While the modern world owes a great deal to the invention of acetaminophen and other painkillers, mainly for allowing people to continue with their daily lives even as they suffer from various kinds of physical pain, a vast multitude of people have also developed a habit of misusing painkillers, well into the point of addiction. One of the more common forms of acetaminophen taken today is marketed under the brand name Percocet, where it is combined with oxycodone. Oxycodone is a very potent opioid, and in the US alone, more than 10 million Americans in 2019 have been reported to have misused opioids. This makes Percocet a potential drug of choice for those hooked on painkillers. Opioid addiction, however, comes with some of the more painful withdrawal phases, and those hooked on this medication regret later on that they did not check the Percocet withdrawal timeline first before getting into it.
Percocet is an over-the-counter painkiller that is a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Oxycodone is an opioid, and while these are potent painkillers, they are also highly addictive. It is the opioid component of Percocet that makes it such an addictive substance.
Opioids are particularly addictive because apart from blocking out the pain that people feel, they also bring about sensations of calmness, relaxation, and euphoria. For people who suffer from chronic pain, not only is the thought of being able to relieve themselves of it immensely desirable, but the accompanying feeling of euphoria becomes well worth taking any kind of substance, including the type that comes with excruciating withdrawal symptoms later on.
Opioids, much like the content of Percocet, target the brain’s rewards center. As such, it is an unnatural interference, which could permanently alter how that particular system works. This is just one of the ways where opioid misuse becomes a serious danger to people. At the very least, opioids cause a serious case of substance dependency which tends to escalate quite quickly and then become difficult to treat.
The most dangerous side effect of Percocet abuse, however, is the effect it has on the liver, known as hepatotoxicity. Hepatotoxicity is associated with the use of medication with acetaminophen at doses that exceed 4000mg per day. At such dosages, acute liver failure is known to occur, and the person is left with either seeking a liver transplant or if no matching donors are found, death.
Even for those who have a real desire to kick their substance abuse habit, the fear of withdrawal is very real. This is when a person finally stops taking the substances they are heavily dependent on, and the body starts to flush it out and repair itself. Even as the body is doing this, however, it is also searching for the chemical effects and sensations that the substance created while it was being used.
As most substance abuse disorders create a chemical change in the system, getting things back to the way it was is a painful and arduous process for most. People spend days or even weeks wracked with pain and other symptoms that start just a few hours from the last time the substance was taken.
The Percocet withdrawal timeline could be summed up as follows:
For many going through withdrawal, the symptoms will most likely peak on the first day, although there are a few exceptions. Some experience the worst of it for at least two days before the pain, nausea, and diarrhea starts to subside.
This period proceeds into the week of detox, with the other symptoms beginning to manifest. At this stage, cramps, insomnia, and chills may be experienced. By now the more painful symptoms have died down somewhat, and as such, the craving for Percocet will now be felt. The portion of treatment that deals with massive cravings are needed at this point.
As one entire week has already gone by, rehabilitation may now proceed. As the more distracting symptoms have somewhat lessened by now, the patient may participate in therapy. This period may be marked by the onset of various emotions, with some experiencing bouts of depression and anxiety.
Depending upon the results of the first week of rehab, most of the symptoms would have become more manageable at this stage. The rest of the prescribed treatment will be done during this period to redirect the patient’s attention from whatever pain remains and the lingering cravings to use Percocet once more.
The symptoms that come out during Percocet detox and rehab are attributed more to the opioid component of Percocet. These symptoms could be abrupt, intense, and of different durations. This is mainly because the pain receptors of the body are once again becoming fully functional, and as the substance is flushed out of the body and not replenished, the ability to feel pain once more will make a patient think their entire body is being lit up.
The attributed opioid withdrawal symptoms are classified as physical and psychological, with the most intense ones already being felt in as little as four hours after the last time Percocet was taken.
Physical symptoms include:
Psychological symptoms include:
As the symptoms of withdrawal coupled with continued intense cravings for Percocet could be too much for some, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is often prescribed to help in rehabilitation.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of specific medication in conjunction with therapy to help ease the difficulties experienced by people undergoing severe distress during withdrawal. There are many cases wherein the severe duress experienced after the detox period brought the patient close to a physical or mental breakdown.
Certain bodily reactions to deprivation of previously abused substances could actually lead to serious complications, which is why self-detoxification from a substance abuse disorder is highly discouraged. The presence of medical professionals and therapists is essential during the detoxification period and the transition to rehab, as complications could become life-threatening.
MAT has been shown to be particularly effective in dealing with opioid-related issues during the withdrawal period, with patients responding positively to the treatments.
Benefits of MAT include:
MAT is particularly effective in treatment because the medications used are designed to normalize brain chemistry, which is typically altered during chronic opioid use. As good as many forms of therapy are, these approaches might not be enough without the chemical assistance given by MAT.
This treatment also creates a scenario where even if the patient does try to use substances again, they will find that they no longer receive the euphoric and sedative effects they previously experienced while using opioids. This scenario will make the patients realize that using substances again is just a waste of time, as they get nothing from it anymore.
Having removed whatever addictive aspect there is to using substances, the cravings that patients feel inevitably subside. The effect even extends to alcohol, so patients who think they could get out of their heads by getting drunk soon realize that is not the case either.
Depending upon the severity of the withdrawal or on the assessment of the therapist, the use of MAT to help with treatment could last anywhere from months to years. The medications used in MAT are strictly regulated and can only be administered during therapy and upon the prescription of the attending therapist.
Detox, withdrawal, and rehab are never easy to get through. Just trying to decide on it is already difficult in itself. No one understands that more than we do, here at Magnolia City Recovery. We have helped countless people through their most difficult treatments, and see all of them right through to recovery, because people deserve a better life through sobriety.
Worried about Percocet withdrawal? Don’t be. You’re in good hands with Magnolia City Recovery. We know how it’s done.
Dr. Olaniyi O. Osuntokun is a Neurology & Psychiatry Specialist based in Conroe, Texas, and Lafayette, Indiana. He has extensive experience in treating Individuals with substance use disorders and addiction. He earned his medical degree from University of Ibadan College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.