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Percocet: Uses, Side Effects, Addiction & More

Percocet is commonly used for pain. It is also commonly misused recreationally for its effects on the body.

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Percocet is an opioid, a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. It belongs to the class of medication called analgesics, which are combinations of drugs that include opioids.

Acetaminophen, more commonly known by the brand name Tylenol, is a drug used to treat minor pain such as headaches, toothaches, or muscle aches.

Oxycodone is a narcotic that is capable of treating moderate to severe pain.

Common Uses of Percocet

Common street names for Percocet include the following:

  • Percs
  • 512s
  • Buttons
  • Blueberries
  • M-30s
  • Blue dynamite
  • Blue

When prescribed, Percocet is commonly used as a pain medication to be taken when the first signs of pain or discomfort occur. It is often prescribed for pain related to workplace injuries, surgery, and automobile accidents as well as to address other forms of acute pain.

Percocet generally begins to relieve pain in about 15 to 30 minutes, reaching its full effect in around an hour. Percocet’s effects will often last anywhere from three to six hours.

Percocet is also commonly used as a recreational drug, particularly among high school and college-aged students, because of its euphoric effects. It is slightly easier to acquire Percocet, which can be found in many medicine cabinets, than it is to acquire illicit drugs. 

Recommended Dosage

The recommended dosage of Percocet depends on the individual in question. Certain factors like body weight need to be taken into account. Dosage should also be determined based on the severity of pain and the response of the individual.

The general dosage for adults is two 2.5 mg tablets every six hours. Patients should not take more than 12 tablets in a 24-hour period, even in cases of severe pain and discomfort.

Larger dosage options are available (5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 10 mg) with a recommended dosage of one tablet every six hours. Patients should not exceed 6 to 12 tablets in a 24-hour period, depending on the specific prescription.

As pain subsides and the individual recovers, it is recommended that the individual tapers off medication in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. If you have been taking Percocet or any opioid for an extended period, talk to your doctor about how to safely stop using the drug.

Percocet Side Effects

Percocet might cause a wide variety of side effects, including these:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Unusual thoughts and behavior
  • Constipation
  • Extreme feelings (happiness or sadness)

More serious side effects include vomiting, jaundice, bleeding and/or bruising, and fever.

Another potential side effect is becoming dependent on the drug. Since Percocet is an opioid, this medication is considered highly addictive and should always be used with caution.

Precautions & Interactions

While taking Percocet, avoid driving as well as using any form of heavy machinery. Avoid performing any sort of strenuous activity that requires attention and focus.

Percocet, especially when used illegally and without a prescription, is often combined with marijuana and/or alcohol, and this comes with enhanced risks. Percocet can interact with other medications and controlled substances, increasing the intensity of potential side effects like dizziness, respiratory problems, and drowsiness.

Taking Percocet and other opioids with central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, substantially increases the risk of overdose and can result in death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 16 percent of overdose deaths in 2020 were the result of opioids and benzodiazepines being used simultaneously.

It’s important to check the ingredients of all over-the-counter medicines to ensure that there are no ingredients that cause drowsiness when taking Percocet and other opioid medications. Always talk to your doctor before you combine any medications.

Signs of Percocet Overdose

Unfortunately, opioid overdose is quite common, and the effects can be deadly.

NPR recently reported on a study released by the National Center for Health Statistics finding that 932,364 people in the United States have died from fatal overdoses from 1999 through 2020. Younger people are seeing the biggest increase in overdose deaths annually. Individuals ages 15 to 24 had a 49 percent increase in overdose deaths in 2020.

Signs of Percocet overdose include the following:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor mobility 
  • Memory loss
  • Coma

If you or someone you know has overdosed on Percocet or other opioids, it’s important to call 911 as soon as possible and seek medical attention immediately. Naloxone (Narcan) is a medication used to immediately reverse opioid overdose. Emergency responders carry it, but if you regularly take Percocet, it’s a good idea to have naloxone on hand.

Percocet Addiction

Percocet and other opioids are considered to be highly addictive, which is perhaps one of the reasons that opioid deaths occur so frequently.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of people who misused prescription opioids in 2021 reached 10.1 million. Traditionally, this number has increased every year, resulting in what many health care and mental health professionals consider to be an opioid epidemic.

There are certain telltale signs of Percocet and other opioid addictions. Someone who is addicted to Percocet may exhibit behavioral changes, particularly impulsive behavior. When the drug wears off the person might become irritable, experiencing headaches, chills, or depression.

The primary signs of opioid addiction include a loss of control over use, craving the drug, and continued use despite negative effects. Oftentimes, as a person’s life begins to suffer (potentially experiencing job loss, relationship issues, financial difficulties, and health problems), they will continue using opioids.

Signs of Percocet Withdrawal

If you’ve been regularly using Percocet, you should not suddenly stop taking the drug on your own.

Like all opioids, regular Percocet use (whether via a legitimate prescription or used recreationally) can result in physical dependence. Once dependence has formed, a person will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drug.

Withdrawal from Percocet and other opioids might involve the following symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating 
  • Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Watery eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Body twitching or tremors
  • Body aches

If you’ve been regularly using Percocet, you should not suddenly stop taking the drug on your own. A doctor can supervise a tapering regime so you can gradually stop taking the drug in a safe manner, or medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be prescribed.

How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your System?

The effects of Percocet usually run their course in a few hours. The amount of time Percocet or any other opioid stays in the body after use depends on a variety of factors like age, weight, past use, metabolism, and the amount taken.

Generally, opioids can be detected in urine for 1 to 4 days after use, in blood for 6 to 24 hours, and in saliva for up to 4 days. In a hair follicle test, opioids may be detected for up to 90 days.

Percocet vs. Vicodin

Percocet and Vicodin are both commonly used opioids and narcotic substances. These are both classified as Schedule II drugs.

Both Percocet and Vicodin are used to treat moderate to severe forms of pain, and both are commonly abused and used illegally as well. Both drugs are considered to be highly addictive and yield similar side effects when it comes to withdrawal and addiction.

The primary difference between Percocet and Vicodin is in their composition. Percocet utilizes oxycodone as an active ingredient. Vicodin utilizes hydrocodone as an active ingredient.

Whether you misuse Percocet or Vicodin, your treatment will largely be the same since they are both opioids with similar effects. It’s common for people with prescription painkiller addictions to use Percocet, Vicodin, or any prescription opioid they can get. 

Treatment Options

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the gold standard in treatment for opioid use disorder. This will involve taking buprenorphine, Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone), methadone, or another medication that can limit withdrawal symptoms and cravings, so you can focus on your work in recovery.

MAT also involves therapy and counseling to address the issues that led to Percocet misuse. In therapy, you’ll learn how to deal with triggers that may lead you to relapse, and you’ll build healthy life skills that serve as the foundation for a sober life.

A comprehensive treatment program for opioid use disorder involves the use of medications, individual and group therapy, support groups, and healthy lifestyle changes.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated May 9, 2023
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