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Percocet Abuse Signs, Symptoms and Addiction Treatment

Since the mid-1990s, prescription drug abuse has escalated into a national problem in the United States. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately seven million Americans reported taking prescription medication for non-medical uses. Over five million people out of the seven million abusing prescription drugs are abusing pain relievers.

Percocet is a trade name for a prescription pain reliever that combines oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is an opiate analgesic, a narcotic derived from the same source as heroin and morphine. The acetaminophen in the drug is the active ingredient in Tylenol. It is combined with oxycodone to increase its effectiveness. Percocet is prescribed for moderate to severe short-term pain that is not typically chronic in nature.

Like heroin and morphine, Percocet affects the brain and the central nervous system, changing the way the brain perceives pain. When taken in large doses or when the prescription tablet is crushed to destroy the time-release mechanism, Percocet can cause the same high as heroin. Percocet is a central nervous system depressant that floods a person's system with dopamine, so the high from the drug is characterized by euphoria and feelings of calm, relaxation and heightened pleasure.

People who abuse Percocet can be found in all age groups, races, economic classes and social circles. Percocet and other prescription drugs are often mistakenly viewed as a safer way of getting high than using illicit street drugs, like heroin and cocaine. Unfortunately, Percocet abuse can lead to the same dangerous problems of dependence and addiction as the illicit street drugs that share its origin. If you or a loved one are abusing Percocet and need help getting off of the drug, call our toll-free hotline at 1-800-943-0566, and speak to one of our treatment professionals. We can refer you to the best private addiction center in your area.

Other names for Percocet

  • Roxicet (source)
  • Endocet
  • Oxycet
  • Hillbilly heroin
  • OC
  • Oxy
  • Perc (source)

Google Trends: Searches for “Percocet”

In the US, searches for "Percocet" are concentrated in the Northeast, primarily Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Percocet Abuse Quiz question 1
Signs and Symptoms
It is not always easy to recognize signs and symptoms of Percocet abuse by family members and friends. Prescription drug abuse does not typically present in the same way as abuse of illegal street drugs. Many people can seem to function normally while taking excessive doses of pain medication. Problems tend to come out into the open only when long-term effects of the drug abuse become evident through an overdose, the manifestation of physical health problems or the escalation of the Percocet abuse into other dangerous drugs. You may end up being surprised at the extent of the problem, wondering how you missed the signs of Percocet abuse.

The most obvious way to recognize Percocet abuse is to look for the side effects of using the drug. Some of the most common effects of Percocet use include:

  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Slow breathing
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth

If a loved one is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it could be a sign of Percocet abuse. Generally, however, you should be alert to signs that a person with a Percocet prescription is taking the pills more frequently than seems normal or is taking the drug in excessive doses. Percocet is only available by prescription, so if you notice a loved one going to different doctors to obtain multiple pain prescriptions instead of using one doctor who can monitor the overall use of the drug, it could be a sign of trouble.

Drugs like Percocet become less effective when used over a period of time. People develop a tolerance for the drug and need more of it to achieve the same level of pain relief. This propensity for tolerance makes this category of drug a prime candidate for abuse, even by people who start off taking the drug as prescribed. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of Percocet abuse as early as possible, before the abuse cycles into dependence and addiction.

Helping a Percocet addict is just a phone call away. Our treatment specialists can refer you to the top-rated private rehab centers in your area. Call us now at 1-800-943-0566 to start the process of recovery.

Oxycodone-related emergency room visits due to nonmedical use

United States

In 2011, over 150,000 people in the US visited emergency rooms for reasons connected to oxycodone use.

Oxycodone-related emergency room visits by people seeking detox services

United States

The need for addiction treatment can be urgent: in 2009, over 45,000 people went to the emergency room in connection with oxycodone use, and sought detox services.

Emergency room visits due to adverse reactions to oxycodone

United States

Adverse reactions to oxycodone were implicated in over 65,000 ER visits in the US in 2011.

Emergency room visits due to suicide attempts involving oxycodone

United States

In 2010 and 2011, over 13,000 people in the US went to the emergency room in connection with suicide attempts involving oxycodone.

Prescriptions of oxycodone/acetaminophen by year

United States

Average cost of Percocet

  • Percocet, 30 tablets, oxycodone/acetaminophen 5mg/325mg: $18-51 (source)
  • Percodan, 120 tablets, oxycodone/aspirin 4.8mg/325mg: $105-180 (source)

Oxycodone/acetaminophen, also known as Percocet, is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the US, with nearly 32 million prescriptions issued in 2010.

Treatment facility admissions for oxycodone vs. all opiates

United States, admissions for treatment, age 12+


All opiates

Opiate addiction is a major reason for admission to substance abuse treatment facilities, and of the more than 300,000 opiate-related admissions in the US in 2012, oxycodone addiction was responsible for over 50,000.

Yearly deaths linked to oxycodone medications and other opioid use

United States

Deaths involving oxycodone and other opioids (CDC WONDER query, ICD-10 code T40.2, “Poisoning by, adverse effect of and underdosing of other opioids”)

Opioids such as oxycodone were involved in the deaths of over 12,000 people in the US in 2011.

