Percocet is a commonly utilized prescription painkiller. It is part of a class of drugs known as opioids, which include heroin and oxycodone. Prescription opioids like Percocet can be very effective in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. However, they also come with a wide range of risks, including addiction and life threatening overdose. Percocet contains the opioid oxycodone, which is known as one of the most addictive opioids on the market. It also contains the over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is not an opioid but can lead to health complications when misused.
Percocet is not only a widely prescribed opioid painkiller, but it also enjoys wide popularity as a street drug. Whether an individual has a prescription or not, Percocet is ripe for abuse. One of the most common — and dangerous — forms of Percocet abuse involves snorting Percocet.
Snorting Percocet Pills
Percocet is generally prescribed in the form of a pill. This pill is meant to be taken orally, i.e. swallowed by mouth. Percocet tablets and pills are available in a range of dosages. The level of acetaminophen (Tylenol) is consistent at 325 mg, but the quantity of oxycodone hydrochloride varies considerably, ranging from 2.5 mg per Percocet tablet to 10 mg in a single dose.
When individuals are prescribed Percocet, most people begin using the drug as prescribed. However, after some time, many people who started off taking Percocet orally progress to snorting their Percocet tablets. In order to do so, they must grind the pill down into a fine powder. Misusing Percocet by snorting it causes the effects to occur more rapidly, and it also reportedly increases the strength of the “high.” In many cases of Percocet abuse, individuals swallow one pill and snort another, which results in two overlapping “highs.”
Why Do People Snort Percocet?
The oxycodone in Percocet, like many opioids, can quickly cause people to develop a physical dependence. Individuals taking Percocet may not have any intention of abusing the drug — they may see themselves as people who would never take recreational drugs. However, the relief they get from Percocet, as well as the accompanying feelings of euphoria, can be hard to resist. Like other opioids, the oxycodone in Percocet is not only a painkiller but also produces a powerful high.
When opioids like Percocet activate opioid receptors in a users’ brain, they block pain signals while also releasing large quantities of dopamine. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the brain’s motivation and decision making centers, is responsible for the strong feelings of pleasure that people experience when taking Percocet. The high quantities of dopamine released by Percocet cause the drug-taking behavior to be reinforced, effectively hijacking a person’s brain.
Over time, people develop a tolerance to the effects of Percocet. Once the body has adapted to the drug, an individual must take higher or more frequent doses in order to achieve the same effects. This is likely to further increase their physical dependence on Percocet. At the same time, individuals with a physical dependence on Percocet are likely to begin suffering from opioid withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. Combined, these factors drive people to find new ways of getting Percocet into their body more effectively.
Many people begin by taking Percocet orally, but once a tolerance develops, snorting Percocet can become an appealing alternative. Non-oral routes of administration, including snorting, smoking, and injecting, can make Percocet more effective for recreational purposes. Snorting oxycodone means that the drug enters the bloodstream more rapidly, which causes a more intense high at a much faster rate. For individuals taking Percocet orally as prescribed, it can take over an hour for the effects to set in. Individuals snorting Percocet, however, can often experience initial effects in under 15 minutes.
Dangers of Snorting Percocet
The United States is currently facing an opioid epidemic, due to the addictive nature of opioids and how frequently they are prescribed. While prescription opioid painkillers like Percocet are effective for treating pain, abusing these addictive drugs can lead to a wide range of severe negative consequences. Percocet abuse can claim lives. In 2017 alone, prescription opioids led to over 17,029 fatal overdoses. Even individuals who do not overdose, however, are likely to experience a severe reduction in their quality of life. Snorting Percocet dramatically increases these risks.
Health risks from snorting Percocet include:
- Frequent nose bleeds
- Chronic sinus infections
- Sleep apnea and snoring
- Loss of sense of smell
- Lung infections
- Abdominal pain
- Problems swallowing
- Sores throughout the nose and mouth
Given the above risks, one may be tempted to ask: why don’t people just stop? In fact, individuals who are addicted to Percocet often have a strong desire to stop, but as soon as they do they face agonizing opioid withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be strong for individuals who take Percocet exactly as prescribed, but they are far stronger for individuals who misuse Percocet by snorting it. These excruciating and debilitating symptoms of Percocet withdrawal include:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Muscle and joint aches
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
- Inability to sleep
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- High blood pressure and rapid heart beat
- Dilated pupils and blurry vision
- Strong cravings for opioids
These symptoms can be so severe that individuals may find themselves unable to quit Percocet using their own willpower. Getting support during and after the opioid withdrawal process is essential.
Risks of Percocet Addiction
When an individual develops a Percocet addiction through snorting Percocet, they are likely to continue experiencing strong cravings for opioids even if they successfully withdraw from Percocet. This condition, known as opioid use disorder, is a legitimate mental health condition that causes people to be unable to control their opioid abuse no matter what the consequences are. After developing a Percocet addiction, people prioritize their drug use above all else. It is common for individuals with opioid use disorder to isolate from friends and family, lose their jobs or drop out of school, and suffer from severe legal, financial, and health problems. More often than not, to achieve temporary relief from these disastrous life events, they will simply snort more Percocet.
Just as people often progress from taking Percocet orally to snorting Percocet, it is also common for people who snort Percocet to seek even more potent ways of getting their next “fix.” Individuals who misuse and abuse their prescription opioid prescriptions are likely to turn to other opioids, including cheap and widely available “street drugs” like heroin. In fact, more than 80% of heroin users began by abusing prescription opioids painkillers like Percocet. Many of these people would never have imagined that they’d end up addicted to heroin, but it is a natural step after snorting Percocet.
It is important to recognize that opioid use disorder is a progressive condition. It can progress from swallowing too many Percocet pills, to snorting Percocet, all the way to heroin. Heroin use itself can progress from smoking and snorting to intravenous injection. As opioid addiction becomes more severe, so too do the consequences. At the same time, it becomes more difficult to recover.
Recovering from Percocet Addiction at Design for Recovery
Few people can quit Percocet using their own individual will power once addiction has set in. Design for Recovery, a sober living home located in West Los Angeles, offers young men an opportunity to recover from Percocet addiction in a supportive and structured environment. Residents at Design for Recovery develop a strong sober support system, consisting of other young men with shared experiences and a shared commitment to recovery. They work daily to develop the skills and coping tools they need to avoid relapse. Moreover, at Design for Recovery we believe that physical abstinence is only half the battle. We support residents as they work to rebuild their lives from the ground up, developing new lives that are happy, joyous, and free.
If Percocet is controlling your life or a loved one’s life, reach out to Design for Recovery today.