Percocet is a prescription opioid recommended by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain. You or someone you love may be taking this prescription drug for pain relief. What you may not realize is that Percocet can be abused in the same way as any illicit drug, exposing you or your loved one to the risk of oxycodone overdose. One of these methods of abuse involves grinding Percocet into powder and snorting it.
Recovery from addiction to Percocet and to other prescription drugs is possible with support from an addiction treatment recovery center. This blog outlines the dangers of addiction to Percocet, the life-threatening consequences of snorting this prescription drug, and the treatment process for recovery.
Percocet is a drug that is part of a group called prescription opioids. It consists of a combination of the opioid oxycodone and the analgesic acetaminophen.
The oxycodone in Percocet travels to the brain where it attaches to opioid receptors, triggering a range of responses. When administered medically, Percocet can be used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Treating intestinal pain, severe back pain, and gallstone pain are the intended reasons for its production.
But while Percocet is only meant to treat moderate or severe pain for short periods of time, the oxycodone component of it has a high potential for physical dependence and addiction. In fact, oxycodone has been at the forefront of the prescription opioid epidemic. There were over 142 million opioid prescriptions issued in the US in 2020. People who are addicted to Percocet but unable to obtain prescriptions use illicitly obtained pain relievers or opioid drugs.
Long-term users of the drug may snort Percocet to experience the desired euphoric high that they initially experienced when taking the pill as prescribed. While many are under the false impression that prescription opioids are safe since they are provided by health professionals, abusing them can be just as dangerous as taking illicit drugs.
As with many other prescription drugs in the opioid class, it is very easy to build up a chemical dependence on oxycodone, making a Percocet addiction very possible. The risks of addiction further increase when Percocet is taken in larger doses than prescribed, in ways other than prescribed, or for non-medical purposes. Mental illness also increases a person's risk for Percocet addiction.
As the brain will experience a rush of pleasure-inducing dopamine when Percocet is taken, it will continue to crave these euphoric effects. Physical dependence develops as a person continues drug use. Their brain becomes used to the drug and needs more and more Percocet to produce the same effect. This is known as tolerance, and as tolerance increases, Percocet addiction occurs.
The body becomes so used to the presence of Percocet that stopping its use leads to a person experiencing unpleasant and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Once direct access to the prescription medication ends, a person may look elsewhere for more. They may obtain and compulsively use the drug despite any negative consequences it has on their mental, physical or emotional health, or how it affects those around them.
A person suffering from Percocet addiction may do anything to sustain their drug use. They may take the drug for longer periods than intended and could attempt to obtain illegal prescriptions for it. 'Doctor shopping', which involves visiting multiple doctors to get more of the drug, is common.
A Percocet addiction may make it seem impossible for a person to reduce or stop the use of the drug, even when negative effects come about. They may lose interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed and withdraw from social interaction, and instead spend most of their time obtaining, using, or recovering from the use of the drug.
Other signs of Percocet addiction include:
One of the main signs of drug dependence is withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer attainable or when a person attempts to stop its use. Withdrawal from Percocet can result in a range of symptoms, which may cause a person to relapse. This is why a supervised withdrawal is the most effective method of quitting Percocet use.
Percocet withdrawal symptoms include:
Taking a prescription drug outside of how it is directed or for non-medical purposes is considered drug abuse. To chase the desired effect that Percocet gives, after losing the effect as a result of opioid tolerance, a person may experiment with other methods such as smoking, snorting, or injecting it. While opioids carry an inherent risk of dependence, Percocet abuse by snorting can also lead to other health problems.
To achieve the effect once experienced from the oral delivery of prescription painkillers, people may crush Percocet or oxycodone pills into powder and inhale them through the nose. Snorting oxycodone, or snorting Percocet, drastically increases the speed at which the body absorbs it. Instead of passing through the digestive tract before going into the bloodstream, it passes the blood-brain barrier much easier through mucous membranes lining the nose and throat.
