Percocet is an opioid pain medication regularly prescribed for various painful conditions and has been used in both short-term and long-term pain management. Unfortunately, one of the biggest risks of taking Percocet for any length of time, like all opioid medications, is that Percocet can cause both chemical dependence and addiction in the people who use it.
Using Percocet responsibly is important, but it won’t prevent a chemical dependence from forming, and you may become addicted even if you’re using Percocet responsibly.
Because anyone who takes the medication can become dependent or addicted to it, it’s important for everyone who takes Percocet to be familiar with Percocet withdrawal symptoms, the timeline for withdrawal, possible complications, and safe ways to withdraw from the drug after developing a dependence.
Ideally, you should be aware of the risks, symptoms, and side effects of Percocet withdrawal before you start taking the drug, but it’s important to learn even if you’re already taking it.
People who take Percocet irresponsibly by taking more than prescribed or using Percocet recreationally are especially vulnerable to chemical dependence and addiction. That means withdrawal is more likely if you’ve taken Percocet irresponsibly.
If you’re concerned about the addictive potential of Percocet or have a history of developing chemical dependence on prescribed medications, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about alternatives that might be safer for you.
Let’s talk about the side effects of Percocet withdrawal, the timeline, and everything else you need to know to handle a Percocet withdrawal safely.
To understand the symptoms of Percocet withdrawal, you must first know what Percocet is.
Percocet is a combination drug, like many opioids, that contains both an opioid and another painkiller. The two combined drugs work better than either alone and provide pain relief and mental relief to make the pain less impactful.
In this case, Percocet is made from a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
One of the reasons it’s important to take Percocet as prescribed is that too much Tylenol can cause liver damage and, in extreme cases, liver failure. Not only is that a serious symptom on its own and one that can require medical attention and long-term care, but at lower levels, it can still impact your liver’s ability to remove toxins and drugs from your body, which can lead to an extended withdrawal timeline.
The other part of Percocet, the oxycodone, is the one that provides both the opioid effects and makes the drug potentially addictive. The longer you take any medication containing oxycodone, the more likely you will develop a chemical dependence.
While chemical dependence and addiction are two different conditions, chemical dependence can make addiction more likely because you are physiologically dependent on the drug, making it easier to become psychologically dependent on the same drug.
Withdrawal symptoms combine the physical symptoms of stopping taking a medication you’ve become dependent on and the psychological symptoms of overcoming an addiction if you have one.
Remember, not all psychological symptoms are necessarily signs of addiction. Many drugs have psychoactive effects, including oxycodone. But, if you are addicted, you should expect more severe psychological effects like anxiety, depression, or agitation.
Now that you know a bit more about how Percocet works and why you may go through withdrawal when you stop taking Percocet, let’s talk about the common side effects of Percocet withdrawal:
Some people may experience more extreme versions of these side effects, especially in cases where the withdrawal takes longer than normal or if you become dehydrated or malnourished during withdrawal.
Because of those serious complications, it’s important to be prepared to get medical assistance if needed, and you should never go through withdrawal alone. There should always be someone nearby who can help you get help if you need it and who can help you monitor your intake of fluids and calories to make the process safer.
There is also a small risk of unusual side effects or complications that may arise without warning, especially if you take other medications or have any underlying health conditions that impact your withdrawal or overall health.
Percocet withdrawal can be dangerous when not managed properly, so it’s a good idea to do your research, buy supplies including easy-to-prepare and eat foods and lots of electrolyte-rich fluids, and make a plan with your friends and family to make sure you have adequate support throughout the process.
If you’re helping someone through Percocet withdrawal and they become extremely agitated, seem to have seizures, or become unresponsive, it’s important to get help immediately.
Understanding the timeline for Percocet withdrawal can help you be better prepared when it comes time to go through your withdrawal or help a loved one through theirs. It’s important not only to understand the side effects of withdrawal but also how long they should last and when you should expect certain side effects to start.
If you or your loved one seem to be lingering in certain withdrawal symptoms longer than anticipated, it’s a good idea to consult with a medical care professional to ensure there isn’t something more serious interfering with the process.
Typically, opioid withdrawal lasts between 3 and 7 days and can last up to two weeks in cases of severe addiction, partial relapse, or if withdrawal is intentionally being extended to reduce the severity of symptoms.
If you’re slowly withdrawing from Percocet, you should always work with a medical professional to ensure the amount you’re taking is enough to reduce symptoms and little enough to maintain withdrawal and reduce your risk of relapsing.
