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What is Percocet?

Percocet is a type of prescription painkiller. Its generic name is oxycodone/acetaminophen. Other common brand names include Primlev, Roxicet, Endocet, and Xartemis XR. Percocet does not contain codeine.

Doctors commonly prescribe Percocet for moderate to severe pain relief. In addition, recreational users frequently abuse it for the euphoric effects it produces.

Percocet belongs to the opioid class of medications. Each tablet includes oxycodone and acetaminophen and may be prescribed in the following doses:

  • 2.5 mg oxycodone and 325 mg acetaminophen
  • 5 mg oxycodone and 325 mg acetaminophen
  • 7.5 mg oxycodone and 325 mg acetaminophen
  • 10 mg oxycodone and 325 mg acetaminophen
Percocet pill

Percocet interacts with the brain’s opioid receptors and modifies your pain perception. It also creates a large release of dopamine. In high doses, this dopamine release creates an intense and euphoric high.

Percocet is habit-forming, so if it is prescribed for long periods of time, or misused frequently, users can quickly develop a tolerance and dependency on the drug.

Percocet vs Other Pain Relief Drugs

There are a variety of pain relief drugs that doctors prescribe their patients. Many people are unaware of the differences in these medications.

The most commonly prescribed painkillers in the US include:

Brand Name:Active Drug(s)Drug ClassLegal Status
PercocetOxycodone, AcetaminophenOpioidSchedule II
VicodinHydrocodone, AcetaminophenOpioidSchedule II
OxyContinOxycodoneOpioidSchedule II
Tylenol-Codeine No. 3, Tylenol-Codeine No. 4, VopacAcetaminophen, CodeineOpioidSchedule III
RoxanolMorphine sulfateOpioidSchedule II
Actiq, Duragesic, SublimazeFentanylOpioidSchedule II
Methadose, DolophineMethadoneOpioidSchedule II
DilaudidHydromorphoneOpioidSchedule II

Percocet Side Effects

Percocet contains the opioid pain reliever oxycodone as well as the non-opioid pain reliever acetaminophen, making it a very effective pain management medication with a high risk of abuse.

Short-term side effects of Percocet use include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Chills
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Shallow breathing
  • Fainting

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Percocet Abuse Effects

The effects of Percocet abuse are severe and include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Memory loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Coma

Many people abuse Percocet because, in high doses, it can cause heroin-like effects. These include euphoria, relaxation, and heightened pleasure. However, Percocet is a habit-forming drug. Tolerance and addiction develop quickly.

Symptoms of Percocet Addiction

Percocet and other opiates change the way your brain functions. You can also develop a tolerance, meaning you need greater quantities of the drug to achieve the same effect. This can lead users to develop an addiction to oxycodone.

Here are several behavioral symptoms that may indicate a Percocet addiction:

  • Seeing several different doctors to get a prescription
  • Using a fake prescription
  • Seeking out drug dealers
  • Stealing
  • Failure to complete social, household, or work duties
  • Abandoning previous hobbies in favor of Percocet use

Co-occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders occur when someone is suffering from a mental health issue as well as a substance use disorder. These two issues are often intrinsically linked. Mental illness can lead someone develop a drug addiction, and substance abuse can stimulate or heighten pre-existing mental disorders. Anyone with a family history of bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, suicide attempts, or any other mental health issue may be at a higher risk for co-occurring disorders.

Co-occurring disorders require specialized care that treats the conditions as interrelated, rather than separate issues.

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Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms

If someone develops a dependency on oxycodone, they may experience withdrawal when they stop using the drug. Withdrawal is characterized by intense physical symptoms. The intensity of the symptoms will depend on the strength of their addiction.

Anyone who undergoes detox will experience withdrawal symptoms. That's why it is recommended to attend a treatment center with medical supervision when you decide to detox. In serious cases, medications like buprenorphine or methadone may be prescribed to help ease withdrawal symptoms.

Common Percocet withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritation
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Percocet Overdose

Someone who develops an addiction to oxycodone is at high risk for an overdose. Percocet overdoses can be severe and even fatal.

Signs of a Percocet overdose include:

  • Constricting pupils
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Respiratory failure
  • Blue skin, fingertips, or lips (cyanosis)
  • Coma

47,600 people died of prescription opioid overdose in 2017

Centers for Disease

Percocet Drug Interactions

Percocet can have adverse effects when mixed with other drugs. Other opioids, tranquilizers, sedatives, and anesthetic are just a few of the medications that should be taken with extreme caution. Inform your doctor of all medications in order to make sure you avoid negative reactions.

Mixing Percocet and alcohol, another central nervous system (CNS) depressant, can increase the sedative effects of Percocet, and have adverse effects such as impaired judgment and depression.

Treatment Options for Opioid Abuse & Addiction

Opioid use disorder is difficult to overcome. Fortunately, there are several options for help. These include:

  • Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) When it comes to medication-assisted therapy for opioid use disorder, there are three types approved: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Buprenorphine and methadone help manage withdrawal symptoms as you detox. Naltrexone blocks the receptors that opioids bind to, making it impossible to get high from them. Medication-assisted therapy is most effective when combined with other therapies.
  • Inpatient Programs — Inpatient programs are the most intensive addiction treatment options. These programs guide you through medical supervised detoxification, behavioral therapy and other services such as medication-assisted therapy. They typically last 30, 60 or 90 days, but may be longer if necessary.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) Intensive outpatient programs are the next level of addiction treatment, providing similar services to inpatient programs such as detoxification and behavioral therapy. The difference is that the patient will return home to sleep, and some programs will include transportation and meals. PHPs are ideal for both new patients as well as those who have completed inpatient treatment but still need intensive care.
  • Outpatient Programs Outpatient programs provide a well-rounded treatment program for people with a high motivation to recover. These programs are flexible and can be made around for your schedule, and can be customized to work best for you. These programs work for new patients as well as those that complete an inpatient or partial hospitalization program.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a Percocet addiction, reach out to a medical professional to review your treatment options.

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Resources

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Scholl L, Seth P, Kariisa M, Wilson N, Baldwin G. Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2013–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;67:1419–1427. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm675152e1

NIDA. "Benzodiazepines and Opioids." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 15 Mar. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids.

NIDA. "Misuse of Prescription Drugs." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 13 Dec. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs.

Wakim, Judith H. “Alleviating symptoms of withdrawal from an opioid.” Pain and therapy vol. 1,1 (2012): 4. doi:10.1007/s40122-012-0004-5, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107861/

“Harmful Interactions.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5 June 2019, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/harmful-interactions-mixing-alcohol-with-medicines.

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