Percocet Abuse & Addiction

Percocet is a prescription medication that belongs to the opioid class of drugs. It is an effective painkiller that modifies your brain's perception of pain. It also creates a release of dopamine. In large doses, this produces a heroin-like high that gives Percocet a high risk for misuse, abuse, and addiction.
Evidence Based
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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.


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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.

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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
Graphic human body showing symptoms.

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.

Graphic of head filled with pills

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
Head filled with brain with a bandage

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.

Graphic of woman going through withdrawal.

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
Icon of pill with warning sign

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
Two pills mixing equals dangerous

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.

Graphic of hospital.

Percocet Addiction Treatment

Anyone who is suffering from a Percocet addiction has several options for treatment. The most common types of substance abuse treatment include:

  • Peer counseling — Self-help groups, including Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, other 12-Step Programs, SMART Recovery, and a variety of others, can help individuals with a firm resolve to recover from addiction and live a healthy, sober life.
  • Outpatient rehab — Outpatient treatment programs offer more structure and resources than peer counseling groups. Patients often visit the facility three to five times each week and follow a plan that prepares them to transition to a sober life.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) — A PHP is more intensive than a traditional outpatient program. Patients have access to medical care for their detoxification progress and the rest of their treatments. They are required to spend more days and hours in the program as well.
  • Inpatient rehab — Inpatient programs are the most intensive treatment options for people suffering from addiction. After the admissions process is complete, the patient eats, sleeps, and builds a community at the inpatient facility. Family members can visit during visiting hours. Inpatient facilities typically provide people with the highest chance of recovery.

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

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

“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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Updated on: August 5, 2020
Author
Michael Bayba
About
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Medically Reviewed: March 18, 2020
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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