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Percocet: The Most Important Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

Percocet is a medication that includes both oxycodone, a potent opioid drug, and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter painkiller. This combo pill is frequently prescribed for the management of pain, especially after an acute injury or surgical procedure.

For example, after a dental procedure or acute injury that is expected to heal on its own within a few weeks, a medical provider will often prescribe Percocet to be taken as needed to manage the pain that occurs immediately after the procedure.

Though many can use the drug safely exactly as it is prescribed with the oversight of a medical professional, others will develop a lifelong struggle with use of the drug that is complicated by the short-term and long-term effects of continued Percocet use.

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Short-Term Effects 

The Percocet high: Percocet is an opioid painkiller, and it is very often prescribed to those dealing with extreme acute pain. Not only does the acetaminophen in the drug help to dull the pain, but the oxycodone binds to receptors in the brain and body and blocks pain messages. Many people report that Percocet and other opioids are largely ineffective when it comes to reducing pain but that the drugs decrease their displeasure related to the experience of that pain.

Signs of acute Percocet use include:

Acute Percocet Use

  • Small or “pinned” pupils
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Inability to follow a conversation
  • Appearance of fatigue or sleepiness
  • Varying levels of confusion

Immediate health risks: A number of medical and health issues can occur as a direct result of use of Percocet. Depending on the dose, method of ingestion, other substances of abuse in the system, and other underlying health issues, the severity, and type of health problems can vary significantly. Common problems include:


Mental and emotional effects: For some, Percocet abuse begins when there are untreated mental health issues, such as depression. Using opioids like Percocet may initially provide immediate relief from mental health symptoms, so some people who abuse the drug do to self-medicate symptoms rather than seek treatment. However, the drugs are not approved for use for this purpose, and no doctor will prescribe a painkiller to address mental health issues, putting those who use it for this purpose at extreme risk.

Long-Term Effects 

Percocet addiction: Signs of long-term abuse of Percocet and Percocet addiction include:

Signs of Percocet Addiction

  • Increasing isolation or spending less time with people who do not actively use drugs
  • Altered personality and behavior
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies and favorites
  • Theft of medications in the home, cash, or valuables
  • Lies about drug use and abuse

Health effects: Long-term abuse of any opioid can lead to a variety of health issues, such as:

  • Extreme dental decay. Taking Percocet tablets regularly may lead to extreme dental decay. According to studies, these dental issues are irreversible and can be especially devastating for young people who abuse the drug.
  • Infertility. Male factor infertility is estimated to be the cause of about a third of all cases of infertility. In many of these cases, use and abuse of opioid drugs like Percocet over a long period is the cause.
  • Substance use disorder. In some studies, it has been demonstrated that only 4 percent of people living with a Percocet addiction sought out extended-release versions of the drugs, opting instead for the immediate-release versions. However, long-term users of both immediate-release and extended-release versions of Percocet have been shown to be equally at risk for the development of an opioid use disorder.
  • Overdose death. The risk of death due to drug overdose persists as long as Percocet abuse continues. Even when using the “normal” dose, seasoned users of the drug may inadvertently overwhelm their systems due to constantly fluctuating tolerance levels. Additionally, when purchased on the street or from a non-pharmaceutical source, the risk that the Percocet pills are fake and made with fentanyl or other deadly synthetic opiate drugs continues to be present.

Mental health issues: Some studies suggest that the experience of chronic pain very frequently co-occurs with a diagnosis of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Though this population may be prescribed painkillers like Percocet by a physician, if mental health treatment experts do not also treat the co-occurring mental health disorder, there is a high risk of abuse of the drug.

Physical dependence can occur in anyone who uses Percocet regularly without any of the negative effects of addiction. Those who also exhibit a psychological dependence — such as those who use the drug as much to manage mental health issues as to manage pain — are at a much higher risk of addiction.

Additionally, when under the influence of painkillers, it is difficult for mental health treatment to be effective. In many cases, patients who have co-occurring disorders may be less likely to seek out and engage with mental health treatment if they are finding any relief from their symptoms when taking Percocet.

Use, Abuse, and Addiction

Though everyone is different and individual circumstances can play a large role in whether or not use of the drug can lead to a Percocet use disorder, the following is generally true:

  • Percocet use is defined as any use of the pill that occurs as a result of and within the guidelines of a prescription designed just for that person.
  • Use of Percocet is termed “abuse” when an individual takes the drug without a prescription or outside the guidelines of use provided by the physician.
  • Addiction occurs when Percocet abuse continues, and the person is incapable of stopping their use of the drug despite the ever-increasing adverse consequences.

Can Treatment Reverse Long-Term Effects of Percocet Use?

Whether Percocet abuse has continued for weeks, months, or years, if the person is unable to stop on their own and the negative effects are continuing to pile up, the best way to address the problem is with treatment. Engaging in a drug rehab program that offers comprehensive addiction treatment is the only researched-based method of managing a substance use disorder safely and effectively. This means choosing rehabilitation that offers:

  • Medical detox to address drug withdrawal symptoms safely
  • Medical supervision to ensure the individual does not succumb to relapse during the detox process and beyond
  • Medical care to address chronic pain if needed
  • Traditional talk therapies that have shown to be effective in helping clients to identify the reasons behind their use of Percocet
  • Mental health care for co-occurring disorders as needed
  • Alternative therapies to provide a creative outlet for self-expression and self-discovery during recovery
  • Holistic treatments to augment traditional therapies and medical care, aid in lowering stress levels, and support a well-rounded treatment program
  • Peer-support and therapy
  • Aftercare and support after the cessation of treatment

If your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, learn more about how best to address the issue medically and therapeutically through comprehensive drug treatment.




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