Percocet Addiction: Side Effects and Treatment
Percocet is a brand name for a painkiller combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen.1 Although it may be used safely when taken as directed under a doctor’s supervision and can be effective for its intended uses, it has a high potential for misuse and addiction.1, 2
If you or a loved one are struggling with Percocet addiction or misuse, it can be helpful to understand what Percocet is, its potential side effects, and how to find treatment.
What Is Percocet?
Percocet is an opioid medication that contains a combination of oxycodone, a strong opioid painkiller, and acetaminophen, a non-opiate analgesic and fever-reducing medication.1, 3 Doctors may prescribe Percocet to people suffering from moderate to moderately severe pain, such as pain related to injury or surgical procedures.1, 4
What Is Percocet Used For?
If taken as directed under a doctor’s guidance for its intended uses, Percocet is typically considered to be safe when taken for short periods of time.5 Despite its legitimate medical uses, however, Percocet may be misused by those merely seeking its rewarding effects such as relaxation and euphoria.1, 5 Since Percocet has a high potential for misuse that can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.2
Using Percocet exposes people to the risks of tolerance, dependence, misuse, addiction, and overdose.1 Misuse of opioids like Percocet is also known as nonmedical use.4 This can mean taking Percocet in unintended ways (such as crushing pills and snorting the powder), taking higher or more frequent doses, using someone else’s prescription, or using it just to get high.5
Is Percocet Addictive?
Percocet misuse can increase addiction risks.1, 4 Addiction is a chronic yet treatable condition that is characterized by compulsive substance use despite the negative consequences of such use.6
Addiction to drugs like Percocet is associated with functional brain changes, including in areas related to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavioral control.7 These changes may help to explain the intense cravings, personality changes, and other behavioral problems that last even after Percocet effects wear off and contribute to addiction.7
Medical professionals diagnose Percocet addiction as an opioid use disorder (OUD).8 People should not attempt to self-diagnose OUD, but it can be helpful to know the diagnostic criteria, which includes:8
- Using Percocet (or other opioids) in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
- Being unable to control or cut down opioid use.
- Spending a lot of time in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from opioids.
- Cravings, or strong urges to use opioids.
- Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home due to opioid use.
- Continuing to use opioids despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of opioids.
- Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of opioid use.
- Using opioids in physically hazardous situations (such as driving or operating machinery).
- Continuing to use opioids despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
- Tolerance, meaning a person needs markedly increased amounts of opioids to achieve intoxication.
- Withdrawal when opioid use is cut back or stopped.
Of note, the final two criteria (those of tolerance and withdrawal) are not considered to count toward a diagnosis of an opioid use disorder in instances of people solely using an opioid medication therapeutically, and under appropriate medical supervision.8
As with other opioid medications, it’s possible for people to experience side effects from Percocet. According to the manufacturer’s label, the most common side effects include:1
- Drowsiness or sedation.
An opioid overdose means that a person has taken enough of an opioid (like Percocet) to cause severe and life-threatening symptoms or death.5 Overdose can be a risk for anyone who uses an opioid, especially if they misuse it, take someone else’s prescription, or combine it with other medications, such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, or illicit drugs.9
Overdose on Percocet is a medical emergency.9 If you suspect that you or someone else are experiencing a Percocet overdose, you should contact 911 emergency services right away and administer naloxone if available.9
Naloxone is a medication that can reverse opioid overdose when administered in time.10 top It is available as an auto-injectable or nasal spray (Narcan) that can be administered by anyone without medical training; if unavailable, emergency medical personnel will administer it when they arrive.10
Percocet Overdose Symptoms
Percocet overdose symptoms involve symptoms associated with oxycodone overdose and, potentially, acetaminophen overdose.1
Oxycodone overdose results in symptoms that can include:1
- Respiratory depression (slowed or shallow breathing).
- Extreme somnolence (sleepiness) progressing to stupor or coma.
- Skeletal muscle flaccidity (weak or limp muscles).
- Cold and clammy skin.
- Constricted pupils, or, if the person is suffering from hypoxia (poor oxygen delivery to the brain), dilated pupils.
