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Percocet Detox Guide: Symptoms, Side Effects & Timeline

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person holding up percocet pillPercocet is the brand name of a prescription pain reliever comprised of two substances 1,2,3:

  1. Oxycodone – a widely prescribed opioid painkiller that works by changing the person’s perceptions of pain by blocking messages from the body to the brain.
  2. Acetaminophen – a different type of pain reliever found in Tylenol used to treat mild pain and fevers.

Medications that contain oxycodone are very popular and widely used in the U.S. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), oxycodone was prescribed nearly 59 million times in 2013 1. Percocet is safe and effective when used short-term, but when the substance is used regularly or abused, the risks of Percocet addiction and dependence increase 1,2,3. This is concerning because 16 million people report abusing oxycodone at some point in their life 1. Due to these risks, the DEA lists Percocet and all oxycodone products as schedule II controlled substances 1.

Using Percocet imparts obvious risks to health; however, ending Percocet use is not without its own potential complications. Someone that has used the medications consistently will likely experience a variety of unwanted effects when ending use called withdrawal symptoms 3,4. Each person’s experience with Percocet withdrawal is unique, yet each has the potential for very distressing and possibly dangerous mental and physical health effects 5,6,7.

Inpatient Detox Centers

luxury treatment facilityInpatient detox centers provide medical supervision to addicts who want to break their physical and mental dependence on alcohol or drugs. Inpatient detox usually ranges from five to fourteen days for alcohol abuse, but the specific length of the detox program is dependent on the type and severity of the substance abuse. Inpatient centers carefully guide a patient through the detoxification process and help manage the initial withdrawal symptoms. Read More

Percocet Detox Symptoms

Percocet withdrawal symptoms will appear when a person quits or dramatically reduces use. These symptoms of Percocet withdrawal are similar to withdrawal from other opioids, such as heroin, Vicodin, and OxyContin. That being said, opioid withdrawal syndrome manifests differently from person to person and the symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Expected Percocet withdrawal symptoms include 5:

  • Depression.
  • Increased stress and anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
  • Muscle aches and cramps.
  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Watery eyes and runny nose.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Piloerection (goose bumps).
  • Sweating.
  • Excessive yawning.
  • Fever.
  • Insomnia.

Detoxification Timeline

Predicting a precise Percocet detox length, intensity, and speed of onset can be difficult. The process is influenced by many individual characteristics and aspects of use including:

  • The dose of Percocet.
  • The route of administration (used orally, snorted, injected, etc.).
  • The frequency of use.
  • The total duration of use.
  • Using the medication with alcohol or other drugs.
  • The individual’s previous medical and psychological state.

In many cases, Percocet withdrawal symptoms will begin 6 to 12 hours after the last dose.

Any of these factors can impact the Percocet detox process. In general, however, there are characteristic timelines that apply to many of the opioid substances, including oxycodone. In many instances, Percocet withdrawal symptoms will begin 6 to 12 hours after the last dose 5. The symptoms often peak in intensity within 1 to 3 days and gradually dissipate within 5 to 7 days 5.

In some cases, as the drug detox symptoms peak and subside, the acute symptoms of withdrawal will give way to extended withdrawal symptoms 8. Sometimes referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), these protracted withdrawal symptoms can last as long as 6 months and include 7,8:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Feeling tired and fatigued.
  • Irritability.
  • Emotional blunting.

As with the variability seen with acute withdrawal, the persistent effects of post-acute withdrawal will not affect every individual recovering from opioid addiction.

Percocet Withdrawal Risks

woman suffering from percocet withdrawalsThe combined effects of Percocet withdrawal can contribute to health complications that far outweigh the unpleasantness of individual symptoms. For example, Percocet detox is sometimes associated with symptoms like higher blood pressure, rapid heart rate, quicker rate of breathing, and higher body temperature 6. Individually, these symptoms are not very problematic, but in people with pre-existing or underlying cardiac conditions, these complications can threaten the physical health of the individual 6.

Other serious effects of Percocet withdrawal include 6,7:

  • Dehydration: Vomiting, sweating, and diarrhea during withdrawal can result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. An additional concern of vomiting is the risk of choking, lung inflammation, or subsequent aspiration pneumonia should gastric contents be inhaled.
  • Increased pain: Percocet helps to decrease perceptions of pain, so when the substance is no longer available, the sensations of pain are increased and more uncomfortable.
  • Emotional distress: The increased depression and anxiety during detox can combine to significantly worsen the well-being of the individual.
  • Risk of overdose: People that are detoxing or otherwise at an early point in their recovery often will have strong cravings for more Percocet. Restarting use can result in an overdose death, since the person’s tolerance will be lowered.

Caution and care must be taken during any drug detox to avoid serious consequences.


Percocet withdrawal is not usually life-threatening, but that does not mean that the process is entirely risk-free. Caution and care must be taken during any drug detox to avoid serious consequences.

Detox Treatment Options

To detox in a safe, controlled way, professional detox treatment is necessary. Not only will medically-assisted or medically-supervised detox improve comfort, but it will also reduce cravings and prevent complications associated with opioid withdrawal 6.

Detox settings include 6,9:

  • Inpatient options: The most intensive of treatment services offering 24-hour care, inpatient detox treatment involves the patient living at the detox center for a set period of time. Some settings will be in hospitals while other placements, sometimes called residential treatment, will more closely resemble homes.
  • Outpatient options: More appropriate for people with less serious addictions and strong support systems, outpatient detox options may be at community health centers, doctor’s offices, and independent clinics. During outpatient detox, the person can live at home and attend the facility during the day.

Percocet detox will focus on reducing withdrawal symptoms, managing cravings, and promoting a healthier lifestyle 6,9. Detox is important, but it is only one step towards recovery. Ongoing addiction treatment is usually needed to maintain abstinence in the long run 9.

 

Sources

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2014). Oxycodone.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus. (2017). Oxycodone.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2016). Prescription Pain Medications: Opioids.
  4. Medscape. (2016). Withdrawal Syndromes.
  5. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.
  7. World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Setting.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.

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