Psychological dependence on a drug can drive a person to do anything to experience the highs of abusing the substance. In the case of Percocet, researchers have found that young people will snort or smoke the tablets to get high, but there is no safe way to use the drug in these ways.
What’s in Percocet?
Percocet is the brand name given to a medication that is the combination of two other drugs: oxycodone and acetaminophen. When used as prescribed, Percocet is effective at treating moderate to severe levels of pain. Over a period of four to six hours, users experience a reduction in their pain, heavy drowsiness, and a powerful sense of tranquility.
Acetaminophen is a painkiller and fever-reducing drug. It is combined with oxycodone to increase the analgesic effects.
Oxycodone itself is an opioid painkiller, incredibly strong in its own right. As an opioid, it works by its chemical compounds activating the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. This is the mechanism by which pain signals are dulled, and users feel an intensely pleasant state of calm and euphoria.
This state of euphoria is behind much of why opioid-based medications are so widely abused. It is also what compels people to take their medications in ways that are harmful to them. In addition to just taking a lot of the tablets, people driven to a psychological need for the euphoria will crush the tablets to snort them or even smoke them.
When Percocet is taken properly, there is only a limited risk for the development of an addiction. However, tampering with the physical properties of the tablet form of Percocet undoes many of the safeguards that are formulated to minimize that risk.
Snorting or Smoking Percocet
Smoking or snorting Percocet facilitates a quicker, more direct, and more powerful onset of the desired effects. This also exposes users to many of the dangers that come from the constant activation of the opioid receptors in their central nervous system from full opioid agonists like oxycodone.
Even when taken appropriately, Percocet tablets can overwhelm a user’s system, causing everything from respiratory failure to cardiovascular problems. But crushing, and then snorting or smoking the tablets, bypasses the protections built into the extended-release versions of Percocet, which are supposed to slowly discharge their medication over a period of time (hence “extended release”).
Unlocking the chemical compounds in Percocet in favor of experiencing the euphoric blast significantly increases the overdose chances.
What does it mean when people crush Percocet tablets and snort them? Snorting a drug is ingesting the substance through the nose. When this happens, the medical term is nasal insufflation.
Experiencing the tablet like this is one of the quickest ways of ingesting a drug, which is why it is often done with substances like cocaine and methamphetamine. Taking the drug this way bypasses both the digestive tract and the liver, removing any kind of filtering and processing that the body would naturally do.
Instead, drugs that are snorted go directly into the bloodstream, thanks to all the blood vessels in the nasal cavity. When the chemical compounds are in the bloodstream, they race to the brain. Effects can be felt in as little as two minutes.
For users who are desperate for the psychological and physical effects, this can seem like a good thing. However, snorting drugs can cause:
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Loss of sense of smell
- Breathing difficulties (combined with the risk of respiratory failure from opioid overdose)
- Infections that strike at the nose and entire sinus system
Percocet cannot be safely snorted. Can it be safely smoked?
Smoking is the fastest method of ingesting a substance. The oxycodone and acetaminophen compounds are almost immediately absorbed into the bloodstream via the alveoli in the lungs (tiny air sacs that normally allow oxygen to be absorbed and then distributed throughout the body).
When Percocet is smoked, the alveoli are forced to pass it onto the red blood cells, which then send it to the blood (and ultimately, and immediately, the brain) instead of oxygen. This creates the additional danger that the brain will be damaged due to oxygen deprivation in combination with the likely cause of respiratory depression and failure from the full opioid exposure.
Like snorting, this bypasses the digestive system, meaning that instead of the Percocet compounds being slowly dispensed over the course of four to six hours, the user experiences the opioid formulation instantly.
The euphoric effects of Percocet will wear off faster when opioids are smoked than when they are taken as prescribed. This means that people are more likely to smoke more, increasingly exposing themselves to the many dangers of tampering with the medication. As the cycle repeats itself, the chances of overdose and death exponentially rise.
Smoking Percocet leads to a faster onset of symptoms, but that is not all. In the same way that smoking cigarettes cause a plethora of health problems, smoking Percocet leads to many of the same conditions, such as emphysema, tissue damage, lung infections, and even lung cancer.
