Percocet is a brand-name medication prescribed for moderate and chronic pain. This drug is made up of two key ingredients: acetaminophen and oxycodone. The latter is part of the opioid classification of medicines. Like all other opioids, synthetic or otherwise, oxycodone chemically attaches itself to specific receptors in the central nervous system to ease or neutralize pain signals. Oxycodone is predominantly beneficial in the pain-maintenance regimens of cancer patients.

Acetaminophen makes up the other half of the Percocet puzzle. This compound is by far a more common over-the-counter medicine used to treat pain, headaches, fevers and colds. Most people know it as Tylenol. Though dependence or substance use disorders are virtually nonexistent with acetaminophen, the drug does come with inherent dangers to the liver if used excessively.

When combined in Percocet, acetaminophen and oxycodone both enhance the effects of the other. In fact, the presence of acetaminophen means Percocet requires less oxycodone to be effective.

The current opioid epidemic in the United States is a stark reminder of the negative effects of opioids: more prescriptions, more people taking pills, more conversions from pills to deadlier products and more overdose deaths. In 2016, more than 14,000 people died from opioid overdoses. This number only accounts for prescription opioids like Percocet. Even more deaths were attributed to opioids as a whole.

More than ever before, life-saving treatment and rehabilitation services have emerged to combat the opioid crisis. Whether by necessity, desire or some combination of both, finding help for a Percocet addiction is easier than you may think. The process of overcoming opioid use is often difficult, but with support, tapering off Percocet can be done.

Percocet Tapers

What exactly is a Percocet taper in the first place? A taper, like all detoxification approaches, aims to remove the drug from the body. The timeframe in which this is accomplished is what separates detox methods. Percocet taper schedules are intentionally gradual, allowing the person to accomplish two things: avoid withdrawal and adjust to life after Percocet.

Preparing and acclimatizing oneself, body and mind, to a drug-free lifestyle is the bedrock of all rehabilitation practices. As is the case for every step of the way. While there is no doubt that tapering seeks to accomplish this goal, perhaps the distinguishing factor is that overcoming withdrawal is the most important function of tapers. Objectively, opioid withdrawal is among the most difficult types of withdrawal that anyone can experience. Each can leave even the strongest patient incapacitated for days, weeks or months. Percocet is no different.

Percocet withdrawal symptoms range in severity given a patient’s prior scope of use or misuse. The first few days are typically the most physically grueling, with psychological distress. If a patient can get past the first week, their chances of a successful recovery greatly increase. Before determining how to taper off Percocet, it’s helpful to understand the reason why. Avoiding withdrawal symptoms should be reason enough.

Symptoms of Percocet withdrawal include:

  • Nausea: vomiting, gagging, dry mouth or uncontrollable drooling are characteristic signs of nausea associated with withdrawals.
  • Constipation: painful or impossible bowel movements can occur during the first few withdrawal days.
  • Lack of sleep: People in withdrawal will often crave rest, mostly because they can detach themselves from symptoms, thoughts and cravings while asleep, but insomnia may result instead.
  • Abdominal cramping: Cramping can be the byproduct of nausea, constipation, or a symptom all its own.
  • Muscle aching: People may experience heightened soreness or weakness, especially if they were previously taking Percocet for chronic pain.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Watery eyes, fever and a runny nose are common with opioid withdrawal.
  • Psychological symptoms: During later stages of withdrawal, people may face depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Each withdrawal side effect can be linked to the oxycodone found in Percocet. While it is true that acetaminophen may damage the liver, addiction, and subsequent withdrawal due to it, are unlikely.

How to Taper Off Percocet

A Percocet taper can take place in an accredited rehabilitation center or at home. The second option comes with downsides: lack of accountability, little-to-no safeguards and many more. This is not to say it is impossible, thousands have done it and will do so in the future, but medical settings offer unparalleled structure and safety. Detoxing in a medical setting can also help a person handle any fears related to pain and withdrawal.

Even if an at-home detox is the direction of choice, doing so cold turkey should never be attempted. Tapering off Percocet is about being slow and steady — going cold turkey is anything but. Cold turkey is the single most dangerous means of quitting drug use, especially alcohol or opioids. The withdrawal a patient could otherwise avoid with a Percocet taper is experienced at its most intense when going cold turkey. Tapers offer the perfect Percocet middle ground: a person has made the conscious decision to quit, but in a safer way than doing it immediately.

A physician can craft a Percocet taper schedule to suit a patient’s specific needs. Whenever possible, a slower taper will always be the go-to approach, and adjustments can be made along the way. There is no reason to rush; time for the patient to self-reflect and the body to self-correct is part of the process.

After all, recovery, like most aspects of life, is more often a journey rather than a destination. Tapering is no different in this regard. A typical Percocet taper involves a dose reduction of 20 percent per week. Higher reductions are possible, but anything over 50 percent at a time is inadvisable. Once a healthy and sustainable regimen is established, a person can be well on their way to lasting recovery.

If you want the stability and supervision of a medically assisted detox, The Recovery Village can help. With centers across the country and care plans customized to fit your needs, this comprehensive treatment network can help you get on the road to recovery in a safe and supported manner. Call 855.809.2143 today to get started.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Frances Antoinette Aguilar, PharmD
With over 11 years experience in academic, hospital, and ambulatory pharmacy, Frances has a demonstrated history of working in the hospital and healthcare industry, assisting physicians with the development of pathways or protocols to improve clinical practice. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.