Percocet, a prescription opioid that combines oxycodone and acetaminophen, does a good job of relieving pain, though this relief comes with considerable risk. Opioid use is fraught with abuse and addiction risks, which can make it hard to stop taking these drugs. Like most opioids, Percocet causes physical changes in the brain that become more pronounced the longer you take it. Percocet withdrawal timelines not only let you know what to expect when stopping this drug but also give you an idea of how Percocet’s effects can hijack the brain if you’re not careful.
Percocet Dependence – A Vicious Cycle
Taking Percocet to treat an injury or chronic pain-related condition is often wrought with the same risks as using the drug for recreational purposes. Like most opioid drugs, Percocet interferes with the body’s natural chemical processes, especially those that regulate the central nervous system or CNS. While using it as prescribed typically poses minimal risks of abuse and addiction, the way the body responds to Percocet can make it difficult to follow prescription guidelines.
Over time, the brain changes to accommodate Percocet’s effects. These changes occur within the cells that interact with the drug. Known as mu-opioid receptors, Percocet forces these cells to release large amounts of endorphin chemicals.
It doesn’t take very long at all before your opioid receptors lose their ability to produce endorphins on their own. These developments underlie the brain abnormalities that give rise to abuse and addiction. When drug use stops, withdrawal from Percocet occurs as your CNS functions re-adjust to the absence of the drug.
Percocet Withdrawal Timelines
Percocet withdrawal timelines vary depending on how quickly your body metabolizes the drug. However, its half-life may offer a more trackable indicator of how long it takes for Percocet to leave the body. Half-life measures the length of time it takes half of the last dose you took to leave your system. Since oxycodone is the main active ingredient in Percocet, the estimated half-life for Percocet is four hours. At this rate, it will take about 20 hours for most of the last dose taken to leave your body.
As you move through the timeline, symptoms of Percocet withdrawal will develop as your body works to adjust to the absence of the drug. Withdrawal from Percocet can be uncomfortable, and in some cases excruciating depending on a range of factors, including:
- How long you’ve been taking the drug
- How often you take it
- How large your dosage amounts are
- Whether addiction is the issue
- Your overall health status
- Whether you receive medical care during detox
Overall, withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from seven to 14 days. For most people, the Percocet withdrawal timeline consists of three stages in which symptoms intensify then subside, for the most part. Here are the three stages to watch for:
Stage 1 – Early Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of Percocet withdrawal start to develop within six to 12 hours after taking your last dose. The central nervous system encompasses a wide swathe of different functions so symptom development can vary depending on how your body responds to the process. In effect, the symptoms you experience are the opposite of the more pleasant effects of the drug.
Ups and downs can be expected as the brain and central nervous system work to re-balance the chemical systems affected by Percocet. Symptoms experienced at this first stage tend to grow in intensity over the first one to two days. Here’s what you can expect:
- Problems sleeping
- Appetite loss
- Achy bones, joints, and muscles
- Feelings of anxiety
- Profuse sweating
- Elevated heart rate
Stage 2 – Peak Withdrawal
Peak withdrawal symptoms tend to develop within 72 hours of your last dose of Percocet. This stage can last for up to five days where you can expect to experience the worst of the worst as far as symptom intensity goes. Many of the symptoms experienced can cause dehydration so it’s important to stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet. Digestive problems also develop so you might want to stick with a soft-food diet.
This is one of the stages that can most challenge your ability to make it through detox so be prepared. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Persistent drug cravings
- Abdominal cramps
Stage 3 – Late Withdrawal Symptoms
By stage three, symptoms of Percocet withdrawal begin to shift from the physical to the psychological. With frequent drug use, the physical changes to the brain start to affect the processes that regulate thinking and emotions. Since Percocet forces the opioid receptors in the brain to release large amounts of endorphins, stopping drug use can leave these cells unable to produce endorphins on their own. These conditions account for the mental and emotional distress that develops.
Symptoms cans last for up to a week and may include the following:
- Severe drug cravings
- Feelings of anxiety that persist
- Severe depression
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
Symptoms of Percocet withdrawal can persist well past 14 days in cases of moderate, severe, or chronic drug abuse. Also known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS or protracted withdrawal, this condition consists of a set of impairments that result from the pronounced changes in brain function caused by Percocet when abusing this drug. PAWS can last anywhere from several weeks to several months depending on the extent of your drug use.
The symptoms experienced closely resemble those that occur with mood and anxiety disorders. Here are a few PAWS symptoms to watch out for:
- Clinical depression
- Panic attacks
- Memory problems
- Lack of impulse control
- Mood swings
- Problems concentrating
- Aggressive tendencies
- Low tolerance for stress
- Severe drug cravings
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When to Consider Percocet Addiction Treatment
Percocet withdrawal timelines provide you with a baseline for determining how long detox will take and what to expect along the way. While this can be helpful, try not to underestimate the overall effects that Percocet has on your ability to stop taking it. Failure to make it through detox not only puts you back at square one but leaves you wide open for the damaging effects of addiction. Percocet addiction rehab can provide you with the level of medical care and emotional support needed to overcome the damaging effects of the drug. If you’re having a hard time staying drug-free or have already gone through previous detox attempts, it may time to consider getting treatment help.
- ghr.nlm.nih.gov – U. S. National Library of Medicine, “Opioid Addiction”
- ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment”
- store.samhsa.gov – Substance Use Disorder & Mental Health Services Administration, “Protracted Withdrawal”
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.
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