoms. While the detox protocol for Percocet falls under a general umbrella of guidelines, then, plans of care are highly individualized. At Beach House, the detox process lasts roughly one week. However, the speed with which the drug’s elimination from the system occurs and the more exact timeline for a taper will depend to a great degree on individual variables like dosage levels, duration of abuse, addiction history and other health factors. Oxycodone’s very short half life of two to four hours means that the opiate will typically have completely left the body within eight hours following the last dose — but only then do the most acute Percocet withdrawal symptoms, usually lasting for a few days, really kick in.
- A detox from Percocet is actually less dangerous than detox from alcohol. What many people don’t know is that detoxing from Percocet is actually safer than detoxing from alcohol. The withdrawal symptoms can indeed be very painful and uncomfortable and the cravings intense, making supervised detox the safest, most responsible approach for anyone seeking to overcome a Percocet dependency. But unlike alcohol detox, which can kill you, the detox process for Percocet will only make you sick. What can prove dangerous, however, are medical complications from other co-occurring health conditions, such as diabetes, that can surface during detox. (For more here, see the next point.)
- Medically supervised detox from Percocet improves recovery outcomes. Medically supervised detox from Percocet gives clients with opiate addiction a better chance of recovery, for a couple of reasons. First, a medically managed detox is more likely to be successful (as in safe and complete) than one performed at home without professional supervision. During detox at Beach House, for example, clients receive simultaneous treatment for their general health needs.Assistant Director of Nursing Tenniel Unger explained: “Many clients present to us with unmanaged medical co-morbidities such as diabetes,” Assistant Director of Nursing Tenniel Unger explained. “We are able to address both the diabetes and withdrawal, thus improving outcomes for the client and ensuring the client’s safety.” In other words, comprehensive, medically managed detox gives clients a leg-up at beating Percocet addiction, precisely because it attends to other co-occurring factors that either are feeding the substance abuse or exacerbating withdrawal or posing complications to a safe and complete detox.
Second, research has revealed that inpatient detox followed by residential treatment significantly improves recovery outcomes. Research published by the Addiction Society of America has shown that whereas opiate detox alone is insufficient to complete recovery, supervised detox followed by residential treatment yields an estimated 80 percent first-year recovery rate among opiate addicts (as compared to a 50 percent recovery rate for diabetics).
- Detox from Percocet has helped many clients achieve healthy and successful pain management without opiates. One of the biggest obstacles to entering detox for opiates like Percocet is fear of pain. Unger notes that many clients in treatment for Percocet and/or other opiate drugs first developed an addiction after being prescribed Percocet for chronic pain. Percocet thus comes to seem the only viable solution to otherwise unmanageable pain. Many who find themselves in these circumstances are afraid to stop using Percocet out of fear that the drug is their only real alternative to living in constant pain. Yet by Unger’s account, such fears are often disproved during professional detox and treatment. He said what he finds most moving is seeing many clients who have suffered from chronic pain and related symptoms like insomnia move toward wellness by embracing natural methods such as yoga, meditation, and exercise, in conjunction with safer forms of pain management. In Unger’s words, “these clients become empowered through the process of taking control over what has become a crippling part of their lives. It’s really special for us the nurses and providers to be a part of that transformation.”