There are so many questions people have surrounding prescription drugs, and in particular, prescription painkillers. They may be unsure of certain terms and classifications, and a question frequently heard is whether or not Percocet is an opiate.
We’ll explore what the term opiate refers to, and answer “is Percocet an opiate.” We’ll also delve into the specifics of what Percocet is and how it works.
What is an Opiate?
Before we answer “is Percocet an opiate,” what is an opiate? Opiate is a term that refers to a drug derived from opium. However, it has come to be used interchangeably with the term opioid, which refers to substances that are both natural and synthetic, yet have in common the fact that they bind to the brain’s opioid receptors. In strictest terms, opiates are compounds that are naturally occurring in the poppy plant. Some of the psychoactive elements in opium plants include morphine and codeine.
However, opioids and opiate drugs are all considered to carry a high potential for abuse, and they are controlled substances under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act in the U.S.
So how do opiates vs. opioids compare in other ways? While synthetic opioids are made in a lab, all of these substances produce similar effects and have the ability to act as painkillers. Your body also produces its own opioid chemicals, which are called endorphins, and they are responsible for transmitting pain and pleasure signals to the nerves of your body. Nerve cells have opioid receptors that can activate when a substance that is an opiate or is similar to an opiate binds to them. When this happens, your body starts to release catecholamines, like dopamine, that regulate mood, at a much higher rate than what happens normally.
So, if we’re looking at medical terminology, opioid refers to a substance that binds to the opioid receptor sites on nerve cells, and it doesn’t make a difference if the substance is an opiate or an opioid. Another way to look at it is that not all opioids are opiates, but all opiates are opioids.
While opiates and opioids are all similar in their function, some opioids may cause differences in effects, for example, more sedation, than others because of the type or amount of endorphins they release.
There is also another distinction to keep in mind when comparing opiates and opioids, and that’s agonists vs. antagonists. These terms reflect differences in how drugs interact with the opioid receptor sites. An agonist turns a receptor “on” and an antagonist turns it “off.” A natural opiate like heroin activates the opioid receptor sites and then leads to the secretion of mood-regulating catecholamines. Synthetic opioids function in the same way. When drugs activate cell receptor sites in this way, they’re agonists. Drugs like naloxone, which actually block cell receptor sites are antagonists, and they are used to reverse the effects of opioids.
So, is Percocet an opiate?
Is Percocet an Opiate?
Percocet is the brand name for a prescription painkiller that contains oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is classified as a narcotic painkiller or an opioid analgesic, and while it is an opioid with effects that are similar to morphine and heroin, it is not an opiate because it does not occur naturally in opium. So yes, Percocet is an opioid, but is Percocet an opiate? No.
Percocet is prescribed to treat pain that’s generally moderate to severe, but it’s not meant for chronic pain. Instead, it’s meant to be prescribed for acute pain. Like other opioids, Percocet plays a role in how the brain perceives pain, and it also acts as a central nervous system depressant.
Percocet also contains acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in Tylenol. Acetaminophen is used to enhance the pain-killing effects of oxycodone in order to reduce the amount of oxycodone needed for pain control.
When someone takes Percocet their brain’s reward centers are activated, which is why people feel the euphoric rush when they take any opioid. Along with euphoria, being high from Percocet can also lead to intense calm and relaxation, and a general sense of well-being.
Unfortunately, there is all-too-commonly the perception that Percocet and other prescription painkillers are a safer way to get the same effects of illicit drugs like heroin, or they think because a doctor prescribes a drug it’s safe. Unfortunately, Percocet can create many of the same problems as other opioids including heroin.
So, is Percocet an opiate? While it’s not an opiate because it’s synthetic and not found in opium, it is an opioid. Therefore it affects the same opioid receptors and produces the same effects in the brain of the user.
Getting Help for Percocet and Opioid Addiction
There are various ways to get help for Percocet addiction and one of the most common ways is through addiction treatment. Addiction treatment for Percocet abuse can range of different levels of care including drug detox, residential treatment, outpatient treatment and aftercare. During treatment you will participate in individual and group counseling sessions that teach coping skills and provide an in-depth understanding of addiction. Group therapy will also provide you with support from others who are on the path to recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with Percocet addiction we can help. Contact The Recovery Village to learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village® aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.