Percocet is a drug that was developed to include a combination of oxycodone and paracetamol. It is a drug that was approved in 1976 and is primarily utilized to provide pain relief for individuals with moderate or severe short-term pain. It is federally classified as a “Schedule II” controlled substance, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and it could lead to psychological and/or physical dependence.
Many people who use Percocet notice that it works extremely well at providing pain relief. Although its intended to be utilized for treatment of pain, some people take it recreationally to “get high.” Among the individuals who take it recreationally, it is very easy to get addicted; it provides an initial boost in mood and is known to induce feelings of deep relaxation.
Based upon composition it is thought to be slightly easier than oxycodone withdrawal; a substance included in Percocet. That being said, anyone with a high tolerance may end up dealing with an array of debilitating symptoms when they discontinue Percocet.
Factors that influence Percocet withdrawal
When discontinuing any opioid, there are going to be various factors that influence the severity of withdrawal. These factors include things like: time span over which the drug was taken, the dosage you took (which influences tolerance), whether you are addicted, how quickly you tapered off of it, as well as other individual factors such as: physiology, environment, social support, etc.
1. Time Span
How long have you been taking Percocet? In general, the longer the time span over which you’ve taken this drug, the more difficulty you are going to have facing withdrawal. When you take an opioid for a long-term, your body gets used to receiving the drug on a daily basis. If you stop taking it, your nervous system may become extremely sensitive and/or go into shock – which can lead an array of symptoms.
Those who have taken the drug for long periods of time have likely built up a tolerance and are on higher than average doses. People who have only been on the drug for a short-term to deal with some immediate pain shouldn’t have too tough of a withdrawal process.
2. Dosage + Tolerance
Percocet is produced by Endo Pharmaceuticals at a variety of dosages. It is important to note that Percocet tablets also come in six different combinations of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Each has a different maximum daily dose. In general, the greater the dose of the drug that you take, the tougher it will be to deal with withdrawal.
- Pink (oval): 2.5 mg Oxycodone / 325 mg Acetaminophen – Maximum daily dose of 12 tablets.
- White (round): 5 mg Oxycodone / 325 mg Acetaminophen – Maximum daily dose of 12 tablets.
- Peach (oval): 7.5 mg Oxycodone / 325 mg Acetaminophen – Maximum daily dose of 8 tablets.
- Peach (capsules): 7.5 mg Oxycodone / 500 mg Acetaminophen – Maximum daily dose of 8 tablets.
- White (oblong): 10 mg Oxycodone / 325 mg Acetaminophen – Maximum daily dose of 8 tablets.
- Yellow (oval): 10 mg Oxycodone / 650 mg Acetaminophen – Maximum daily dose of 6 tablets.
For the smaller doses of 2.5 mg Oxycodone, the standard dose is 1 to 2 tablets every 6 hours as needed for pain relief. All of the other higher-dosed tablets have a dosing protocol of 1 to 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain.
When you take higher doses of this drug for an extended period of time, you can develop tolerance. In other words, you take the same dose, but the pain relieving effects have worn off. When tolerance is established, a person typically increases their dosage. The only downfall to this is that the greater the tolerance, the more difficult a person tends to have dealing with withdrawal.
Many people unintentionally become addicted to taking Percocet. They take the drug to relieve pain, but then when time comes to quit, they realize they need the drug for functioning. This is a drug that can provide an initial very potent antidepressant effect in addition to providing relief from anxiety. People may feel so deeply relaxed and “good” while on this drug, that they may have a difficult time giving up the psychological effects.
Additionally, some people can become addicted to the physical effects that the drug provides. It is a depressant, meaning it relaxes the nervous system and stimulates endorphin production. The body’s natural endorphin supply eventually becomes temporarily reduced as a result of taking this drug. Many people cannot cope with the temporary increase in pain that they may experience when withdrawing.
4. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering
Did you quit taking Percocet cold turkey or did you conduct a gradual taper? Conducting a gradual taper is thought to help reduce the intensity and duration of many withdrawal symptoms. Tapering gives your nervous system some time to gradually adjust to reductions in dosages. If you quit cold turkey after extended usage, it may shock your nervous system, and in turn may lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms and an extended recovery.
It should be noted though that many people do quit cold turkey with success. Although the acute phase may be intensified, it is possible. There isn’t really a risk of deadly withdrawal effects associated with “cold turkey” withdrawal. Another option that you may want to pursue if you are unable to taper or quit cold turkey is “opioid replacement therapy.”
5. Individual Factors
It is important to consider various individual factors that can influence the withdrawal process. These factors can include things such as: environment, social support, dietary and exercise habits, as well as genetic predisposition. Certain people are naturally less prone to severe withdrawal symptoms than others and/or recover at quicker rates. It is important to not get too caught up in comparing the length of your withdrawal to others.
Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities
Below is an extensive list of symptoms that may be experienced upon withdrawal from Percocet. Keep in mind that you may not experience every last symptom on this list. You should also know that the intensity and duration of symptoms will largely be based on the individual.
- Abdominal cramps: One of the more notable symptoms that people report during withdrawal is cramping in the abdominal region. If you notice an intense stomach ache or cramp when you initially come off of this drug, just know that it’s part of the process.
- Anger: Don’t be surprised if you are prone to negative moods such as anger. When going through withdrawal, many people experience low moods and report feeling especially crabby. The longer you have been off of the drug, the more this should improve.
- Anxiety: Many individuals report high levels of anxiety when they stop this drug. The anxiety that you experience is somewhat a response of the nervous system. It had become accustomed to receiving the Percocet, which acted as a depressant with anxiolytic effects. Stopping the drug tends to produce the opposite effect of anxiety for awhile.
- Appetite changes: Some people lose their appetite during the acute phase of withdrawal. You may notice that your appetite is poor and food is difficult to eat. Take the time to make sure you are focusing on proper nutrition as this can help speed up healing.
- Chills: Feeling chills and other jitters is something that many have reported. This can be accompanied by sweats and possibly a fever. Chills are usually an acute symptom and shouldn’t last for more than a couple weeks.
- Concentration problems: You may find it very difficult to concentrate on any tasks including school or work-related functions. Many have reported that they feel as though they are in a trance-like state or have major brain fog; making it difficult to think clearly.
- Confusion: A combination of concentration problems and other symptoms may result in feeling general confusion. Usually this is a result of slowed cognition and mood symptoms that accompany withdrawal.
- Crying spells: Some people may become so depressed that they end up having crying spells. This isn’t to be confused with simply having “watery eyes” which is also a very common symptom of withdrawal.
- Depersonalization: If you feel unlike your normal self, this is referred to as being “depersonalized.” This is can be caused by abnormal neurotransmitter functioning, endorphin levels, and brain activity following discontinuation. Eventually you will slowly transition to feeling more normal.
- Depression: Most people report feeling mild or moderate depression when they stop Percocet. This is a drug that can provide some individuals with an initial mood boost. The endorphins that are released while on this drug can produce feelings of euphoria. When the drug is stopped, endorphin levels are lower than average, and it can take some time to feel decent again.
- Diarrhea: A lot of individuals experience constipation while taking Percocet. When they stop taking it, the exact opposite can occur, diarrhea. If you are struggling with this symptom, be sure to pick up some over-the-counter Imodium and consider giving it a shot.
- Dizziness: Feeling dizzy after your last dose? Some people experience an intense dizziness and/or vertigo sensations that seem to never go away. Although the dizziness can be tough to deal with initially, it will eventually fade.
- Fatigue: The fatigue associated with discontinuation can leave certain people bedridden until they regain some energy. Working a job, doing work around the house, or trying to stay productive can seem like an impossible feat. As your endorphin supply is rebuilt, your energy should improve.
- Fever: In the acute stage of withdrawal, some people get fevers. This is merely a physical reaction from your body to the detoxification process. After a few days of rest, your body temperature should gradually drop.
- Flu-like: Most individuals withdrawing from this drug feel like they’re dealing with the flu for the first week or so. This involves experiencing a fever, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. It may seem like a wicked sickness, but you’ll recover.
- Goosebumps: Another common opiate withdrawal symptom is that of “goose bumps” or little bumps at the base of hair follicles on the skin. These are a physical withdrawal symptom that may seem somewhat unusual if you don’t know what to expect.
- Headaches: Some people experience mild headaches, while others have throbbing migraines. Percocet can actually provide headache relief and when it is stopped, you will likely experience some sort of headache. Do your best to stay hydrated, relaxed, and get plenty of rest to reduce the intensity of headaches.
- High blood pressure: In some cases, people notice that their blood pressure experiences a significant spike upon discontinuation. If you have had problems with hypertension in the past, you should consult a doctor to monitor it.
- Insomnia: While some people may have no difficulty falling asleep, many people experience a significant degree of insomnia. If you are unable to fall asleep, in part this may be due to neurotransmitter changes and/or anxiety associated with your experience. Consider taking melatonin and work towards relaxation via deep breathing and other exercises – this will help lower your arousal.
- Irritability: Some people find themselves feeling especially grumpy and every little thing makes them upset. If you are irritated with very insignificant things in your environment, this is likely mood related. As your body begins to relax again, your irritability should improve.
- Itchiness: Your skin may be very itchy when you stop this drug. Itchiness is thought to be an overreaction from a sensitive nervous system. Many people mistake the itchiness for a rash, when it’s usually caused by nerve fibers under the skin.