Percocet Abuse Quiz question 2
Effects of Percocet Abuse
Percocet abuse can lead to dependence and addiction. Addiction can lead to physical damage to your body such as liver failure, the onset of withdrawal symptoms or an overdose that can result in death.

People with a Percocet problem sometimes find it difficult to obtain a regular supply of the drug, resulting in a cycle of abuse and withdrawal. Medical professionals do not recommend abruptly stopping the use of any drug containing oxycodone because of the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms, so a Percocet abuser who cannot maintain his or her level of abuse is at risk of experiencing life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Fever
  • Panic attack
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Liver damage

People who abuse Percocet are also at risk of overdosing on the drug, resulting in sudden death. Symptoms of an overdose can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Respiratory failure
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fainting
  • Increase or decrease in pupil size
  • Blue-tinged skin, fingernails or lips
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Potential for Percocet addiction

  • 5-10% of the population is predisposed to developing an addiction to opioid drugs like Percocet (source)
  • Previous drug and alcohol abuse is a risk factor for addiction to Percocet, as well as young age and smoking (source)
  • Mental health conditions increase the likelihood of drug abuse (source)

Side effects of Percocet

  • nausea
  • drowsiness
  • flushing
  • itching
  • dry mouth

Percocet Abuse Quiz question 3
Percocet Abuse Treatment
Professional inpatient detox can be an effective way to treat Percocet abuse and addiction. Coming off of Percocet under medical supervision may ensure that the withdrawal symptoms don't cause a relapse. The medical staff in a Percocet detox center can take you or a loved off of the drug slowly, to minimize withdrawal. A detox center also has access to other drugs that can help alleviate some of the more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxification is only the first step in Percocet abuse treatment. Undergoing detox without following it up with rehabilitation therapy is more likely to lead to relapse. Rehab therapy options include inpatient and outpatient behavioral modification programs. Inpatient residential treatment for at least 90 days is considered the gold standard of addiction treatment and the option that is most likely to result in long-term success. Other residential options for 30 or 60 days can be coupled with outpatient care or independent therapy with licensed professionals.

Community options include local 12-step addiction programs that harness the power of group and peer support. The most important part of designing a treatment plan for Percocet abuse and addiction is to tailor the plan to meet the needs of the individual involved. We can help you assess your options and pick the best treatment centers in your area. Our treatment professionals are available seven days a week on our toll-free hotline at 1-800-943-0566.

Percocet Abuse Quiz question 4
Percocet Statistics
Percocet facts and statistics are often aggregated with other oxycodone-based pain relievers. Percocet and other prescription pain medications comprise a growing percentage of the total number of substance abuse treatment admissions in the United States. According to the 2008 NSDUH, treatment admissions for abuse of prescription drugs increased fourfold in just 10 years. Unfortunately, the problem is not just a growing concern for adults.

Street prices of Percocet

  • Percocet: $10-15 per pill (United States, 2011) (source)

Videos on Percocet and other oxycodone medications

Legal penalties involving Percocet

  • Oxycodone-containing medications, such as Percocet, are federally classified as a Schedule II drug. (source)
  • Trafficking in a Schedule II drug like Percocet can carry a federal sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine. (source) State penalties for possession of Schedule II drugs can include prison sentences of up to 15 years. (source) (source 2)
  • The effects of Percocet can be a factor in impaired driving, leading to DUI charges. (source)

Legislation and policymaking involving oxycodone

  • Florida has reduced the availability of illicit Percocet and other oxycodone medications by implementing a prescription drug monitoring program. The state previously had 98 of the top 100 oxycodone prescribers in the country, and now has zero. (source) (source 2)
  • Ohio and Kentucky have passed stricter regulations on pain clinics, causing many illicit “pill mills” to close. These pill mills prescribed excessive amounts of drugs like Percocet to patients, leading to addiction and abuse. (source)

Quotes on Percocet addiction

“I craved the feeling that I had while taking Percocet because I felt it made me an overall better person. Being a nurse, I had easy access to a multitude of drugs and Percocet was only one of many controlled substances that passed through my hands every night at work in the emergency department. Because of the scrutiny that narcotic counts are under, I had to devise a plan to be able to acquire some without being flagged, and that is when the deceit began. I became preoccupied with obtaining opioids, and patient care took a back burner.” (source)

Percocet Abuse Quiz question 5

Teen Percocet Abuse
The 2011 Monitoring the Future study conducted by the University of Michigan, documents the alarming increase in pain medication abuse in teens. Over 70 percent of seniors in high school who report using pain medication to get high obtained the pills for free from family and friends. Over 20 percent took the medication from their home medicine cabinets. Teens are abusing Percocet and other pain pills at pharm parties, where kids gain access to a variety of prescription pills in alarming combinations they call trail mix.

Percocet Abuse Quiz question 6

If you suspect your teenager is abusing Percocet, you need help fast. We can help you identify the most appropriate treatment options for teens and the most exclusive treatment centers in your area. Our help is free and confidential. Call us now at 1-800-943-0566.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-747-7155.