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Updated on October 2, 2023
7 min read

Percocet and Alcohol

What is Percocet?

Percocet is a synthetically made opioid that is a combination of 325 mg of acetaminophen and varying strengths of oxycodone. It’s a prescription painkiller for treating moderate to severe pain by blocking pain signals in the brain.

The oxycodone contents of Percocet bind to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing chronic pain. It addresses conditions such as:

  • Muscle aches
  • Premenstrual cramps
  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Fever

The drug is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and works by attaching to receptors in the brain and numbing pain. It also causes a feeling of euphoria and relaxation due to the interaction of opioids with the brain's reward system.

Percocet is relatively fast-acting and is one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers. It is used after surgery, injuries, and more. Percocet is frequently prescribed for post-operative pain management, severe injuries, and chronic pain conditions.

Occasionally, you’ll find Percocet in street drugs or synthetic opioids. These drugs illicit the same euphoric high at a faster rate but are more likely to cause respiratory depression and addiction.

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Side Effects of Percocet

Percocet is linked to a variety of side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Cardiac problems
  • Memory issues
  • Low testosterone levels
  • Bone problems
  • Drug addiction
  • Blood vessel dilation
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Sweating and flushing
  • Lightheadedness when moving or changing positions

How Addictive is Percocet?

Percocet, like many opioids, is very addictive. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies it as a Schedule II drug, which means it has "a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence."

Over time, individuals may develop tolerance to Percocet, requiring higher doses to achieve the same pain-relieving effects. However, the risk of Percocet addiction varies from person to person, based on genetics and environmental factors.

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What are Percocet Withdrawal Symptoms?

Anyone who uses Percocet, even if prescribed by a doctor, is at risk of developing a dependence on the drug. This is especially true for long-term use as the changes it creates in the brain lead to physical dependence.

If they stop using Percocet, they will experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Upset stomach
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Uneasiness
  • Drug cravings
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What Are the Signs of Percocet Overdose?

Percocet overdoses occur when opioid receptors become overstimulated, causing vital functions to slow down, eventually leading to respiratory depression and failure. While most acetaminophen overdoses are accidents, they are common.

Combining oxycodone with alcohol or other prescription medications can lead to opioid overdose, identifiable through the following symptoms:

  • Weak muscles
  • Clammy skin
  • Slowed breathing
  • Narrowed/pinpoint pupils
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Organ damage (liver damage or cirrhosis)

Overdoses caused by opioid painkillers are always a medical emergency. Never wait for symptoms to worsen before calling emergency services. During these situations, administering naloxone can reverse the effects of a Percocet overdose and is often used by medical professionals in emergencies.

What Are the Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Percocet?

Drinking alcohol with drugs, such as Percocet, is a common form of polydrug use. It typically leads to heightened effects of both substances.

Long-term alcohol abuse and Percocet use puts a strain on the body and causes an increased risk of lasting health problems or overdose. This is because both alcohol and oxycodone are sedatives.

Sometimes, the effects are intense enough to cause a person to pass out. This puts them at increased risk of injuries from falling or choking if they vomit while unconscious.

Effects of combining alcohol with Percocet include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Depressed respiration/difficulty breathing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Constipation
  • Damage to stomach lining (ulcers)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness
  • Acute liver failure
  • Heart attack
  • Liver problems
  • Colon cancer
  • Coma
  • Death

Mixing oxycodone and alcohol can also cause respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

Dangers of Mixing Percocet and Alcohol

Percocet is fast-acting and usually only lasts about 4 to 6 hours. This gives it a higher potential for abuse with oxycodone addiction. Sometimes, people drink to enhance the effects of Percocet, which creates various health risks.

This can lead to the following situations:

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a severe result of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period. Combining prescription opioids and alcohol also increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning can cause the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Difficulty remaining conscious
  • Seizures
  • Slow heart rate

Shallow Breathing

In many cases, mixing oxycodone and alcohol leads to slow, shallow breathing. The person might even breathe irregularly or stop breathing completely.

Contact emergency healthcare services if a person you know is experiencing shallow breathing from mixing Percocet and alcohol.

Developing Ulcers

Acetaminophen and alcohol use are both rough on the stomach. Frequent use of these drugs puts someone at risk of developing an ulcer. If left untreated, ulcers create a risk of infection.

Liver Damage

Mixing opioids, like Percocet, with alcohol can lead to liver damage. This is due to Percocet’s acetaminophen content, which isn’t usually a concern with other opioids.

With over-the-counter and prescription acetaminophen, it’s unlikely liver damage will occur with just a single dose. However, Percocet damages the liver over time, even when not mixed with alcohol. The combination of oxycodone and alcohol increases this risk even more.

Liver damage can include:

  • Inflammation
  • Scarring
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver failure

Over time, liver damage can lead to organ failure. Liver failure is likely if immediate medical treatment doesn’t occur.

Can Multi-Drug Use Be Cured?

When not prescribed by a doctor, multi-drug use is substance abuse and can be very dangerous. Even if the risks of mixing dangerous substances are known, people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may struggle with drug abuse.

The abuse of two or more substances at once is known as polysubstance abuse. This is a challenging problem to treat for a variety of reasons.

Clinicians may overlook a person's alcohol use and instead focus on their drug use, or vice-versa. Both problems have to be treated simultaneously.

The safest option is to undergo medically supervised detoxification, followed by a long-term treatment program.

Chronic Polysubstance Abuse

Chronic polysubstance abuse is often linked to emotional or mental issues. Therefore, mental health treatment is usually required.

One effective approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s a form of psychotherapy that helps individuals identify and change unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns associated with substance abuse.

Treatment for Percocet and Alcohol Addiction

Detox and withdrawal can cause extremely dangerous symptoms that medical professionals should monitor. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) should be used here to manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse.

Medications commonly used to treat alcohol abuse include:

Medications used to treat addiction to oxycodone (Percocet) include:

Once detox is complete and someone is beyond the initial withdrawal phase, they can begin a more complex treatment regimen.

People with opioid use disorder might also consider support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous).

Summary

Percocet is a lab-made opioid used to treat varying forms of chronic pain. It works by blocking pain signals in the brain. The oxycodone contents of Percocet bind to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing chronic pain.

Due to its added effect of inducing a euphoric high, Percocet has a high potential for abuse as a Schedule II drug. Not everyone who takes the drug will become addicted. However, taking Percocet for longer than prescribed or in higher doses increases the risk of opioid addiction.

Both oxycodone and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, causing the body to become overwhelmed if it tries to withstand the effects of both drugs. This is why mixing the two can lead to dangerous consequences. Contact emergency medical services if you or someone you know is experiencing a Percocet overdose, which can lead to death.

Updated on October 2, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on October 2, 2023
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