- Mood swings: One minute you may feel angry, the next severely depressed. Usually mood swings during withdrawal tend to be negative. Eventually though, positive moods will begin to breakthrough and your moods will stabilize; it just takes time.
- Muscle aches: Many people report muscle aches and pains when they stop Percocet. If you feel body aches, just know that it’s part of the process. You may cramp up, notice joint pain, etc. – this will eventually go away.
- Nausea: You may feel sick and very nauseated throughout the day. The nausea can be mild, but may be intense which could lead to vomiting. This shouldn’t last more than a week or two following your last dose.
- Palpitations: These are sensations that your heart is beating abnormally loud and/or racing. If you don’t know what to expect, you may think you are having a heart attack and/or this may lead to further anxiety.
- Panic attacks: If your anxiety reaches an extreme, you may be prone to experiencing panic attacks. These are incidents characterized as intense waves of anxiety that lead to panic. Just know that if you do not normally experience panic, it’s just part of withdrawal.
- Pupil dilation: Taking Percocet will constrict your pupils. When you come off of it, your pupils may be dilated and appear abnormally large. This is something to be aware of so that you don’t further panic.
- Restlessness: Some people feel restless and are unable to relax and sit still. It is usually fluctuations in arousal level from a sensitive nervous system that causes this symptom. Take the time to engage in some mild exercise and consider something relaxing like meditation to help offset this symptom.
- Runny nose: Your nose may run like a faucet during the initial stages of withdrawal. You may want to have some extra tissues around to deal with this problem.
- Sleep changes: You may notice that sometimes you sleep too much, while other times you cannot fall asleep. Your sleep cycle may get totally thrown for a loop during withdrawal. Don’t expect a perfect sleep cycle, but get sleep when you can. Eventually this will improve.
- Suicidal thinking: If depression gets bad enough, you may feel suicidal. Some people have such a difficult time coping with what they are experiencing that they become hopeless. If you feel hopeless and suicidal, seek professional help. Realize that your mood will eventually recover and that this is merely part of the withdrawal experience.
- Vomiting: Some people get so sick during withdrawal that they end up vomiting. This can be largely influenced by nausea and other flu-like symptoms. Most people will not be vomiting after the first week.
- Watery eyes: Your eyes may be full of water and you may catch yourself tearing up. This is normal to experience. Although it may be uncomfortable, you will eventually notice that your eyes stop dripping with water.
- Yawning: Do you notice yourself yawning even when you aren’t tired or bored? If you have a bad case of the yawns, it is likely related to withdrawal. Many people have noted that they cannot stop yawning even weeks after they’ve stopped the drug.
Note: It is understood that Percocet stays in your system for less than 24 hours after your last dose. Its metabolites may take slightly longer to clear from your body, but most people excrete them within 2 days of stopping. Some speculate that once the body clears itself fully of the drug (and metabolites), discontinuation symptoms become most prominent.
Percocet Withdrawal Length: How long does it last?
The length of withdrawal is subject to variation based on the individual. Someone who has taken Percocet everyday for years is likely going to have more extreme symptoms than someone who has only taken it for a short duration. Additionally it should be noted that some people naturally are less sensitive to withdrawal than others and have more resilient nervous systems. There’s really no “exact” time period that you can expect withdrawal to last.
In most cases, the acute symptoms last between 7 and 10 days. Typically the first few days following your last dose of the drug are when you’ll exhibit the most extreme symptoms. The active ingredients in Percocet are oxycodone and paracetamol. Each of these has a half life of approximately 2 to 4 hours, meaning that the drug should be completely eliminated from the body within 8 hours following your last dose. Although your body may be drug-free, it is when the drug completely leaves your body that the withdrawal symptoms begin.
It is during this time that your nervous system is scrambling to make adjustments because it is no longer receiving the drug. Following the acute stages of withdrawal can come a protracted phase. The protracted withdrawal, also referred to as “PAWS” (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) can last anywhere from weeks to months following the acute symptoms. The protracted withdrawals can involve both physical and psychological symptoms.
Keep in mind that although you may have taken Percocet for an extended period of time, your brain and body will eventually heal. It may take some time for your body to reestablish proper endorphin function due to the fact that opiate use depletes your natural endorphin levels. To facilitate a quick recovery, it is recommended to engage in light exercise, eat healthy, consider supplements, attempt to stay productive, and have some social support.
When you initially go through opiate withdrawal, it may feel like you are never going to get better, but you can fully heal. It’s likely not going to be an overnight process, so focus on making it through one day at a time. The more time passes, the closer you will be to making a full recovery. If you have successfully withdrawn from Percocet, feel free to share your insights and experience in the comments section below.