Percocet Addiction and Abuse

Last Updated: December 26, 2023

Percocet is designated a controlled substance because of its highly addictive properties as an opioid. The potential for abuse and misuse of this drug is well-established and understood within the medical community. Experts estimate that 1% of Americans misused prescription opioids in 2021. Also, 5.6 million Americans had an opioid use disorder in the same year. According to the CDC, more than 75% of the almost 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid like Percocet.

There is a documented case of someone becoming addicted to Percocet after only one prescription; however, this is uncommon. The longer a person takes Percocet, the more likely they are to develop an opioid use disorder.

What Is Percocet?

Percocet is a commonly prescribed opioid medication that treats moderate to severe pain. It is a combination of two drugs, oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that works by binding to natural opioid receptors in the brain. This action blocks chemicals that cause us to feel physical pain. Acetaminophen, widely known as Tylenol, reduces a pain-causing substance called prostaglandin. Although Percocet is effective in treating pain, it has a high potential for abuse, even when used properly.

This combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen is a powerful tool to alleviate different types of pain. It may treat acute pain resulting from surgery, breaking a bone or dental work. It can also treat chronic pain associated with long-term injury or cancer. While Percocet can be beneficial in its purpose, it is a controlled substance with a high risk for addiction and misuse.

Percocet Dosage

Percocet is an immediate-release formulation available in tablet form. The dose of Percocet ranges from 2.5 mg to 10 mg of oxycodone and 325 mg to 650 mg of acetaminophen.

The dosage administered will vary based on the individual’s condition, age and weight. The general rule is to give the patient the lowest effective dose to control the pain. Depending on the patient’s pain response, the prescriber can then increase the dose. Typically, the medication will begin to work within 15 to 30 minutes and can last for up to six hours. 

Although there is no maximum dose for oxycodone that regulators have established, the maximum dosage of Percocet will be based on acetaminophen. The dose of acetaminophen should not exceed four grams in 24 hours.

Percocet is available in a few different forms:

Many different companies manufacture a generic version of Percocet. Those tablets are available in additional strengths and may look completely different from the Percocet tablets described here. The generic liquid formulation is available as oxycodone 5 mg and acetaminophen 325 mg per 5 ml.

Percocet Side Effects

There are many side effects associated with Percocet, but one of the most common is constipation. Prescribers usually recommend taking a stool softener along with Percocet to prevent this. If constipation still persists, a laxative may be required. 

Other side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Itchiness
  • Rash
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression or shallow breathing

Percocet Addiction Symptoms

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms associated with potential Percocet abuse or misuse. Some symptoms a person struggling with Percocet addiction may experience include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Stealing
  • Change in exercise habits
  • Uncontrollable cravings

How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your System?

The amount of time that Percocet stays in your system depends on the time and duration you’ve been on this medication. The half-life of Percocet in the blood is approximately 3–5 hours, so it would take anywhere from 15 to 25 hours to be eliminated from the body. It is important to realize that this is an approximate time frame after only one dose of Percocet. Chronic use can lead to greater detection times. In general, Percocet can be detected in the blood for up to two days, in the urine for 1–3 days and in the hair for up to 90 days.

Percocet Withdrawal

Percocet can lead to tolerance, meaning that as time goes on, more of the drug is required to produce the same effect. This medication can also cause physical dependence, where the body relies on the drug’s presence to function normally. Suddenly stopping Percocet use when you’re physically dependent can trigger withdrawal, which can cause painful symptoms and even death. Withdrawal symptoms can begin 8–24 hours after the last dose.

Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms from Percocet include:

  • Sweating
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive tearing of the eyes
  • Mood changes
  • Muscle pain
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Twitching and spastic muscles
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature

Percocet Addiction Treatment

Help is available for anyone with a Percocet use disorder to begin and maintain recovery. Orlando Recovery Center Drug and Alcohol Rehab specializes in comprehensive, evidence-based treatment programs, focusing on the full needs of anyone struggling with addiction.

The first step to recovery is the medical detox stage, which involves removing the substance completely from the body. This is always done under the direct supervision of a licensed medical professional and may or may not require medication-assisted treatment to ease withdrawal symptoms.

An individual evaluation will determine if the client is a candidate for the inpatient program, the partial hospitalization program (PHP) or the outpatient program. The inpatient program includes continuous medical monitoring and a structured schedule of individual and group therapy while living onsite. PHP provides care similar to inpatient programs, with more recreational and unstructured time. The outpatient program continues all forms of talk therapy and access to the facility. At the same time, it offers more autonomy to a person in recovery since they live at home while undergoing treatment.


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