The effects of the drug are also heightened, making progressive drug use very likely. Snorting oxycodone greatly heightens the risks that are associated with opioid abuse, including a wide variety of serious health problems, and most pressingly, increases the risk of overdose death.
The act of snorting prescription drugs comes with much physical harm. Snorting Percocet leads to tissue damage to the nose, sinuses, and throat. This can result in chronic nosebleeds, and chronic sinus infections, and if left untreated could lead to a loss of a sense of smell. It could also lead to problems swallowing, and the risk of acute or severe bronchial asthma, lung infections, or pneumonia. Snorting oxycodone also causes an abnormally slow heart rate and places a person at higher risk of cardiac arrest.
By consuming a large amount of oxycodone and acetaminophen over a very short period, the body's respiratory system can be overwhelmed. The result may be profound respiratory depression, depriving the brain of enough oxygen and leading to brain damage or in some cases, death.
Snorting paraphernalia (such as drinking straws or dollar bills) carries bacteria, which is transferred into the nose. This places a person at an increased risk of bacterial infections. Snorting oxycodone by using tools that are shared also increases the risk of contracting Hepatitis C due to damaged blood vessels inside the nose.
Side effects of Percocet that may be amplified by snorting it include:
While under the influence of a large amount of Percocet, a person may engage in risky behavior. This is because the drug causes poor judgment, but risky behavior can also be fueled by the addictive nature of the drug. For example, a person may drive under the influence and get involved in car accidents due to not being in full control, and they may be involved in criminal activity as they would do anything to obtain the drug.
Taking only one look at the rate of opioid overdose deaths involving prescription opioids – a shocking 16, 416 in 2020 – is enough to see that overdosing on an opioid is a medical emergency. It is best to seek help from a treatment provider for Percocet addiction and abuse before a fatal overdose happens.
While crushing Percocet and snorting it speeds up its effect on the central nervous system, and produces a more intense high, an increased risk of overdose comes along with it.
Both elements of Percocet – acetaminophen, and oxycodone – lead to serious health consequences when taken in large doses. An acetaminophen overdose can lead to severe and sometimes irreparable liver damage.
When combining the mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen with other drugs, in particular tranquilizers or alcohol that are also depressants, the effects, and health risks of both drugs are heightened, the risk of a Percocet overdose increases, and a person may experience respiratory depression.
Signs of a Percocet overdose include:
When attempting to stop the use of Percocet, withdrawal may be severe. The body may be put under a lot of strain which can cause dramatic changes in heart rate or blood pressure, while underlying physical health issues may worsen once the substance is flushed out. That is why detox is best done at a treatment center, where staff may administer medication to help with withdrawal symptoms.
Undergoing detox at a treatment center also ensures that you can transition into rehabilitation, which is a vital therapeutic part of beating opioid dependence or addiction.
There are various treatment options available, depending on a person's history of drug abuse, how much and for how long they have been using the drug, as well as co-occurring substance abuse or underlying mental illness. A treatment provider evaluates and considers all these factors before designing treatment programs that can best suit each individual's needs.
Individual therapy helps a person to identify the causes for starting substance abuse in the first place, as well as the triggers that may make them want to use it again. Healthy responses to these triggers are practiced to replace drug-seeking or user behavior.
Other treatment options include group therapy, in which a person is surrounded by other people who may be in similar situations. Here they can share coping mechanisms, insights, experiences, and understanding of Percocet addiction. Support groups follow the same concept and provide a person with peer support as they recover.
If you or a loved one is trying to stop snorting oxycodone, is battling Percocet addiction, and wants to live a life free from opioid dependence, Vita Recovery is here to help.
We understand that addiction and the road to recovery are personal and individual, which is why we design a treatment plan according to your medical, psychological, emotional, and social needs.
With the latest evidence-based interventions and industry research, the caring and compassionate staff at Vita Recovery ensure that you get the best possible care. Options include our partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. Whatever choice you make, you will receive the best support and comfort as you become free of substance abuse.