Can You Drink Alcohol When Taking Percocet?

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Mixing alcohol and Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen) can have dangerous consequences. Both this medication and alcohol limit coordination, slow breathing, and can lead to liver damage. When taken together, these risks are even greater. Additionally, combining Percocet and alcohol can limit a person’s judgment and cause them to be a danger to themselves or others. 

Prescribed for pain relief, Percocet can induce a feeling of euphoria for the person taking it. Long-term use can lead to physical dependence and/or addiction. 

If taken on a long-term basis or in large amounts, the acetaminophen in Percocet can cause liver damage. This risk increases when combined with alcohol, because the liver struggles to break down both substances, which increases the risk of liver damage.

More than 30,000 people are hospitalized each year for acute liver failure as a result of acetaminophen-induced liver damage.

When taken together, Percocet and alcohol can be dangerous for more than just your liver. In some cases, mixing the two can result in severe respiratory depression, which can lead to permanent injury and/or death

Composition of Percocet

Percocet is a combination of oxycodone—a Schedule II prescription opioid painkiller—and acetaminophen—an over-the-counter pain killer (Tylenol is the brand name for acetaminophen). Schedule II drugs like Percocet have a high potential for abuse and may lead to psychological or physical dependence.

Percocet is most often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain after an injury, surgery or illness, and lasts up to three to five hours. When prescribed, it is intended for short-term use and is not intended to treat chronic (long-term) pain.

Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid drug manufactured from a substance found in the opium poppy. Most often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, oxycodone attaches to and activates specific opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain. It leads to pleasurable feelings in the body, such as euphoria and pain relief.

Like other opioids, oxycodone is highly addictive, and misuse can lead to overdose causing injury or death. Some other names for oxycodone include oxy, percs, and hillbilly heroin. 

Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is available as a non-prescription medication (such as Tylenol). It is commonly used to treat muscle aches, headaches, reduce fever, arthritis, backaches, and sore throat. Acetaminophen is combined with opiates (such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, or codeine) in prescription medications to treat moderate to severe pain.

The dosage of acetaminophen per unit (such as tablet) was limited to 325 milligrams in 2011 to make it safer for consumers. A black box warning was added to all prescription medication containing acetaminophen noting the risk of liver injury or death.

Use any medication containing acetaminophen only as directed on the label. Do not use in larger amounts for longer than recommended, as it may lead to liver damage.

The dosage per unit (such as tablet) in prescription medications was limited to 325 milligrams in 2011 to make it safer for consumers. A black box warning was added to all prescription medications containing acetaminophen warning of the risk of severe liver injury

It is important to track all medications you are taking that might contain acetaminophen and never exceed 4,000 milligrams per day. The FDA also cautions users never to use alcohol when taking a medication containing acetaminophen.

Risks of Percocet With Alcohol

Generally speaking, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol if you are taking Percocet. The substances can interact in the body in ways that lead to liver damage, decreased respiration rates, and dependence and/or addiction. 

Acetaminophen With Alcohol 

When taken as directed, acetaminophen is a safe pain reliever that has few side effects. But larger amounts—particularly when combined with alcohol—can be dangerous and is a leading cause of serious liver injuries.

The enzyme your body uses in the break down process for acetaminophen (CYP2E1) also is used to break down alcohol. It prefers to act on alcohol, so when alcohol is present it isn't as active in breaking down acetaminophen. This results in higher levels of toxic components of acetaminophen that can potentially cause liver damage.

Your risk of liver damage increases with the amount of alcohol and acetaminophen in your body. For this reason, it is important to avoid drinking alcohol if you are taking medication that contains acetaminophen, such as Percocet. 

Oxycodone With Alcohol 

Combining alcohol with prescription medication such as oxycodone is dangerous. When combined, the drugs can result in decreased heart rate and blood pressure, slowed or stopped breathing, and potentially death.

Alcohol use can lead to impaired judgment, which could lead to forgetting your last dosage of medication and possibly overdosing on Percocet. 

Individuals who use oxycodone and alcohol can build a tolerance for the substances in the body, which may lead to physical dependence and/or addiction. Those with a family or personal history of addiction are more likely to develop a dependence on painkillers.

If you or your loved one are battling alcohol and/or opioid addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Symptoms of Severe Interaction

Combining alcohol with Percocet can lead to serious side effects, including: 

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Inability to focus
  • Slowed down breathing and/or respiratory arrest
  • Mood changes
  • Irregular heart rate 
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness/loss of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

If you suspect someone has overdosed or is having a serious reaction, call 911. Naloxone can be given by first responders to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone binds to opioid receptors in the brain and can help stop the overdose for a period of time. Medical attention should be sought after the use of Naloxone.

A Word From Verywell

The side effects of mixing alcohol and Percocet can be dire and should be avoided. When taken together, they can increase the odds of addiction and/or overdose. Speak with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about drinking alcohol while taking Percocet.

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