Percocet, one of many oxycodone-based drugs, carries a high risk of addiction for recreational and medicinal users alike. As effective as Percocet is as a painkiller, the effects of the drug can disarm your ability to control how you use it. A Percocet addiction develops under the radar, without you even knowing it’s happening. The easy feel this drug creates becomes the driving force that keeps you hooked. Being addicted to Percocet means leaving the rest of your life behind.
Percocet – Oxycodone’s Cousin
Percocet, a prescription opioid drug, is one of many oxycodone-based formulations. Percocet contains a mix of oxycodone and acetaminophen, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID. While oxycodone produces strong pain-relieving effects on its own, it’s even stronger when mixed with acetaminophen.
Opioids like oxycodone act on your body’s central nervous system, muting pain signal transmissions. An NSAID like acetaminophen works by reducing inflammation. Acetaminophen also acts on the brain’s heat-regulating center, which makes it an effective fever reducer. Both Percocet and oxycodone work well at treating moderate and severe pain symptoms. With acetaminophen’s added boost, Percocet can also be used to treat breakthrough pain symptoms in cases where long-acting opioids no longer provide ongoing relief.
Oxycodone, by itself, already carries a high risk of addiction. Its ability to interact with the brain’s chemical system accounts for much of its abuse potential, which sets the stage for addiction to develop. Adding an ingredient that makes oxycodone’s effects stronger only makes it easier for you to get addicted to Percocet.
The Percocet Abuse Cycle
Increasing Dosage Amounts
Percocet’s pain-relieving effects stem from its ability to force the brain’s natural opioid receptors to secrete large amounts of endorphins. Endorphins, such as dopamine and serotonin help block pain signals and also play a role in regulating moods. This means Percocet not only relieves pain but also promotes feelings of contentment and euphoria.
Under normal conditions, your opioid receptors secrete endorphins on an as-needed basis. With continued use, Percocet changes how these receptors work. Over time, they become less sensitive to Percocet’s effects. When this happens, you either have to take larger doses or increase how often you take it to experience the desired effects. These developments mark the beginning of a Percocet addiction.
Worsening Side Effects
Percocet’s interactions with the central nervous system have widespread effects on many of the body’s major systems. The systems most affected include:
- Sensory perceptions
- Emotional state
- Thinking and learning
- Body temperature regulation
As the brain’s opioid receptors become less sensitive to Percocet, each of these systems is affected. Side effects, also known as withdrawal symptoms, will develop in response to the brain’s need for more of the drug, such as agitation, confusion, moodiness, and fatigue. In effect, Percocet abuse disrupts the brain’s natural chemical balance, and in the process, the brain becomes physically dependent on the drug to function normally.
The Percocet Addiction Cycle
While drug cravings may feel like a physical side effect, they actually stem from the brain’s psychological dependence on the drug’s effects. Like most opioids, Percocet addiction develops inside the brain’s reward center. This center plays a central role in forming your motivations, drives, values, and priorities. Ultimately, the reward center tells you what you need to survive and cope with daily life. It bases these decisions on the levels of endorphins in the brain, especially dopamine levels.
Since Percocet boosts dopamine levels each time you use it, the reward center starts to view the drug’s effects as essential for survival, much like it views food and water. In turn, the brain starts to crave the drug in the same way it craves food and water. This is how you become addicted to Percocet.
Compulsion and Loss of Control
Frequent, ongoing Percocet abuse soon turns into a compulsion where users continue to engage in drug use despite any negative consequences that result. Using Percocet is all you can think about and the more intense the compulsion becomes, the greater the risk you’re willing to take to obtain the drug. These developments account for why it’s so easy to break promises made to friends and family and then feel guilty afterward.
Compulsive drug-using behaviors also reinforce the neurological pathways that form as a result of Percocet addiction. Each time you give in to the need to abuse Percocet, the “pleasant” effects of the drug become a reward for engaging in the activity. In the absence of needed Percocet addiction treatment, these abuse and addiction cycles will continue to feed off one another.
Percocet Addiction & Mental Health Risks
Mental health problems can play key roles in drug-seeking and drug-using behaviors. Percocet promotes feelings of happiness and calm, which would seem like an easy fix for someone experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety. In truth, many people fall into an addiction for this reason. While Percocet’s effects may help for a while, the end result makes mental health problems worse, especially when the abuse and addiction cycles kick in.
Signs It’s Time to Consider Percocet Addiction Treatment
Being addicted to Percocet strips a person of his or her ability to live without the drug. Addiction changes the way your brain works to the point where getting and using the drug takes on top priority in your life. Here are just a few signs to watch for and when you see them, it’s time to consider getting treatment help:
- Doctor shopping to obtain prescriptions
- Stealing Percocet from family and friends
- Problems at work or loss of employment
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Legal problems, such as a DUI
- Broken relationships as a result of drug use
- Taking risks you wouldn’t normally take
Percocet addiction treatment walks you through the steps you need to take to take back control of your life. This includes stopping drug use, working through the emotional issues that trigger drug-using behaviors, and developing strategies on how to overcome drug cravings. As difficult as it may be to choose treatment, the sooner you take action the easier it will be to overcome addiction’s hold on your life.
- drugabuse.gov – National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission”
- ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Advances in Psychosomatic Medicine, “Addiction and Brain Reward and Antireward Pathways”
- buffalo.edu – the University of Buffalo Clinical and Research Institute on Addiction, “Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health”
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.