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Percocet and Alcohol

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What is Percocet?

Percocet is a prescription painkiller. It’s an opioid that is made in a lab and is a blend of acetaminophen and oxycodone.

The drug works by attaching to receptors in the brain and numbing pain. It also causes a feeling of euphoria and relaxation.

Percocet is relatively fast-acting and is one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers. It is used after surgery, injuries, and more. Doctors usually prescribe it to treat severe pain.

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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
  • Addiction

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." 

The risk of Percocet addiction varies from person to person, based on genetics as well as environmental factors. 

Not everyone who takes the drug will become addicted. However, misusing or abusing Percocet increases the risk of addiction.

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

If they stop using it, 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 Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Percocet?

Some people mix Percocet with alcohol, an extremely dangerous combination. Long-term alcohol abuse and Percocet use puts a strain on the body and increases the risk of overdose.

This is because both alcohol and oxycodone (one-half of the blend that makes Percocet) are sedatives.

In some cases, the effect is intense enough to cause the person to pass out. This puts them at risk of injuries from falling or choking if they vomit while unconscious. 

Additionally, oxycodone and alcohol cause respiratory depression someone who drinks alcohol while taking Percocet could stop breathing.

Effects of combining alcohol with Percocet include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Depressed respiration
  • Impaired thinking and judgment
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness
  • Liver failure
  • Heart attack
  • Liver problems
  • Colon cancer
  • Coma
  • Death

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Dangers of Mixing Percocet and Alcohol

Multi-drug use when not prescribed by a doctor is substance abuse and can be very dangerous. This is true when it comes to drinking alcohol while taking Percocet.

Percocet is fast-acting and usually only lasts about four to six hours. This gives it a higher potential for abuse and addiction.

Sometimes people drink to enhance the effects of Percocet, which creates a variety of health risks.

In many cases, the combination of drugs leads to slow, shallow breathing. The person might even breathe irregularly or stop breathing completely. Organ failure is likely without immediate medical treatment and is life-threatening.

A concern for someone mixing alcohol and Percocet (or a similar opioid) is liver damage. This is due to Percocet’s acetaminophen content and it is not usually a concern with other opioids.

Acetaminophen is a pain reliever available over-the-counter and by prescription. It is unlikely liver damage will occur with just a single dose. 

However, over time, Percocet is very damaging to the liver, even when not mixed with alcohol. The combination of oxycodone and alcohol increases this risk even more.

Liver damage includes:

  • Inflammation
  • Scarring
  • Cirrhosis
  • Liver failure

Additionally, acetaminophen and alcohol use are both rough on the stomach. Frequent use of these drugs puts someone at risk of developing an ulcer. Untreated, ulcers create a risk of infection.

Treatment for Percocet and Alcohol Addiction

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.

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

The medications most commonly used to treat alcohol abuse are:

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

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

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

One effective approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This form of therapy seeks to address the emotional or mental issues driving substance abuse.

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Updated on March 25, 2022
7 sources cited
  1. Kounang, Nadia. “What Is Percocet? Drug Facts, Side Effects, Abuse and More.” CNN, 2016.
  2. Percocet (Oxycodone/Acetaminophen) Dosing, Indications, Interactions, Adverse Effects, and More.” Reference.Medscape.com.
  3. Mccabe Sean, et al., "Simultaneous and Concurrent Polydrug Use of Alcohol and Prescription Drugs: Prevalence, Correlates, and Consequences" Journal of Studies on Alcohol 2006 67:4, 529-537.
  4. White, Aaron M. et al, "Hospitalizations for Alcohol and Drug Overdoses in Young Adults Ages 18–24 in the United States, 1999–2008: Results From the Nationwide Inpatient Sample" Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 2011 72:5, 774-786.
  5. Moss, Howard, et al., "Early adolescent patterns of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana polysubstance use and young adult substance use outcomes in a nationally representative sample," Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 136, 2014, Pages 51-62, ISSN 0376-8716, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.12.011.
  6. McNeely, Jennifer, and Li-Tzy Wu. “Performance of the Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medication, and Other Substance Use (TAPS) Tool for Substance Use Screening in Primary Care Patients.” Annals of Internal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Nov. 2016.
  7. Fiellin, Lynn E., et al. “Previous Use of Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Marijuana and Subsequent Abuse of Prescription Opioids in Young Adults.” Journal of Adolescent Health, Elsevier, 20 Aug. 2012.

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