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Percocet Addiction

Percocet is a prescription medication containing oxycodone (an opioid narcotic) and acetaminophen (a pain reliever and fever reducer). For people with moderate, transient pain, it can be helpful. But sometimes, it does more harm than good.

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Oxycodone is the key ingredient in other notorious drugs, like OxyContin. Taking drugs like this for just five days — even if you’re following your doctor’s instructions — can lead to opioid dependence and addiction.[1]

What Is Percocet?

Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction?

Percocet contains two active ingredients that attack pain on different fronts. The opioid ingredient (oxycodone) reduces pain signals deep within the brain, making discomfort easier to ignore. The analgesic acetaminophen reduces fever and discomfort.[2] 

You need a prescription to get Percocet from a legitimate source like a doctor or pharmacy. But some drug dealers carry it too. 

Common street names for Percocet include the following:[9]

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

Key Facts About Percocet 

Key Facts

  • Percocet contains oxycodone and acetaminophen in nearly 1:1 ratios.[2]
  • Opioids like Percocet are not recommended for long-term pain that isn’t caused by cancer.[3]
  • In 2021, more than 13,500 people died due to overdoses of opioid drugs like Percocet.[4]
  • Between 2016 and 2019, the number of opioid prescriptions declined by 44%. In that same period, medications used to treat opioid use disorders doubled.[5]

Medical Uses: Why Is It Prescribed?

Percocet is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for moderate to severe pain.[2] Your doctor might use it to address the following issues:

  • Postsurgical healing 
  • Dental extractions 
  • Cancer-related discomfort 

Opioids like Percocet work best at reducing acute (or injury-based) pain. They don’t work well for discomfort stemming from issues like arthritis, fibromyalgia, or chronic back pain.[3] Your doctor might suggest other therapies, including acetaminophen alone, for these issues. 

Potential for Abuse & Addiction 

Brain changes caused by chronic opioid abuse are responsible for drug dependence and addiction.[6] 

You’re not weak or broken if you develop an unhealthy relationship with Percocet. Instead, you’ve altered your brain chemistry with drugs and will need help to get better. 

Opioids like oxycodone work by activating reward centers within the brain. A flood of feel-good chemicals causes euphoria. Your brain remembers these circumstances and will trigger drug cravings when you encounter the people, places, and things associated with your drug use.[6] 

“Opioid dependence and addiction are most appropriately understood as chronic medical disorders, like hypertension, schizophrenia, and diabetes. As with those other diseases, a cure for drug addiction is unlikely, and frequent recurrences can be expected, but long-term treatment can limit the disease’s adverse effects and improve the patient’s day-to-day functioning.”[6]

Risk Factors & Causes of Percocet Addiction 

Anyone who uses Percocet in large quantities or for long periods can develop an addiction. But research suggests that some people have higher risks based on some factors they can control and others they cannot.[10] 

Biological Factors 

Everyone has opioid receptors that activate when exposed to oxycodone. But some people have more than others, allowing for a bigger high. If you’re one of these sensitive people, based on your genes, your addiction risks are higher. 

Race can also play a role in your addiction risk. Researchers say those identifying as non-Hispanic white are more likely to get prescriptions for drugs like Percocet.[7] For some people, this exposure leads to a lifetime of struggles with addiction. 

Environmental Factors

The place you live has a deep impact on your drug addiction pathway. If your neighborhood is dotted with dealers, and all the doctors you visit are willing to write prescriptions, it’s easier to keep your drug abuse alive. 

But living in neighborhoods with high poverty and crime rates can influence your risks too. If you face constant low-level stress from morning to night, you might lean on drugs to bring some relief. 

Social Factors

Humans are social creatures that learn from and support one another. If all of your friends, family members, and coworkers abuse drugs, you’re more likely to do the same. And these peers might have extra drug doses they’re willing to share with you, allowing your addiction to grow. 

Psychological Factors

Traumatic episodes, including rape, physical violence, and verbal assaults, can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD experience brain changes leading to pain and an increased response to opioids. 

If you have PTSD, your Percocet prescription is more likely to end in abuse.[8] Other mental health conditions like depression can increase your risks too. 

Signs & Symptoms of Percocet Addiction 

People addicted to Percocet often exhibit telltale signs and symptoms. You might notice physical, mental, or behavioral changes as drug abuse deepens.[10] 

Physical 

Percocet is sedating. People who abuse the drug may nod off to sleep when they’re high and seem jittery between doses. Constant constipation may also be an issue. 

People who inject Percocet may have visible track marks on their arms and legs. Those who snort the drug may have frequent bloody noses and voice changes. 

Mental 

Percocet doses force the brain to release dopamine. As addiction deepens, the mind will not produce this important chemical without drugs. Severe depression may set in. 

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. 

Behavioral 

The primary signs of opioid addiction include a loss of control over use, cravings for 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.

