How to Stop Taking Percocet

When ready to stop taking Percocet, gradually reduce your dose over several weeks or months. More guidelines to stopping Percocet here.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

OVERVIEW: To quit Percocet safely, you first need to consult with a doctor or pharmacist. Together you can plan an individualized tapering schedule to slowly reduce your daily dose over a few weeks, or more. Keep in mind that withdrawal from Percocet can be severe, so medical assistance in a detox clinic is frequently recommended.


Physical Effects

Percocet is an opioid painkiller used to manage moderate to severe pain. Its main active ingredient, oxycodone, is a powerful, semi-synthetic opioid with high addiction potential. In fact, taking oxycodone gets you high, even the first time you use it. Over time, oxycodone can change brain function that makes it difficult to quit. This includes physical dependence and tolerance.

After having Percocet in your body for extended periods of time, your body adjusts to the presence of oxycodone in the system. The brain adapts to the depressnat effects of the drug by “speeding up” certain processes. As you become used to taking Percocet, it becomes “normal” to be in a state of central nervous system depression. Remove the oxycodone from the system…and your body will experience withdrawal effects.

Plus, your body might need more oxycodone over time. When you need to increase doses or frquency of dosing to achieve initial pain relief, you know you’ve become tolerant to the drug. You can develop a dependence on opioids, including Percocet, by taking the medication for 1 week, or longer, a guideline established by the National Safety Council. Tolerance develops individually, and is usually not predictable.

So, what happens when you become physically dependent on Percocet? If you’re dependent on Percocet and stop taking this medication, you should plan to go through withdrawal. Withdrawal syndrome for opioids follows a fairly predictable course. It’s much like a bad flu, with symptoms that resolve within 3-7 days. Percocet withdrawal includes a number of symptoms or side effects, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Body pain
  • Chills
  • Cramps
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Flushed skin
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Tiredness

Withdrawal effects may be worse if you’ve taken Percocet over long periods. For instance, is you take the painkiller over the period several years to help treat chronic pain, withdrawal will be more intense than if you take it for a few months.

Some Percocet users can become addicted to the painkiller, even when using the medication as prescribed.

NOTE HERE: Withdrawal occurs and is the same for both regular users and people who are addicted.  How do you get addicted to Percocet? Usually, by taking it to get high. You know you’re addicted when you stop but cannot stay stopped. If you crave Percocet, take it to avoid the psychological and emotional issues in your life, or use it in the face of negatives consequences…you might need professional help to quit.

Can I Just Quit?

Yes, there are specific cases when you can just stop taking Percocet. However, you should always consult a doctor first.

For example, you might be able to cease dosing if you’ve taken Percocet for short-term management of an illness or injury that lasts for less than a couple of weeks. Some people can just stop taking Percocet at any time for acute ailments when the drug is no longer needed, as long as they haven’t developed physical dependence. Or, you may need to quit completely when you’re facing a medical emergency, or are going through treatment for addiction.

If you’re taking the painkiller for chronic pain management, it may be harder to quit. In these cases, you may need to cut down on dosing amounts of frequency, but not quit entirely. You may still need the pain medicine to treat ongoing issues. But to address high levels of tolerance to opioids, occasional tapering periods can be helpful.

In fact, most people should not take Percocet at high doses. The benefits of high-dose opioids for chronic pain are not established. For this reason, the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, a 2016 report, states that low doses are best during treatment initiation for pain. Further, patients are recommended to see their doctors at least once every 3 months for evaluation to assess their level of tolerance.

Cold Turkey

“Patients who are treated with PERCOCET tablets for more than a few weeks should be advised not to abruptly discontinue the medication. Patients should consult with their physician for a gradual discontinuation dose schedule to taper off the medication”  FDA Percocet label

Some people would rather try to quit Percocet cold turkey than to gradually taper Percocet doses. If you’ve had a bad reaction to the medication, it makes sense to quit taking Percocet as soon as possible despite the consequences. However, cold turkey withdrawal is severely intense and can trigger intense symptoms.

Instead, Percocet should usually be gradually reduced in dosage or frequency for regular users, rather than quit all at once. In people who take Percocet regularly for more than three weeks, or so, sudden disuse can be dangerous and very uncomfortable.

