Percocet for Chronic Pain Management

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If your healthcare provider prescribed you this drug, you may be wondering What is Percocet? Percocet is an opioid painkiller that is used to control moderate to moderately severe pain.

Man sitting on bed with backache
Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Although many people take Percocet safely, it's possible to become physically dependent on the drug, and abuse and overdoses do occur. So it's important to follow your healthcare provider's usage instructions carefully.

What Is Percocet?

Percocet is the brand name for a painkiller containing both oxycodone and acetaminophen.

It's a controlled substance, available by prescription only, and can be formulated in a variety of strengths. Most forms of Percocet contain between 2.5 and 10 milligrams (mg) of oxycodone hydrochloride, and 325 to 650 mg of acetaminophen.

Percocet reduces pain through each of its primary substances:

  • Oxycodone is a morphine-like substance that acts on the nervous system to change the brain’s perception of pain.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is thought to inhibit certain pain-related chemicals in the body, thought its exact mechanisms of pain control are not fully understood.

Side Effects

The potential side effects of Percocet include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or muddy thinking
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Flushing or sweating

In some people, Percocet may cause serious side effects, including difficulty breathing, severe lethargy and “pinpoint pupils.” These may be signs of an overdose and require immediate medical attention.

Safety Advice

To avoid serious side effects, Percocet use should be closely monitored in those with any of the following conditions:

  • Respiratory problems (including asthma or COPD)
  • Circulatory problems
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Seizure disorders

Its use should also be carefully monitored in special populations, such as seniors, pregnant or nursing mothers and children. In most cases, Percocet use in these populations is avoided unless the benefits of the medication strongly outweigh the potential risks.

Physical Dependence

It's possible to become physically dependent on Percocet, depending on how high the dose is and how long you've been taking it, as well on as your health status.

People who become physically dependent on Percocet may experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly lower their dose or stop taking the drug. If you've been prescribed Percocet, follow your healthcare provider's instructions carefully.

The symptoms of Percocet withdrawal include:

  • Yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Muscle aches
  • Tremor
  • Irritability
  • Chills alternating with hot flashes
  • Salivation
  • Anorexia
  • Severe sneezing
  • Lacrimation
  • Rhinorrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diaphoresis
  • Piloerection
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Pronounced weakness and depression

Talk to your healthcare provider if you believe you're experiencing withdrawal symptoms from Percocet. He or she can help you gradually taper off your use of the drug to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.

Abuse and Overdose

Percocet is an opioid painkiller, one of the most commonly abused classes of prescription drugs. Abuse should not be confused with dependence. With Percocet abuse, drug use is compulsive and often non-medical.

Percocet overdose can occur if it's taken more often than prescribed, or if the tablets are crushed or chewed, which can release too much medication at once. The potential for Percocet overdose also increases if it's combined with other sedatives such as sleep aids or alcohol.

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. 

2 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.
  1. ENDO Pharmaceuticals. PERCOCET® (Oxycodone and Acetaminophen Tablets, USP).

  2. Rollins MD, Feiner JR, Lee JM, Shah S, Larson M. Pupillary effects of high-dose opioid quantified with infrared pupillometry. Anesthesiology. 2014;121(5):1037-44. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000384

Additional Reading
  • Medline Plus. Hydrocodone/Oxycodone Overdose.

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Drug Abuse Chart.

  • National Institutes of Health. Percocet (Oxycodone Hydrochloride and Acetaminophen) Tablet.

By Erica Jacques
Erica Jacques, OT, is a board-certified occupational therapist at a level one trauma center.