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What is Percocet (Oxycodone)?
Percocet is a combination prescription drug containing an opioid pain reliever (oxycodone), an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, and a fever reducer (acetaminophen).
The combination acts not only as a strong pain reliever but also as an analgesic and antipyretic in the management of moderate to severe pain.
The dosage of each drug in Percocet is 5 mg of oxycodone and 325 mg of acetaminophen per tablet. Percocet can be prescribed for an extended period for chronic pain, unlike some other opioids.
How Addictive is Percocet?
Percocet is highly addictive. It is one of the most commonly misused prescription painkillers available on the market.
Oxycodone by itself is also a common drug of misuse in both immediate-release and controlled-release forms.
Although addiction is common, recovery is possible with sound, timely treatment and a willingness to seek help.
Symptoms of Percocet Addiction
There are different symptoms to watch out for when it comes to Percocet addiction.
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Actively seeking drug dealers
- Forging prescriptions
- Stealing Percocet from others
- Seeking multiple doctors to fill prescriptions (this is difficult to do today due to the INSPECT report for all controlled substances)
In addition to these behavioral signs to watch out for, Percocet addiction can present itself in the form of physical side effects.
These physical side effects include:
- Severe mood swings
- Excess sleeping
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Respiratory depression
- Profuse sweating
- Coordination problems
- General anxiety
- Abdominal pain
- Memory loss
- Liver damage
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping Percocet use is an indication that physical addiction is present. This may also lead individuals experiencing such unpleasant effects to continue using Percocet to avoid them, further fueling their addiction.
Withdrawal signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- Extreme or extraordinarily excessive sweating
- Abdominal pain and diarrhea
- Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
- Watery eyes
- Intense Percocet cravings
- Runny nose
- Tremors or uncontrollable twitches
Can You Overdose on Percocet?
Yes, it is possible to overdose on Percocet. An overdose is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.
Percocet overdoses most frequently occur when an individual takes more than prescribed. It also occurs if a high dose is taken of illegally obtained Percocet.
How Much Percocet Does it Take to Overdose?
There is no set amount that causes an individual to overdose on Percocet. Everybody is different, and the amount needed to reach an overdose varies from person to person.
Although the exact amount depends on individual body chemistry, other things can affect how much Percocet can cause an overdose. This includes:
- Crushing, chewing, or snorting Percocet tablets
- Injecting Percocet intravenously
- Mixing Percocet with alcohol
- Mixing Percocet with other medications
Symptoms of Percocet Overdose
Percocet overdose is severe and potentially life-threatening. Excess amounts of oxycodone hydrochloride in Percocet can depress the central nervous system (CNS), leading to heart problems. Additionally, excess acetaminophen can be toxic and cause liver failure.
Specific symptoms associated with Percocet overdose include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Respiratory failure
- Blue or cold skin
- Slurred speech
- Loss of memory
- Slowed heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
Call 911 immediately if you suspect that you or someone you know might be experiencing a Percocet overdose.
Risk Factors for Percocet Complications
Risk factors that could lead to complications when taking Percocet include:
- Having an impulsive or novelty-seeking temperament
- Personal history of mental illness
- Family history of mental illness
- Personal history of substance use and addiction
- Family history of substance use and addiction
- Having easy access to a significant amount of this medication with any of the above factors
What is the Lethal Dose of Percocet?
Percocet overdose can occur with a dosage as low as 40 mg if the patient has no tolerance to the drug. If treatment is not administered immediately, this can become a fatal overdose, even with a dosage of under 50 mg.
Most fatal overdoses are higher than this. The typically lethal dose of Percocet is closer to 200 mg, though this number still varies based on differences between individuals.
What to Do if You Overdose on Percocet
The first thing that should be done if you or someone you know has overdosed on Percocet is to call for medical help.
If specialized overdose-treatment services are unable to respond within minutes, or the overdose occurs somewhere other than home, call 911 immediately. Any overdose is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate action.
If you would prefer to avoid going to the hospital in this situation, plan to get the help needed promptly in advance of a potential overdose.
How to Treat Percocet Overdoses
Percocet overdose can be treated and reversed with a medication called naloxone, which works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that naloxone reversed more than 10,000 opiate overdose cases between 1996 and 2010.
In some cases, overdose can be treated onsite with naloxone, as more people carry it on-hand due to the current opioid epidemic. However, naloxone can only be administered by a certified individual, so calling for medical help is typically your best option.
Naloxone also has a shorter half-life than Percocet, which means medical supervision is needed to prevent a recurrent overdose after the initial overdose is reversed. This is another reason why it is best to let doctors and other healthcare professionals treat overdoses.
How to Prevent Opioid Overdoses
The best way to prevent opioid overdoses is to address the root cause and prevent unnecessary opioid use and addiction. This includes:
- Improving the opioid prescription process
- Reducing exposure to opioids for everyone, especially youth
- Preventing misuse through education
- Treating opioid use disorder (OUD)
Treatment for Opioid Misuse & Addiction
Treatment for opioid addiction often requires addressing the underlying conditions that lead to addictive behavior in the first place.
Percocet addiction may be rooted in a physical dependence formed after treating a severe injury or illness, but breaking the habit still requires addressing mental dependencies that may have developed along the way.
In any case, treatment involves dealing with withdrawal symptoms and coping with intense cravings. These are best managed in the presence of a dedicated healthcare team that specializes in addiction treatment.
Supervised treatment options will often include a combination of medication to treat withdrawal and therapy to address cravings and the mental difficulties associated with recovering from addiction. Treatment plans vary in length and can transition into an outpatient program if progress is being made.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Percocet addiction, get in touch with your local healthcare provider for more information.