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Percocet® is a narcotic pain reliever, usually available by prescription only, that is a combination of the drugs oxycodone and acetaminophen. Like many narcotic agents, oxycodone is an addictive substance, and people can become physically dependent on it in a relatively short period of time. Percocet® addiction doesn’t necessarily result from overuse of the drug. Even when taken as regularly prescribed to treat long-term symptoms of pain, it can result in drug dependence.
Most of the time, Percocet® is prescribed on a short-term basis to treat pain. Those who take the medication for longer than three weeks, however, can develop physical signs of addiction. These may not be noticed until the medication is stopped. Symptoms of withdrawal can be severe for some people and include nausea and vomiting, anxiety, runny nose and eyes, insomnia, and even fever.
These symptoms are significant and difficult and can last for a few days to several months, depending upon extent of addiction and previous use. Experts recommend, therefore, that use be tapered off instead of stopping it abruptly, and those who have been on Percocet® for longer periods should stop using the medication under the direction of a medical professional. In order to end an addiction, other people require medical detox treatment in a hospital or drug treatment facility.
Another effect of using the medication for longer periods of time is that the drug becomes less effective and people will need more in order to relieve pain. This means that Percocet® addiction can easily lead to abuse. Theoretically, the term "abuse" includes using the medication for any but its intended purpose and exceeding prescription recommendations. As people begin to overuse the drug, they become not only physically but emotionally addicted to it, and lengthy overuse has inherent problems. Since Percocet® contains acetaminophen, heavy use can damage the liver.
As with any type of medication or drug that is addictive, Percocet® addiction may operate on two levels. People may need to withdraw from physical addiction to the drug in addition to learning how to cope with its absence from an emotional standpoint. Learning to deal with some residual or perceived pain may make withdrawal more challenging for those with an addiction.
There are longterm users of Percocet® who could be theoretically termed addicts, but who do not exceed dosage or a medical professional’s recommendations. These are people who suffer from chronic pain, and they should not be considered “addicted” necessarily in an emotional sense. Sometimes, chronic pain does require regular narcotic treatment in order for a patient to be able to pursue any normal activities. It is important to understand that abruptly stopping long term use of this drug is not recommended, and those who are long-term users should speak to a medical professional about appropriate detox or a gradual tapering of the medication to end its use.