This is one reason your medical care provider might recommend taking Percocet at a lower dose for a while before stopping the medication entirely if you’ve been taking Percocet for a long time.
Assuming you aren’t using methadone, suboxone, or other medications to manage your Percocet withdrawal, you should start feeling symptoms around 8 hours after your last dose. Symptoms should be mild at first but may include returning pain if you’ve taken Percocet for pain control.
Agitation and anxiety are common early symptoms of Percocet withdrawal, both because of the medication leaving your system and because you may be anticipating worse symptoms.
Having comforting clothing on, comfort objects nearby, and your favorite movies, books, TV shows, or music can help ease symptoms.
During this time, your symptoms will likely get progressively worse. You may notice muscle pain you didn’t have before; you may get chills, start shivering or have watery eyes or goosebumps for no reason.
Some people will also start having nausea and vomiting during this stage, which is a good sign because the drug is leaving your system relatively quickly and your withdrawal may be over sooner.
Insomnia and agitation are both incredibly common during this phase. Try to sleep when you can, but don’t be surprised if it’s difficult. Remember that any extra irritation or agitation you feel is likely because of the drug, not because of anything happening.
Some people may start feeling better as early as day 3, but it’s more common to overcome the worst symptoms of Percocet withdrawal somewhere between day 4 and day 7 after taking your last dose.
Symptoms will start to ease, usually 12-24 hours before you feel completely better. The most intense period will be just before symptoms begin to ease, and it’s important to make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids, especially if you have vomiting or diarrhea.
Remember, not everyone has all the side effects of Percocet withdrawal. So if you’re starting to feel better, but haven’t had all the symptoms you expected, don’t worry. You probably are feeling better and just had a milder withdrawal than some.
However, if your symptoms are still getting worse during days 4-7, that might be time to get medical professionals involved to offer additional support and make sure there isn’t something else going wrong.
It’s important for people who take opioid medication to know that withdrawal symptoms may return suddenly for weeks or months after detoxing. The longer you take the medication, the more likely that is to happen.
The good news is that, even if you get returning symptoms occasionally for a few months after Percocet withdrawal, the symptoms should be short-lived and much milder than your original withdrawal.
Over time the risk of returning symptoms will decrease, and eventually, they should become a thing of the past.
Withdrawal symptoms can signal something wrong, especially if you’re still taking Percocet when you get them. It’s important to monitor when your symptoms start, though, because some withdrawal symptoms are also side effects of the drug.
So, if you’re becoming symptomatic shortly after taking a dose, that’s likely a side effect of the drug. However, if you’re becoming symptomatic shortly before taking the drug, and your symptoms ease when you’ve taken it, that may be a sign of chemical dependence or addiction.
It’s normal to have withdrawal symptoms when you’re stopping an opioid medication, but unexpected withdrawal or withdrawal after recreational use of Percocet can be warning signs that you’re starting to become addicted to the drug.
If you’re taking Percocet under doctor supervision, it might be a good idea to talk with them about your symptoms and concerns to see if they have any recommendations or alternative medications that may work better for you. Just be prepared that your doctor may be reluctant to continue prescribing Percocet after that conversation unless they cannot find a viable alternative medication for your situation.
Withdrawal is complicated, but withdrawal from Percocet is usually relatively safe. The problems come in when you aren’t supervised during withdrawal, when you have a medical complication unexpectedly, or if you have underlying health conditions that make the physical or mental stress of Percocet withdrawal more dangerous than normal.
One of the best resources for all those problems is talking to friends and family to make sure you have 24/7 support while going through withdrawal symptoms and even for a little while after.
However, if that isn’t an option, it’s a good idea to seek medical support instead. Your doctor may be willing to monitor your withdrawal from afar, with occasional check-ins to see how you’re feeling and whether you have any concerning symptoms.
Another option, and the one that offers the most support and may improve your chances of getting through withdrawal without a relapse if you’re addicted, may be going to a residential treatment center to detox and start on your path to recovery.
These centers take care of you, monitor your vitals and other important medical indicators, and may also be able to provide supportive care and medications that make withdrawal more bearable. Once you’re through detox, you can also expect a range of treatments and therapies to help give you more coping mechanisms to deal with life and thrive without Percocet.
If you think you’re dealing with a Percocet addiction and are ready to recover from your condition, Ascendant NY is here to help. Contact us to learn more about our treatment programs, what you can expect during Percocet withdrawal, or about intake for yourself or a loved one.
Last medically reviewed September 18, 2022