Percocet Compared to Other Opioids 

Several opioid types exist, and they all work a little differently. This table can help you understand how Percocet compares.[2,12] 

Percocet vs. oxycodone Percocet contains oxycodone. But some people take pure oxycodone formulations. 
Percocet vs. Norco Norco contains the same ingredients as Percocet, but it’s made by a different manufacturer. 
Percocet vs. Vicodin Vicodin contains acetaminophen like Percocet, but it contains hydrocodone instead of oxycodone. 
Percocet vs. hydrocodoneBoth of these medications are narcotics, but the active ingredient between them is different. Only Percocet contains another analgesic. 
Percocet vs. tramadolBoth medications are prescription painkillers and narcotics, but they work differently in the brain. 

Side Effects of Percocet Abuse 

Percocet isn’t made for long-term use. But people with addiction can use the drug for months or even years. Side effects can happen at all stages. 

Short-Term Effects 

Percocet can cause several unpleasant short-term effects, including these:[2]

  • 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.[2]

Long-Term Effects 

With continued use, people can become tolerant. They need more of the drug to produce the same effects. 

Some develop dependence, so they feel sick when they’re not using the drug. As people keep taking drugs, they face higher overdose risks.[2] 

Short-Term EffectsLong-Term Effects 
Nausea Drug tolerance
DizzinessWithdrawal symptoms 
Confusion Severe and chronic constipation 
Constipation Increased overdose risks 
Sedation Organ damage 

Sources: [2,10]

Symptoms of Percocet Withdrawal 

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:[2,10]

  • 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, or medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may be prescribed.[10] 

If you attempt to stop on your own, relapse is likely due to the discomfort and intensity of withdrawal.

Treatment Options for Percocet Withdrawal 

It’s difficult to quit using Percocet alone. Brain changes caused by drugs can keep you trapped in a cycle of quitting cold turkey and relapsing. 

Treatment can help you make changes that stick. Your program might include the following elements:

Medical Detox 

In a medical detox program, teams use medications to address chemical imbalances caused by Percocet. Therapies like buprenorphine and methadone latch to receptors used by Percocet. The brain believes drugs are present, but you don’t feel high. 

In a medical detox program, teams offer medications to keep withdrawal symptoms minimal. Doses may get smaller and smaller, as you grow stronger in recovery. In time, you might not need medications at all. 

Inpatient Rehab 

After a long period of substance abuse, people develop habits and systems that keep addiction alive. An inpatient program for Percocet allows you to take a break from your triggers while you work with treatment teams on your skills. When the program is through, you’ll be able to return to your environment with the tools you need to stay sober. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment 

Some people only need medications during medical detox. Others struggle with very strong cravings and persistent withdrawal symptoms that increase their relapse risks. 

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involves taking prescription medications like buprenorphine or methadone for as long as needed to ensure you stay sober.[10] Some people stay on these therapies for life. 

Behavioral Therapy 

While medications can alter brain chemistry, you must also change your habits and thought patterns. Therapy can help. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one method your team might use. In each session, you will discuss the thoughts that come right before you use drugs. And you develop new behaviors to help you alter these thoughts. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Percocet Addiction

We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about Percocet addiction.

Is Percocet an opioid?

Yes, Percocet is an opioid painkiller. 

How long does Percocet stay in your system?

Generally, opioids can be detected in urine for one to four days after use, in blood for six to 24 hours, and in saliva for up to four days. With a hair follicle test, opioids may be detected for up to 90 days.

Are oxycodone and Percocet the same?

No. Percocet contains oxycodone, but it also contains acetaminophen. 

What does Percocet look like?

Percocet is typically sold in pill form. The tablets can be white, pink, yellow, or blue. They can be round or oblong.

How does Percocet make you feel?

Percocet is an opioid medication. People who take it often describe feeling both relaxed and euphoric.

Updated January 24, 2024
Resources
  1. Opioid dependence can happen after just 5 days. Truth Initiative. Published October 23, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2023.
  2. Percocet drug label. Endo Pharmaceuticals. Published November 2006. Accessed July 19, 2023.
  3. Safe and responsible use of opioids for chronic pain. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Published October 2018. Accessed July 19, 2023.
  4. U.S. overdose deaths in 2021 increased half as much as in 2020, but are still up 15%. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published May 11, 2022. Accessed July 19, 2023.
  5. Williams E, Saunders H. A look at changes in opioid prescribing patterns in Medicaid from 2016 to 2019. Kaiser Family Foundation. Published February 17, 2023. Accessed July 19, 2023.
  6. Kosten TR, George TP. The neurobiology of opioid dependence: implications for treatment. Sci Pract Perspect. 2002;1(1):13-20. doi:10.1151/spp021113
  7. Jalali, M.S., Botticelli, M., Hwang, R.C. et al. The opioid crisis: a contextual, social-ecological framework. Health Res Policy Sys 18, 87 (2020).
  8. Wiss DA. A Biopsychosocial Overview of the Opioid Crisis: Considering Nutrition and Gastrointestinal Health. Front Public Health. 2019;7:193. Published 2019 Jul 9. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00193
  9. Street and commercial names. National Institutes of Health. Accessed July 19, 2023.
  10. Dydyk AM, Jain NK, Gupta M. Opioid use disorder. StatPearls Publishing. Published January 2023. Accessed July 17, 2023.
  11. Drewes AM, Jensen RD, Nielsen LM, et al. Differences between opioids: pharmacological, experimental, clinical and economical perspectives. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(1):60-78. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04317.x
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