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Percocet Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, Causes and Treatment

Percocet is an opioid pain medication. It contains oxycodone, which has a high risk for abuse and dependence, especially after a period of sustained use (defined by some as 2 or more weeks).1

Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on how the person used Percocet and how much, on average, he or she took.9

Possible symptoms that may be experienced during withdrawal include:9

  • Nausea/vomiting, upset stomach.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Excessing yawning.
  • Sneezing.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Hair standing on end.
  • Restlessness.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Cravings.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate.

Withdrawal effects are rarely life-threatening.3 But someone who has been abusing Percocet or using it for a long time may be well advised to seek the guidance and support of a medical professional to manage any complications that might arise and to help prevent a relapse.

Withdrawal Risks

Percocet withdrawal can lead to health complications and risks, such as:

  • Relapse and overdose. Users may take their normal dose of the drug to relieve withdrawal symptoms, not realizing that withdrawal can lower their tolerance. This increases the risk of overdose with any subsequent Percocet use.3
  • Dehydration. Excessive vomiting and diarrhea during withdrawal can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.3
  • Anxiety and depression. People may also experience anxiety, depression, and anhedonia (an inability to experience pleasure) during withdrawal. 10,11

Percocet Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal from Percocet can begin as early as a few hours after the last use.

  • 6-12 hours after the last dose. Symptoms begin to appear. Cravings may appear first, then restlessness and irritability. These may be followed by sweating, tearing, and runny nose.
  • 1-3 days. Between days 1 and 3, effects are at their most severe. Symptoms during this phase may include body aches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and coughing.
  • 5-7 days. Symptoms begin to subside, but less severe symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and anhedonia, can last for weeks to months. 10,12

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Some individuals may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome, also called PAWS or prolonged withdrawal syndrome, which involves persistent feelings after the acute phase of withdrawal. Depression and anxiety are commonly experienced during this phase, but some physical symptoms can also persist. 13

The likelihood and severity of PAWS varies by individual and the duration of drug use. PAWS can last a few weeks or even months. Having appropriate treatment and supports through all stages of recovery is helpful in alleviating these symptoms.

Causes of Withdrawal

Percocet withdrawal occurs as a result of physical dependence.

As a person continues to use Percocet, he or she can develop a tolerance to the drug.2 The person may require more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. Dependence usually develops hand-in-hand with tolerance, because the person takes increasingly higher doses, and his or her system adapts to the presence of the drug.

When a person stops using the drug, withdrawal can occur as the body readjusts to the lack of the drug in the system. The person may continue to use Percocet to avoid withdrawal symptoms. 10

Certain methods of use greatly increase the risk of developing dependence and, ultimately, addiction:

  • Taking more of the drug than prescribed.
  • Taking it for longer than prescribed.
  • Intentional misuse to enhance effects: e.g., snorting or injecting it.
  • Combining it with other drugs.

Treatment for Withdrawal

Withdrawal treatment will vary based on the level of addiction, symptom severity, the physical and mental state of the individual, and the recommendations of the health care provider.

Most treatment options begin with some level of detoxification from Percocet. Detoxification is the clearing of the drug from the body. It does not “cure” addiction on its own, and should be combined with medication-assisted therapy, counseling, and other supports.4

It is important to seek additional support after initial treatment to promote ongoing recovery and to prevent relapse. Possible supports include:

Withdrawal and Addiction Treatment Programs

Treatment for Percocet addiction and withdrawal can be provided in a variety of ways, including:

  • Detox centers: These facilities treat withdrawal symptoms, but they do not provide comprehensive recovery services that are often necessary to overcome an addiction. Most people enter an outpatient or inpatient program after detox.
  • Outpatient: Some people are able to remain at home during Percocet withdrawal and visit an outpatient recovery program for medical monitoring and medication. Outpatient rehab programs may also include individual or group counseling. Those with relatively recent or less severe addictions, and who have a supportive home environment, may be a good fit for outpatient.
  • Inpatient: Inpatient Percocet rehabilitation involves either short- or long-term placement in a hospital or residential setting. Services are intensive, with 24/7 medical support and treatment, group and individual therapy, and other treatments such as art and music therapy and yoga offered in some locations. This treatment option is recommended for those with severe levels of addiction.
  • Partial hospitalization or day hospitalization: More intensive than some outpatient recovery programs but less intensive than inpatient programs, partial hospitalization provides support, education, and treatment for a substantial portion of the day, with participants returning to their homes in the evening.

Medications for Percocet Withdrawal

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be used to treat Percocet addiction and withdrawal. MAT involves the use of an opioid replacement medication that can help reduce the intensity of symptoms as well as cravings, or other non-opioid medications. A physician may also gradually reduce the dose of Percocet, a process known as “tapering.”

Some medications commonly used for Percocet withdrawal include:

  • Methadone: Methadone is only provided in clinics regulated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Some people only require methadone for a short period of time, while others may remain on methadone maintenance treatment for years.5
  • Buprenorphine: This medication is also commonly used to treat withdrawal symptoms from Percocet addiction. Unlike methadone, it can be prescribed in a physician’s office, though the physician must receive special training. It can also be used long-term depending on the level of addiction.6
  • Naltrexone: This drug works by blocking the effects of Percocet, which in turn reduces cravings and relapse.7
  • Clonidine: This drug helps to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, and sweating. It has not been shown to be effective in treating cravings, however.3

Find a Detox Center

Call today to find a Percocet detox or recovery treatment center. A recovery support specialist can help you decide which program is the best fit for you or your loved one based on your personal preferences and needs.

[1]. Wakim, J. H. (2012). Alleviating Symptoms of Withdrawal from an Opioid. Pain and Therapy, 1(1), 4.

[2]. Volkow, N.D. (2014). America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse.

[3]. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.

[4]. Volkow ND. Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide. DIANE Publishing; 2011.

[5]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Methadone.

[6]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Buprenorphine.

[7]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Naltrexone.

[8]. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Drug Schedules.

[9]. Ries, R., Miller, S., and Fielin, D. (2014). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins.

[10]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

[11]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131, Rockville, MD.

[12]. Bradley, W.G., editor. (2004) Neurology in Clinical Practice: The neurological disorders, Volume 2. Taylor & Francis.

[13]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Protracted Withdrawal. Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory 9(1), 1-6.