Last Updated on by Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley
Whether you’re taking prescribed or herbal medicines, they all have potential side effects you need to be aware of. What you don’t know can hurt or kill you.
While some side effects for medicines are minor, drugs like Percocet have risks and dangers associated with it. It’s an opioid that contains both oxycodone and acetaminophen.
Almost 50,000 people died of an overdosing on opioids in 2017. That’s a 4.1 fold increase in overdoses since 2002.
To help keep you safe, we’re sharing information about Percocet abuse. Keep reading to learn how to prevent a Percocet overdose.
Facts About Percocet
Percocet combines two drugs that already are potentially dangerous when used individually. Oxycodone is a narcotic analgesic that is used to reduce pain.
Acetaminophen is also a pain reliever and reduces fevers. It’s also found in over 500 over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines. Tylenol is made from acetaminophen.
Adding acetaminophen to oxycodone makes Percocet more dangerous due to the toxic effects acetaminophen has on the liver. Percocet is a Schedule II Controlled Substance in the US because of its high potential for drug abuse.
Short-Term Side Effects of Percocet
Even when someone is using Percocet because their doctor prescribed it and they’re taking it as directed, there are still short and long-term side effects they need to be aware of to stay safe.
If you begin taking Percocet and experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. Mild symptoms can include dizziness, blurred vision, dry mouth, and nausea.
Serious side effects should not be taken lightly. If you experience chest pains or seizures you may be experiencing an allergic reaction. If you do, call 911 immediately.
Other severe side effects include:
- Anxiety, agitation, or nervousness
- Confusion or unusual thoughts or behavior
- Extreme fatigue
- Feeling lightheaded or fainting
- Gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Hypotension or hypertension
- Increased thirst
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Problems with urination, including dark urine
- Shallow breathing
- Slowed heartbeat
You should not take Percocet if you are two months pregnant or less. Those with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or respiratory issues should avoid Percocet.
Elderly people, those with head injuries, debilitated people, and those already struggling with substance abuse problems are also at a higher risk for physical and mental health issues when using this drug.
Long-Term Effects of Percocet
Percocet was originally created to treat acute and short-term pain. However, since the 1990s, there have been changes in government regulations along with aggressive marketing tactics by pharmaceutical companies that have led to a large increase in using this drug for patients with long-term pain.
The problem is that with long-term use comes a variety of serious health complications that, if not closely monitored by a doctor, can be extremely dangerous. And in some cases, lead to death.
Some Percocet side effects long term are:
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Physical and psychological dependence
- Severe constipation
- Testosterone levels decreased in men
- Urinary retention
For those individuals who are abusing Percocet and are not under a doctor’s supervision, the long-term Percocet effects can be much worse. Your liver can become toxic and without blood testing, you may not realize it until extensive damage has already taken place.
Bowel perforation, bowel obstruction, and peritonitis can occur due to severe constipation caused by overuse of Percocet. And those who try to stop the drug on their own may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Others may be hooked in an endless cycle of addiction.
Why People Abuse Percocet
There are good reasons why people abuse Percocet. Many people use it to control their acute or chronic pain.
For those suffering from chronic pain, taking Percocet on a long-term basis allows them to build up a tolerance. They may feel as though they need to take more pills in order to achieve the same results as they used to.
Because it’s an opioid, it’s easy for people to quickly for a tolerance of the drug. Continued use of this drug can cause a physical dependence to form quickly which can lead to a full-blown addiction.
Also, many people who use Percocet find it produces a sense of euphoria, wellbeing, and pleasure. This happens because the oxycodone influences certain regions of the brain that’s involved in reward and pleasure.
While Percocet is viewed as safer than illegal street drugs, it’s still an opioid. That means it works in the body the same way as heroin does.
It’s important to get help immediately if you start recognizing the signs of an addiction.
Signs of a Percocet Overdose
Both the oxycodone and the acetaminophen can cause a person to overdose. When combined, it becomes deadlier.
Oxycodone Overdose Signs
A person may appear show signs of slowed or shallow breathing. They may struggle with excessive sleepiness and/or nausea and vomiting.
They may have cold, clammy skin or their skin, nails or lips may have a bluish tint. An overdose of this drug may lead to a coma.
Acetaminophen Overdose Signs
When someone is experiencing an acetaminophen overdose, they may experience intense abdominal pain, especially near or below the right ribcage. They may sweat profusely.
Their urine becomes dark while their skin and eyes may appear yellow due to jaundice. They can also experience flu-like symptoms. If left unchecked, a person can die.
How to Avoid an Overdose
One easy way to avoid an overdose is to only use this drug if it’s been prescribed by your doctor. And you should always only take it as directed.
Do not take Tylenol or any other product that also contains acetaminophen when using this drug. It can cause a lot of damage to your liver.
Be extremely cautious if you plan on combining Percocet with other opiates, sedatives or alcohol. Even using it with other medications can lead to central nervous system (CNS) depression.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of a Percocet overdose or is abusing the drug, get help immediately. Call 911 if someone is overdosing or having an adverse reaction to the drug.
For addiction problems, contact us. There’s no shame in getting help but there are lasting ramifications if you do nothing.
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Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley is the CEO and Founder of Revive Detox, a Joint Commission Accredited and Legit Script Certified Addiction Treatment Center in Los Angeles, CA. She earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University in Los Angeles in 2007 and has extensive experience working in the addiction and recovery field and the LGBT community. To learn more about Dr. Calvert-Conley click here.