If you want to stop taking Percocet cold turkey, talk to your prescribing doctor, a medical detox clinic, or a pharmacist for suggestions and medical advice.


Medical Detox

Step 1: Assessment

The first thing that happens in detox should be a warm, friendly greeting. Once you are greeted by staff, you’ll spend about one hour in discussion, assessment, and completion of paperwork. Then, you may be asked to give a blood or urine sample for a drug test. This initial assessment helps detox clinics plan for appropriate services and level of care based on your unique case.

Step 2: Clinical Assessment

Then, you can expect to spend another hour, or so, talking with detox clinic supervisors. Doctors or qualified staff will take your medical history, complete a psychological evaluation, and a physical exam. If there is a need for medications to help address withdrawal symptoms, nurses should seek a prescription from a licensed supervised physician.

Step 3: Tapering 

Tapering protocols set the pace for reduction of dosages over time. Detox tapering protocols are started according to doctor’s orders and you can expect associated symptoms to occur in turn. It can help to become familiar with Percocet symptoms by time so that you know what’s coming.

Step 4: Transition 

If you think that you may be addicted to Percocet, medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of treatment. To help prevent a relapse to a drug, it’s important that you learn how to live drug-free. This is why rehab can be so beneficial. Still, no one can force you to continue to addiction treament. You have to want it yourself.


A variety of medications are used to minimize the severity and intensity of Percocet withdrawal symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, buprenorphine and methadone are ‘essential medicines’ for an effective treatment for opoid addiction. A generaly list of medicines used during detox includes:

  1. Antidepressants. Every individual whose going through opioid detox should be evaluated for depression and/or other mental health issue. In cases of underlying depression, antidepressants like SSRIs or trazodone can help!
  2. Medicines that delay withdrawal. Buprenorphine and methadone are mostly used as replacement therapy. but these medicine are also used to prevent withdrawal symptoms and make detox less intense.
  3. Medicines that prevent relapse. Naltrexone blunts some of the rewarding effects of Percocet and is often use in combination with buprenorphine or methadone.
  4. Medicines that treat specific symptoms.
  • Clonidine is an anihypertensive that addresses anxiety, agitation, sweating, runny nose, cramping, and muscle pain.
  • Dicyclomine hydrochloride treats abdominal cramps.
  • Diphenoxylate and Loperamide are anti-diarrheal medications can be used to treat diarrhea.
  • Hydroxyzine and Promethazine can prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • Methocarbamol is used to treat joint pain and muscle cramps.

KEEP THIS IN MIND: Replacement therapy can be tricky. So, be careful not to trade one addiction with another.

Detox at Home

While it is possible to detox at home, medical detox clinics offer 24-7 supervision. Doctors and nurses can offer you prescription medicines such as buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone to help ease or put off withdrawal symptoms. Plus, you’ll have the emotional and psychological support you need to prevent relapse.

Detoxing at home can be risky. You may want to take Percocet again to ease your discomfort. To mitigate this risk, always be sure that you have supports around you. Also, seek medical help first. Gradually reducing your dose over several weeks or even months can reduce the severity of a detox. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate dosing schedule so that you can safely taper yourself off of Percocet.

Guidelines for Taper

The US Department of Veterans Affairs suggests that a safe tapering schedule for Percocet follow these general guidelines:

  1. Avoid reducing the daily dose by > 50% at any given interval.
  2. Reduce each daily dose by 10%.
  3. Reduce the dose by 20% every 3-5 days.
  4. Reduce the dose by 25% per week

REMEMBER: The safest way to stop taking Percocet is by consulting a doctor and following instructions. If the tapering schedule doesn’t work for you, consult with your doctor to make a new one.

How to Stop Quit Percocet Safely?

In order to stop taking Percocet safely, it is best to seek the help of a medical detox clinic. There are many medical treatment options that can help you deal with symptoms of withdrawal. The most common medications used for Percocet withdrawal include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Buprenorphine
  • Clonidine
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone
  • Dicyclomine hydrochloride

The safest way to quit Percocet is under medical supervision, where staff of trained professionals can help you deal with psychological and physical issues.

