Percocet Signs of Use and Side Effects
Oxycodone-based opioids are the most abused prescription medications on the market. Although much of the media attention is directed at mass killers like OxyContin and fentanyl, Percocet abuse may be more widespread. Percocet is a synthetic opioid that’s created by combining oxycodone with acetaminophen. Unlike medications for treating long-term, chronic conditions, Percocet was formulated to deal with acute, moderate to severe pain that’s temporary.
What Are the Signs of Percocet Abuse?
At first, the euphoric Percocet high is what attracts recreational users and calms those who are taking the medication for pain. If use becomes habitual or the prescription is indicated for more than just a few days, it’s important to watch for signs of Percocet abuse. It may be difficult to distinguish between the signs of using Percocet and symptoms of dependency because they can overlap.
Each dose of Percocet starts to take effect within 30 minutes, and the effects last for about 4 – 6 hours. When taking the medication as directed for pain, a consistent level of the drug should remain in the system for the full course of treatment or until acute pain abates. The symptoms at this point should be limited to dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness. Any action that requires alertness or quick response time, like driving or operating machinery, should be avoided.
Are There Any Side Effects of Percocet Use?
All drugs have side effects, and Percocet is no different. Early during use of this medication, there are few psychological side effects. There are some physical effects that are usually mild and temporary, and they may overlap with signs of use. As soon as use stops, the physical symptoms will disappear in a day or two with little discomfort.
Side Effects Include:
- Abdominal pain
- Memory loss
- Dizziness and confusion
Any signs of an allergic reaction, like a swollen tongue or lips, or throat, shallow respiration, and itchy skin or hives requires medical attention right away.
Short Term Effects of Percocet Abuse
When use crosses into the territory of abuse, Percocet side effects can be stronger and more impactful on quality of life. Some are behavioral, like anxiety and mood swings, while others are physical.
The early stages of Percocet abuse will produce symptoms like:
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Shallow respiration
- Muscle and joint pain
- Confusion and lack of coordination
There may be some secretive behavior if the drug is being misused, including financial difficulties, hiding the level of use, preoccupation with the medication, and suspicion or paranoia. When questioned about drug use, the person may become defensive or irritable, and they will try to justify their behavior.
They may deny any drug use at all.
Drug diversion is an issue if someone is becoming dependent on their medication. Diversion means asking someone for pills from their prescription or stealing someone else’s medication. They may even stoop to buying pills from a street dealer. Some turn to cheaper, more widely available drugs like heroin.
Long Term Effects of Percocet Use
Percocet side effects become more serious when the abuse continues or escalates. The long term effects of taking Percocet can lead to serious health and emotional problems.
Some of the more serious long term effects include:
- Liver and kidney damage
- Brain dysfunction
- Muscle weakness
- Lethargic behavior
- Respiratory distress
Liver and kidney damage are due to how the oxycodone and acetaminophen metabolize. Unless the drug is crushed and snorted or used intravenously, it enters the bloodstream through the GI tract. From there, it travels throughout the body and brain, where it binds to opioid receptors that control pain response. The drug is filtered through the liver and expelled from the body through the kidneys. Months or years of heavy abuse put additional strain on these organs and cause damage that is often permanent and irreversible.
Those who snort or shoot Percocet don’t escape the health consequences. They simply add more problems like the deterioration of the nasal passages and mucous membranes from snorting the drug, skin ulcerations, collapsed veins, and scarring (track marks) from needles, and the increased risk of exposure to diseases like HIV or hepatitis.
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How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your System?
Unlike its extended-release cousin, OxyContin, Percocet leaves the bloodstream relatively fast. Each dose is formulated to last for up to six hours, and the half-life is about three and a half hours. The “half-life” of a medication is the length of time it takes half of the amount taken to leave the bloodstream. However, it can take almost a full day for the drug to leave the system completely.
Even then, it can still be detected by drug testing because the metabolites of Percocet remain in the liver longer than the drug itself is present in the bloodstream.
If a drug test is conducted for work or court purposes, Percocet is still detectable by urinalysis for up to two days after the last dosage is taken. Percocet can be found in the blood as fast as 15 minutes after a dose is taken, and it will still be present up to 24 hours later. The drug can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days.
Factors That Determine Howe Long Percocet Stays in the System
There are several things that determine how much oxycodone is in the system at any given time. For example, it’s believed that certain metabolites are more difficult to process as we age, and the presence of acetaminophen in Percocet puts even more pressure on the liver than oxycodone itself.
That means the older a person is, the longer Percocet takes to dissipate. Height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) also make a difference. This is especially true in relation to the amount of the drug taken and the duration. If someone has been abusing Percocet by taking heavy doses for an extended period of time, it will accumulate in the fatty tissue, where it will be stored for several days.
Percocet Abuse Statistics
Percocet and similar pain relievers are the most abused prescription medications, with more than 3.3 million individuals developing a dependence each year. The mortality rates reflect this statistic. Opiates killed more than 47,000 people in 2017 alone. According to CDC reporting, the majority of those deaths – 67.8 percent – were caused by synthetic opioids like Percocet, OxyContin, and other oxycodone-based prescription medications.
Although the majority of individuals seeking emergency treatment due to opioid-related incidents are men, numbers for women are rising every year. Fortunately, there are more choices available for rehabilitation that’s geared toward individual needs and circumstances, such as holistic programs, treatment for women or expectant mothers, and couples rehab, in addition to traditional treatment programs.
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