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What Should I Know About Percocet Addiction?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon342628 — On Jul 22, 2013

I've been taking four 10/325 percs a day for a year and want to start taking less. In the morning, I feel real bad until I take one. Thomas res is supposed to help as well.

By anon288585 — On Aug 30, 2012

I had surgery a month ago and was prescribed percocet. They told me to take it before physical therapy which I have 3x a week. Will taking the pills only on these days lead to an addiction? I'm petrified of getting addicted to them, but PT is pretty rough.

By anon276507 — On Jun 24, 2012

I tried snorting 25 mg of oxycodone about two nights ago, mixed with a few beers and a shot or two of vodka and a couple bowls of pot. I felt fine at the time but since then my arms have felt tingly and slightly numb like when they are about to "fall asleep".

It gets worse when I lie down with my arms over my head, and my hands start twitching. Also, I just vomited, seemingly out of nowhere. Is this all from the oxy?

By anon248521 — On Feb 17, 2012

I have back, spine and neck pain. I had never taken a pill ever. Because of situations out of my control, I moved back to the northeast. It seems almost upon arrival, my health started deteriorating rapidly. I am not sure if it is the winters or the cold?

I've had a knee replacement and several spinal procedures since my arrival. It's horrible. The doctor started prescribing 5mg percocet. Since I refused to take them, my less than desirable in-laws started buying them (we've all got one of those). Eventually I started taking them myself because the pain was unmanageable. I am still seeking every alternative method.

Every time the doctor prescribes the medication, I tell him want another operation or the cure not, to cover it up or mask it with pain meds. Unfortunately, like most, I am addicted whether you consider it mental or physical, but I cannot function without them. I find myself not able to sleep or get out of bed without them.

I am tired, fatigued, achy, hurting to the bone. Right to the core. I am a single parent and relate to the posters who say it's the only way to get through their day. Not approving, it's just that I can relate. Why is it I could do everything drug free and now I cannot function? Are the aches, pains and fatigue due to withdrawal?

By anon181156 — On May 28, 2011

I have been taking 7.5 mg Percocets for the last three years for should /neck problem as prescribed. I forget to take the meds because I don't need them, and I feel like crap. Body aches, fatigue, a all around lack of any energy. It stinks! I've been taking halves, cutting the pill in half and tapering myself down hopefully to zero. Percocet is awful. I'd rather deal with the pain now instead of withdraw every two weeks or so. No more! I quit, and can't live like this anymore.

By anon144689 — On Jan 20, 2011

I have recently been prescribed by my doctor Percocet. My doctor says addiction is when you take the drug to get high; and physical dependency is you take it for just your pain.

By anon141900 — On Jan 11, 2011

To Ad2vic: I feel exactly how you feel. I wonder why life can't be like this normally? It doesn't feel negative at all and I'm sure that's why people are afraid of it because it may cause a psychological dependency that is preferred over real-life.

There are some side effects that include physiological as well as psychological dependence. So I guess you have to decide if the side effects are worth it.

By anon138620 — On Jan 01, 2011

i was wondering if there is any way anyone can help me?

i have been taking oxycodone and percocet for the past three years and the doctor is tapering me down but every time i go down i feel very tired and i feel the need to take it! i have four small children and i work full time and i also take care of my grandparents. One has alzheimer's and the other has copd!

i desperately want to get off of the medicine but i cannot take two or three days or weeks off and i cannot go to an inpatient clinic!

Please help me and tell me if there is anything i can do to not have severe withdrawals? If so, please let me know what i can or should do!

And if anyone can also answer me this: I was told that a diet detox was good to help you with some of the symptoms. Is this true or a waste of money? Please, please help me. I do not want to be on this medication anymore!

By michelle6685 — On Aug 06, 2010

My son who is now 27, has been depressed for many of years. He has tried numerous anti-depressants and nothing absolutely nothing has worked. He was diagnosed with social phobia when back in his teens, has had therapy up to his eyeballs and nothing has made it better, bed is where he has been for years.

The anxiety is overwhelming, and if takes an Oxycodone once in awhile to get out and talk to people, feel something or normalcy, as a Mother I totally agree with it.

I cannot believe the difference in one of these pills. 10mg to give him a bit of a life then why not, because of addiction, so what? My son is, for once in his life, smiling.

I have researched and researched this and many doctors do understand. Check out opioids for depression and you will see exactly what I am talking about.

No damn wonder these kids try and get these. I can understand now. They have never ever come up with a anti-depressant that helps them, nor they never will, after all they would lose money, while these kids suffer.

By MikeK — On Apr 16, 2010

Ad2Vic: I have cervical stenosis which is tolerable as long as I am standing or sitting. But lying down causes numbness in the arms and shoulders to commence and become increasingly intolerable (burning sensation) after about ten minutes.

If I can manage to fall asleep by experimentally finding a bearable condition, I am unable to sleep more than one uninterrupted hour, after which I am awakened by pain and must stand up and walk around.

I brought this problem to a doctor in September. The condition was confirmed by MRI. The doctor prescribed Percocet 5/325. The first tablet I took was too strong (made me 'drunk'), so I bought a pill splitter.