Do I Have a Problem?

Percocet use can become an addiction. Actually, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reported in 2016 that 2 million Americans had substance use disorder involving a prescription painkiller. This trend doesn’t seem to be slowing, mainly triggered by the ease with which you can get a prescription.

In fact, the number of prescriptions for oxycodone has exploded in the past decades. According to a 2013 survey published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 1991 there were 76 million opioid prescriptions, while in 2013 that number has escalated to nearly 207 million. So, if you think you have a problem. You’re not alone.

What do you do?

First of all, you need to be honest with yourself. To verify whether you have a problem or not, check out the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Used mainly by doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists, the DSM-V lists 11 criteria for the diagnosis of an addictive disorder. The diagnostic signs of a drug problem are present when you:

  1. Take the drug in larger amounts or longer than intended.
  2. Want to cut down or stop using drug but fail to succeed.
  3. Spend a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the use.
  4. Experience cravings and an uncontrollable need to use the drug.
  5. Fail to perform normally at work, home, or at school due to drug use.
  6. Continue to use, even when it causes problems in relationships with family, friends, and partners.
  7. Give up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of use.
  8. Use the drug again and again, despite being aware of harmful risks and side effects.
  9. Continue to use despite the risk of developing health problems or worsen physical or physiological condition.
  10. Need more drug to get the desired effect (tolerance).
  11. Experience withdrawal symptoms which can be relieved by taking higher dose (dependence).

Additionally, the DSM has a certain number of criteria that should be met for a doctor to diagnose the severity of an addiction. The severity of any opioid addiction, including Percocet, is diagnosed based on the number of criteria observed.

2-3 Symptoms indicate a mild disorder.

4-5 Symptoms indicate a moderate disorder.

>6 Symptoms indicate a severe disorder.

Next Steps

STEP 1: Accept the fact that you have a problem. Stop living in denial, and admit that you have a problem. That’s the first step to turning your life around. The more honest you are, the easier it will be to get better.

STEP 2: Find a long-term motivation to change. If you want to live healthy and sober life, you need to find motivation that will keep you going through recovery. The only person that can change you is YOU.

STEP 3: Seek help. Addiction is a medical condition, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many people who are willing to help you. You can reach out to:

  • Addiction treatment centers
  • Licensed psychologists
  • Licensed psychiatrists
  • Medical detox clinics
  • Medical doctors
  • Pharmacists
  • Rehabs

If you think that you have a Percocet problem, a stay in reab can help immensely. The specialized staff will help you discover the roots of an addition. You’ll look into how and why you have become addicted, and most importantly, you’ll learn how to live a drug-free life.

Inpatient rehab offers 24/7 medical care and constant supervision. During the program, patients live at the facility, and the trained staff provide around-the-clock care that helps you prepare for the life after treatment. The most common services include:

  • Educational classes about the brain
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Residential community support

Outpatient rehab offers similar, but patients don’t live at the facility. Instead, they come and go for a few hours each day, several days weekly. During these hours, a trained addiction counselor leads individual and group therapies. This treatment can be intense or flexible. It allows patients to continue with their daily responsibilities and obligations.


Interested in quitting Percocet?

First, know what to expect. While Percocet stays in the body for a relatively short amount of it (it is detectable for a couple of days after last use in urine), Percocet withdrawal can last for days to weeks.  For long time users of Percocet, be prepared to stop taking Percocet over time. In fact, you shouldn’t just quit Percocet cold turkey (unless you must) because of how Percocet affects the brain. If you are ready to quit for good, here are some ideas that can help.

1. Make a list of reasons you want to quit. This will help you move forward and can help you through withdrawal.

2. Your surroundings must be supportive. Ask for help from friends and family who can help you through the process.

3. Prepare medically. Call a medical detox. Or, consult with your doctor or a pharmacist. Learn about tapering and over-the-counter aids or strategies that can help during the process.

Want To Ask Something?

Still have questions about Percocet?

Please leave us your questions here. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

ToxNet: Oxycodone
NIDA: Challenges in Using Opioids to Treat Pain in Persons With Substance Use Disorders
NIDA: Painkiller (Oxy, Vike) Facts
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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