- Bradycardia (slow heartbeat).
- Hypotension (low blood pressure).
Severe cases of overdose can cause symptoms such as:1
- Apnea (stopped breathing).
- Circulatory collapse.
- Cardiac arrest.
People who are suffering from an acute acetaminophen overdose can experience potentially fatal hepatic (liver) necrosis.1 This can cause symptoms, some of which also resemble those associated with opioid overdose, such as:11
- Abdominal pain.
- Brain fog.
Long-Term Effects of Percocet
In addition to the risks of addiction and overdose, long-term Percocet use may result in a variety of persistent effects.4 This can include:
- Tolerance, which, as mentioned previously, means that you need increasing amounts of Percocet to experience the drug’s sought after effects.8
- Physical dependence, which results from physiological adaptations due to chronic substance use, and your body needs the drug to be able to function normally.5 When people who are dependent cut down or stop using Percocet, they can experience Percocet withdrawal symptoms, which may require medical management.5 Physical dependence is not the same as addiction, but it often accompanies it.1, 8
- A heightened risk of suicide in people with OUD.8 OUD is associated with an increased risk of suicide attempts and completed suicides.8
Long term effects of Percocet or other opioids can also impact a person’s entire body, resulting in adverse health issues such as:
- Diminished mucous membrane secretions, which can result in dry mouth and nose.8
- Slowed gastrointestinal activity, resulting in severe constipation.8
- Low testosterone levels, which can cause low energy, decreased sex drive, and reduced strength.4
- Increased pain sensitivity.4
- An increased risk of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.1, 4
Percocet withdrawal can develop when people who are dependent on the drug or have been using Percocet for long periods of time suddenly cut down their use or stop taking it altogether.1
Although Percocet withdrawal is not usually considered to be medically dangerous, it can be very uncomfortable and cause needless suffering, which may contribute to a return to opioid use or relapse (meaning more than a single incident of use).5, 12, 13
Medical detox can help people stay as safe and comfortable as possible through the withdrawal period as they return to a medically stable state.12 Detox may involve different interventions and medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, or lofexidine, to alleviate or minimize withdrawal symptoms.5, 13
Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms
Percocet withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing.12 Opioid withdrawal symptoms include:8
- Dysphoric mood.
- Muscle aches.
- Dilated pupils.
- Teary eyes or runny nose.
- Nausea or vomiting.
Percocet Rehab Programs
Evidence-based addiction treatment, including medication and behavioral therapies, can help people struggling with OUD or opioid misuse safely stop using Percocet and other substances and help them regain control of their lives.13 People with a dual diagnosis (meaning addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder) can also benefit from specialized treatment that addresses both concerns.13 Effective treatment should be personalized based on a person’s unique needs.13
Treatment can take place in different settings, but often begins with Percocet detox followed by inpatient or outpatient rehab and aftercare.13 Common treatment settings include:
- Detox, which is a set of interventions designed to manage the acute physical symptoms of Percocet withdrawal and may serve as a good starting point for continuing with additional, longer-term addiction treatment.13
- Inpatient/residential rehab, which means you live onsite at a facility and receive round-the-clock care.14 This setting can be useful for many people, including those with severe disorders, unstable living situations, or other serious problems.12
- Outpatient rehab, which means you live at home and travel to a treatment center on a regular basis.14 These programs range from low intensity, which may require attendance 1-3 times per week, to high intensity, which may require daily attendance.12
- Aftercare, also known as continuing care, can help monitor ongoing recovery and support long-term recovery success.15 This can include different interventions, such as mutual support groups or individual counseling.15
How to Find Percocet Addiction Treatment Near Me
If you or a loved one think you might be addicted to Percocet and are interested in finding Percocet addiction treatment, you might start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition and ask for referrals, or contact a mental health practitioner to receive appropriate guidance.
You can also find call addiction helplines, such as the one operated by American Addiction Centers, at to speak to a caring admissions navigator to learn more about Percocet addiction treatment options, locate Percocet rehab centers, and verify your insurance benefits.
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