A Significant Trend
There are many risks associated with smoking or snorting Percocet, but it is a growing problem.
In 2015, the Journal of Adolescent Health wrote that the decision of patients to go from taking Percocet tablets to deliberately tampering with the tablets to experience a bigger and better high “represents an escalation of drug use.”
A study of 404 young adults at nightclubs in New York found that smoking prescription drugs (including Percocet) are a “significant trend” among people in their late adolescence and early 20s who are socially active. Some people smoke depressants, like opioids and Percocet, to counteract the effects of stimulant drug abuse. Others are content with the drowsiness and tranquility of the opioids alone.
Regardless of reasons or methods, smoking or snorting Percocet is strongly associated with addictive behavior. It can cause cascading health problems, both directly related to the drug abuse and also by exposing the nasal cavity and lungs to damaging behavior.
Percocet cannot be safely snorted or smoked under any circumstances. A person engaging in this behavior almost certainly has a serious psychological dependence on Percocet and possibly other substances. They require immediate intervention before experiencing an inevitable overdose as a result of this form of Percocet abuse.
Percocet Abuse and Withdrawal
Those who use Percocet to get high by snorting the drug or in any other fashion run the risk of becoming dependent and developing withdrawal symptoms. Snorting Percocet, which is considered abuse, makes this even more of a reality. For many people who abuse opioids, the longer they use them, the more of a tolerance they develop. When they become tolerant and build a dependence on the drug, they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation or when they run out.
You might wonder, what happens when you snort Percocet? Well, not only does it damage your nose, but it causes you to develop a tolerance and dependence much faster than someone who takes it as prescribed. When you’ve become dependent on Percocet, it’s likely that you’ll continue using it to stave off withdrawals. Most users report not wanting to use the drug anymore, but their withdrawals are so intense, they do whatever it takes to keep them at bay.
Unfortunately, these symptoms can persist for days or weeks, depending on the severity of your addiction. For this reason, especially if you’ve been snorting or smoking Percocet, you must get professional help. Symptoms of withdrawal typically occur around eight to 12 hours after your last dose. Less frequent users will likely experience less intense withdrawal symptoms than someone who abuses the drug heavily, but each case is unique. It’s possible to encounter severe withdrawal symptoms even if you don’t abuse the drug.
Percocet withdrawal symptoms are flu-like in nature and similar to heroin withdrawal. The most common symptoms of Percocet withdrawal include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Teary eyes
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Body aches and pains
- Increased heart rate
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Mood swings
- Poor concentration
The duration of withdrawal will vary from one user to the next, based on whether or not they were using orally, snorting, or smoking Percocet. Other factors that determine this include:
- Their mental health, medical history, weight, and gender
- How long the person has been taking Percocet
- How much Percocet do they take each time
- Whether they mixed Percocet with other drugs or alcohol
- How often they take Percocet
Withdrawal symptoms will appear around eight to 12 hours after the last dose, and once they set in, they’ll last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. While in most cases, they peak within 72 hours and gradually taper off, post-acute symptoms will persist, which can be even more agonizing than acute symptoms.
Symptoms that persist well after a week are known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). PAWS can last anywhere from 18 to 24 months after cessation. The longer you’ve used Percocet and the fashion in which you took it will determine how long this lasts. Fortunately, you’ll learn how to cope with the symptoms through professional addiction treatment until they gradually disappear with time. The most common symptoms of PAWS include increased anxiety, poor concentration, depression, the inability to feel pleasure, mood swings, lack of energy, poor sleep, and agitation.
Percocet withdrawal is often painful and uncomfortable, and a gradual reduction of the drug is the best approach. However, if you’re an addict, it’s impossible to do something like this by yourself. It’s nearly impossible to set these limits for yourself, so checking into medical detox is your best option. If you’ve gone through treatment before and relapsed, you might be eligible for medication-assisted detox (MAT), which is longer-term medication maintenance. It’s ideal for those who deal with severe PAWS. No matter the approach you take, getting the help you need can save your life. Percocet today is laced with fentanyl and causes fatal overdoses. It’s time to look into support today to stop smoking or snorting Percocet.