I took a half tablet before lying down, fell asleep with no trouble and got the first full night's sleep I'd had in many months.

I had pain when I woke up and took the other half tablet and was fine for the rest of the day.

The foregoing has been my daily habit since then. On two occasions I experimentally didn't take my half tablet before lying down and couldn't fall asleep for two hours.

Each time, when I finally did fall asleep I was awake again in half an hour. So I took a half tablet, fell asleep in a few minutes and slept four hours.

I do not experience any significant pleasure from taking this drug. What I feel is comfortable relaxation and where there once was pain all I feel there is a dull, perfectly tolerable pressure.

I do not crave the drug but it has become an important part of my life in that I can't get a good night's sleep without it and it has relieved me of the burden of tormenting pain that I'd come to live with.

I've been taking it for seven months, same dosage, same regimen, half tablet before bed, another half in the morning, and the dosage continues to be adequate.

After seven months of regular use of this "highly addictive" drug, which I do experience a distinct need for, I do not feel that I am addicted to it.

By anon66600 — On Feb 20, 2010

Dude! You are so totally addicted, and are speaking like an addict! You are rationalizing your behavior because people can pick up a six pack. They too have a problem, we just make it legal here.

If all you can think about is the next vicodin, then you are addicted. Slurring is not a side effect of vicodin, it's a sense of well being. Your well-being is falsely enhanced with the drug.

By anon52257 — On Nov 12, 2009

I feel more motivated to do work after I take a percocet the night before. I have back pain too and I feel really lazy at work. I think it is because of the lack of sleep. Back pain can make you get up several times throughout the night and even eight hours of sleep really doesn't help.

Maybe the motivation and energy stems from finally getting some good sleep. I wouldn't take more than a couple a week though. Addictions are tough to crack.

By Ad2vic — On Mar 08, 2009

I think I am having minor trouble again with a psychological/emotional dependence on painkillers. Don't worry, although I misused them I am *not* abusing them because I can't, as my doctor will only give out a small script once every 6 months so unless I am somewhat responsible in rationing them or taking them only as needed i will run out.

Maybe it was the stress, but I had severe back pain that would usually last almost a 24hr period. I had a prescription from last November so I had to take a few last week and it was a miracle. I felt comfortable. Not loopy, or sleepy. But the side effect was that it also took away this extreme anxiety I have been feeling and I felt that the medication made me see things more clearly and made me think things are *not* as tragic as i made them out to be on a regular basis regarding my job layoff.

The problem now, is that I have been taking them (just one at night) over the past several days more to get rid of the anxiety and it works incredibly. Again, the effect doesn't make me "drunk, slurry, blurry" it almost feels like things are more in perspective and gives me a sense of confidence in myself that I can really become a self starter.

If I continue to take one a day I will run out by next week. But I hate this feeling... Anti-anxiety medication I absolutely hate because that makes me feel too loopy and tired. I went back on Anti-depressants a couple of weeks ago, but I feel like the only thing that makes me see things in a positive light is Vicodin. Why does it have to be so regulated?

I smoked pot in college, even cigarettes, i drink (very little now), and I never got addicted to anything and it seems that Vicodin although a miracle pain killer and discomfort alleviator, it also seems to be the best in relieving this horrible feeling i wake up with everyday. At least that's how I felt the past couple days. It's under control, I've been reading up on opioid dependence on the net and right now, I am nothing like the people I've read about. It feels as safe and *no* less dangerous than a simple glass of wine that anyone else would have after a day of work to relax them and take the edge off. Wine, beer, Xanax (which I've taken in the past) nothing really seems to take the edge off yet still keep me up and motivated like the pain medicine. I have been stretching, and trying to do the whole meditation Yoga thing but it only works for about 10 minutes. After I'm through and it's back to this feeling.

I am writing to you because the thought of running out and not having them on hand and dealing with the day to day stuff is not pleasant. I need to have them on hand for when I really need them for "pain," and if it doesn't make me feel "doped up, doesn't slur my speech or coordination, doen't make me tired or unmotivated" it has the direct opposite effect actually. I almost feel more normal and things seem to just be more in perspective and if it motivates me to work even harder why is this so bad and shameful? I am asking you because i have been thinking about the remainder of my pills, that I know I can't take, but just want to feel better about things (not necessarily escape, but deal with everything properly). I can't say I am addicted yet, but more like I am in the mood for them the way one would be in the mood for pizza or a cup of coffee.

Alcohol, which can be purchased in any amount at anytime seems to be more taxing on the mind and body. Is being in the mood to take a vicodin really so horrible and does this mean I am addicted? Obviously there's a potential, but I wonder if i would be making such a big deal if I can get them anytime I want like beer. It's more the fear of knowing that I can't have them that makes them so alluring. I am not on *any* other medication except Paxil which is at best OK.

I just want to feel like things aren't so awful without the help of any kind of medicine. I can't stress this enough that these pills don't necessarily make me high, but it does create a sense of psychological peace within. It really makes me feel more motivated and I get so much more accomplished when I am feeling this sense of inner peace. Again, after doing research, there is a difference between misuse and abuse and I am not at any point where I am abusing. Can you explain what can be going on?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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