Risks of Mixing Percocet and Alcohol

Mixing alcohol with painkillers is dangerous and has serious consequences

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Mixing alcohol and Percocet (oxycodone plus acetaminophen) can be dangerous. On their own, alcohol and Percoset can both slow breathing, impair judgment and coordination, and be toxic to the liver. These hazards are amplified when the two are taken together.

Combining alcohol and Percocet can cause irreversible liver damage if consumed excessively or over a long period of time. It can also increase the risk of an opioid overdose, leading to unconsciousness, slowed heart rate, respiratory failure, coma, brain damage, and death.

The article describes the risks of taking Percocet with alcohol, including the signs and symptoms of a medical emergency.

Risks of Percocet With Alcohol

Percocet is a Schedule II prescription drug combining oxycodone (an opioid painkiller) with acetaminophen (better known by its brand name, Tylenol). Schedule II drugs are those that pose a high risk of dependence (addiction).

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that works by slowing down parts of the brain and inducing feelings of relaxation and intoxication. it is the most commonly abused drug in the United States, causing alcohol use disorder in 6% of the population.

The combination of the two poses serious health risks, including:

Impaired Judgment and Coordination

Alcohol slows the brain's neural pathways and makes it harder for the brain to coordinate functions like balance, memory, speech, and judgment. This can lead to unsteady walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times, and impaired memory and judgment.

Oxycodone, like alcohol, is a CNS depressant that has much the same effect on the brain. It can affect balance, coordination, and reflexes and cause impaired memory, judgment, and concentration.

Taking alcohol and oxycodone together can amplify these effects, making you "drunker" than you might be drinking alcohol alone or "higher" than you might be taking oxycodone alone. The combination can be deadly, increasing the risk of injury, particularly if behind the wheel of a car.

Risk of Addiction

Alcohol and oxycodone cause feelings of euphoria by stimulating the production of the "feel-good" hormones dopamine and serotonin. By acting on the reward center of the brain, both drugs can make users feel more relaxed, less inhibited, and "happier."

The problem is that the brain's reward center becomes less and less responsive to alcohol and oxycodone over time (referred to as drug tolerance). The requires you to take higher and higher doses to get the same effects. Addiction is an all-too-common consequence.

Taking alcohol and Percocet together can make addiction worse. There is not only evidence that alcohol use increases the likelihood and effects of opioid addiction but that people who abuse alcohol and opioids are less likely to respond to substance abuse treatment.

Liver Injury

When taken at the prescribed dose, acetaminophen found in Percocet is only mildly toxic to the liver. But when alcohol is added to the mix, the potential for hepatotoxicity (liver poisoning) increases.

This is because the enzyme your body uses to break down acetaminophen (called CYP2E1) also breaks down alcohol. Due to the competition for the enzyme, less acetaminophen is broken down and more of the active drug remains in the bloodstream. This, in turn, translates to a higher risk of liver injury and, in some cases, permanent liver damage.

This is not an uncommon situation. In fact, more than 30,000 people are hospitalized each year in the United States for acute liver failure as a result of acetaminophen-induced liver damage.


Each year, over 100,000 people in the United States die from an overdose of opioid drugs like oxycodone. Many are illicit users who inject drugs they buy off the street, but others are those who simply abuse their prescription medications.

An opioid overdose occurs when cellular receptors in the brain, called opioid receptors, are overstimulated by excessive amounts of opioid drugs. The depressive effects of the drugs cause many vital functions to slow down, most especially breathing.

This can lead to bradypnea (abnormally slowed breathing) and respiratory depression (where carbon dioxide levels increase in the body while oxygen levels fall). Among the possible consequences of this are fainting, bradycardia (slowed heart rate), respiratory failure, heart attack, coma, and death.

When alcohol is used in combination with opioids, the risk of respiratory depression increases exponentially. Some health officials have reported that 37% of overdose deaths caused by the combined use of alcohol and drugs involve opioids like oxycodone.

Because of the intoxicating effects of both drugs, people may forget that they took a Percocet dose and take another. This is a common cause of an accidental overdose.

Where to Get Help for Addiction

A suspected opioid overdose should be quickly treated with Narcan (naloxone hydrochloride). In March 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Narcan Nasal Spray as an over-the-counter (OTC) emergency treatment for opioid overdose.

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 support and treatment facilities in your area.

Signs and Symptoms of Combined Percocet and Alcohol Use

Combining alcohol and Percocet can lead to a number of potentially serious side effects, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Mood changes
  • Irregular heart rate 
  • Loss of consciousness

The risk of an overdose can vary from one person to the next. There is no way to know how much or how little alcohol and Percoset are needed for an overdose to occur.

When to Call 911

Call 91 1 or seek immediate emergency care if you suspect someone has had an opioid overdose. Symptoms include:

  • Unconsciousness or inability to stay awake
  • Constricted (narrowed) pupils
  • Slowed or ragged breathing
  • A loud rattling when breathing
  • Pale, clammy, or gray skin
  • Bluish lips or fingers
  • Nausea, vomiting, or both

Is It Safe to Drink When Percocet Wears Off?

Oxycodone has a drug half-life of around 4.5 hours, meaning that only half of the drug has been eliminated from the body within this time frame. It can take far longer to eliminate the remaining drug from your system.

So even if you don't feel the effects of Percocet, it doesn't mean you don't have any of the drug still in your system. If you decide to have a drink, you could very well find yourself drunker than usual and unable to operate a car or heavy machinery without extreme danger.

On the flip side, alcohol can be detected in the blood 12 hours after taking a drink. So it is equally unwise to take a Percoset after drinking, even if the effects have apparently worn off.

Ultimately, there is no "safe" amount of alcohol to drink if you are on Percoset. Since Percoset is only intended for short-term use (usually no longer than five days), it is best to simply cut out alcohol until at least 24 hours after stopping treatment.


The side effects of mixing alcohol and Percocet can be dire and should be avoided. When taken together, they can increase the risk of addiction, overdose, or liver damage. They can also amplify the intoxicating effects of both, leading to impaired coordination and judgment and, in turn, an increased risk of injury to yourself and others.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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