Percocet (acetaminophen and oxycodone) is classified as a controlled substance because it contains the opiate medication oxycodone. The drug is primarily designed to decrease the subjective experience of pain, although it has many other immediate and long-term effects.
Breaking Down the Effects of Percocet
There are numerous ways to break down the effects of taking a medication like Percocet. For purposes of this article, the focus will be on:
- The immediate or short-term effects of using the drug
- The side effects of using Percocet, which can occur immediately or may appear with long-term use of the drug
- Long-term effects associated with Percocet use
- Potential overdose effects, which can consist of both immediate and long-term issues
Immediate Effects of Percocet
Percocet combines two analgesic medications. It is designed to reduce the experience of pain.
It can be used for acute pain associated with recovery from surgery. In some cases, it may be used for chronic pain associated with many different types of conditions.
The immediate effects of Percocet are dose-dependent based on the amount of oxycodone in the drug. The amount of acetaminophen in the drug is basically 325 mg for all levels of oxycodone contained in the drug.
The Immediate (Short-Term) Effects Include:
- A reduction in pain level
- The feeling of sedation, relaxation, and even fatigue. Higher doses of oxycodone are more likely to induce feelings of lethargy
- A decrease in discomfort associated with stress
- Mild euphoria
- Anxiety reduction
- The tendency to be less inhibited. This is dose-dependent
- Reductions in reaction time and the ability to control movements. This is also dose-dependent
- Alterations in the ability to pay attention or concentrate. Again, this is dose-dependent
For medicinal users, the effects on the ability to control impulses, issues with reaction time, problems with movement, and cognitive issues will often be very slight. Abusers using higher amounts of the drug may demonstrate significant changes in these areas of functioning.
Any medication can produce unintended effects, and these are often referred to as side effects.
Side effects from medications like Percocet are often dose-dependent, although some percentage of individuals may experience side effects with low doses of the drug.
As a general rule, the side effects that occur in individuals who use the drug for medical reasons can typically be dealt with by the prescribing physician, or they will resolve over time. Because abusers of Percocet often take greater amounts of the drug and use it more frequently, the side effects they experience will often be more intense and enduring.
The Most Common Side Effects Associated with Percocet Include:
- Constipation and other digestive issues
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth, sweating, and feelings of irritability or jitteriness
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, and/or feeling “spaced out.”
- A reduction in breathing rate (respiratory suppression)
- Decreases in cardiac functions, such as lower blood pressure and heart rate
- More serious manifestations of problems with thinking that can include confusion
- More serious issues with motor coordination and the ability to respond
- Allergic reactions in a small percentage of individuals. These can include a rash, hives, sweating, swelling in the lips or fingers, and other significant issues that require immediate medical attention.
Rarer Side Effects
Rare manifestations of side effects include significantly decreased blood pressure, difficulty breathing, fainting, heartbeat irregularities, hallucinations, delusions, tremors, and even potential seizures.
Individuals experiencing any of these side effects or unusual side effects not listed above should contact their physician.
The long-term effects of using Percocet are typically dependent on the length of time the individual consistently uses the drug and the amount of the drug the person takes.
Long-term effects of Percocet use are often more severe and more prevalent in individuals who abuse the drug compared to individuals who use the drug for medical reasons under the supervision of a physician for lengthy periods of time.
List of Long-Term Effects
Long-Term Effects of Using Percocet Can Include:
- Tolerance to oxycodone with some level of tolerance to acetaminophen as well
- Potential liver damage
- Chronic issues with respiratory suppression. This can lead to an increased potential to develop respiratory issues, infections, and diseases, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Cardiovascular issues, such as chronic issues with low blood pressure or irregular heartbeat
- Alterations to certain pathways in the brain
- Physical dependence on oxycodone
Long-Term Abuse of Percocet
There does appear to be a significant difference in the long-term effects of Percocet use and Percocet abuse.
Abusers are more likely to experience many of the negative effects listed above. They are more likely to complicate issues by mixing other drugs with Percocet, such as other opioids, alcohol, stimulants, and other drugs. They are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as injecting Percocet and needle sharing.
Long-term effects of alterations to the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, liver, and brain associated with heavy abuse of opioid drugs can lead to numerous complicating factors. These can include significant organ damage, contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV, alterations to the brain, and even brain damage that may not fully resolve even if the individual eventually becomes abstinent from Percocet.
Long-term abuse is associated with a significant risk to develop an opioid use disorder, which is a psychological disorder (drug addiction) that exerts multiple effects on many different areas of the individual’s life, including their personal relationships, health, and psychological well-being.
Abusers of Percocet are at increased risk to experience an overdose of the drug. An overdose of Percocet can be dangerous because both acetaminophen and oxycodone exert significant dangerous effects when taken in high amounts.
High amounts of acetaminophen are associated with the development of serious liver damage. High amounts of oxycodone may result in significant depression of life-sustaining bodily functions that can be fatal, such as reduced heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Other effects of an overdose can include significant problems with sensory perception, emotional control, hostility, motor control, and rational thinking and judgment.
Anyone who has suffered an overdose of Percocet should receive immediate medical attention and treatment with the opiate antagonist Narcan (naloxone). Prompt action could save their life.