Percocet (Oxycodone and Acetaminophen) – Oral

Warning:

Percocet is a potent pain reliever that can lead to addiction, abuse, and overuse. Its misuse or abuse can result in overdose and death.

This medication can potentially induce severe, even fatal, breathing issues. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have slow, shallow, or difficulty breathing.

Avoid alcohol-containing products, as dangerous and possibly fatal effects, may occur.

What Is Percocet?

Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen) is an opioid combination drug. It is a Schedule II controlled substance available only as a tablet with a prescription. Percocet is used to control pain in adults. The safety and effectiveness of Percocet in children have not been established for all forms of this medicine. Use should be determined by your child's healthcare provider.

Oxycodone works by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain through the nerves. 

Acetaminophen relieves pain by stopping the body from making a natural chemical in the body that causes inflammation. It also lowers fever by affecting the hypothalamus region or heat-regulating center of the brain, which controls temperature.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Oxycodone and Acetaminophen

Brand Name(s): Percocet

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Opioid analgesics combination

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: Yes

Administration Route: Oral

Active Ingredient: Oxycodone and acetaminophen

Dosage Form(s): Tablet

What Is Percocet Used For?

With over 100 million people in the United States having chronic and acute pain requiring pain relievers, opiates like Percocet are a frequently prescribed drug class. 

In adults, Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen) is used for pain management when other options have failed, were inadequate, or were not well-tolerated. The safety and effectiveness of Percocet in children have not been established for all forms of this medicine. Use should be determined by your child's healthcare provider.

Percocet can lead to addiction, abuse, and overuse. Its misuse or abuse can result in overdose and death.

How to Take Percocet

Take by mouth, with or without food, as directed by your healthcare provider. However, take it with food or milk if this medicine upsets your stomach.

Do not take more than your provider has prescribed. Taking more than recommended may increase your risk of severe adverse effects. Also, do not combine this medication with other strong pain medicines, including pain patches, without first asking your healthcare provider.

Storage

Store in a dry place at room temperature (68–77 degrees Fahrenheit). Do not keep it in a bathroom. Store this medication in a secure location where children cannot see or reach it and where other people cannot get it. A lockable box or room may assist in keeping this medicine safely. Keep this and all medications away from pets.

Avoid pouring unused and expired drugs down the drain or in the toilet. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about the best ways to dispose of this medicine. Visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website to learn where and how to discard of all unused and expired drugs. You may also find and use disposal boxes in your area. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider regarding the best ways to dispose of your medications.

If you plan to travel with Percocet, become familiar with your final destination's regulations. In general, be sure to make a copy of your Percocet prescription. If possible, keep your medication in its original container from your pharmacy with your name on the label. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider any questions you may have about traveling with your medicine.

How Long Does Percocet Take to Work?

Once ingested, it takes less than an hour to start working in your system. However, this may vary from person to person. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any questions.

What Are the Side Effects of Percocet?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Percocet include but are not limited to:

  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling dizzy, weak, or tired

Severe Side Effects

Percocet can cause many side effects. Some may be life-threatening. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you have a medical emergency. Severe side effects include:

  • Signs of liver problems 
  • Not able to pass urine 
  • Horrible dizziness or passing out
  • Trouble breathing, slow breathing, or shallow breathing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Breathing problems during sleep
  • Feeling confused
  • Hallucinations 
  • Mood changes
  • Severe constipation or stomach pain
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Adrenal gland issue (rare)
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome (rare disorder of the mucous membranes)
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (rare, life-threatening disorder characterized by blistering and peeling skin)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)

Use Percocet with caution if you have certain health conditions like:

  • Adrenocortical insufficiency, including Addison disease
  • Biliary tract issues, including acute pancreatitis
  • Head trauma, including elevated intracranial pressure (ICP)
  • Liver issues
  • Seizures
  • Thyroid problems
  • Sleeping disorder

Long-Term Side Effects

Long-term use of opioids can cause secondary hypogonadism, resulting in sexual dysfunction or infertility in both men and women.

Report Side Effects

Percocet may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Percocet Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For moderate to moderately severe pain:
    • For oral dosage form (capsules):
      • Adults—1 capsule every 6 hours as needed.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For oral dosage form (extended-release tablets):
      • Adults—2 tablets every 12 hours as needed.
      • Children—Use is not recommended.
    • For oral dosage form (solution):
      • Adults—5 milliliters (mL) or 1 teaspoon every 6 hours as needed. Your doctor may adjust the dose as needed. However, the dose is usually not more than 60 mL (12 teaspoons) per day.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For oral dosage form (tablets):
      • Adults—1 or 2 tablets every 6 hours as needed.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Modifications

The following modifications should be kept in mind when using Percocet:

Severe allergic reaction: Avoid using Percocet if you have a known allergy to it or its ingredients. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for a complete list of the ingredients if you're unsure.

Pregnancy: Using opiates like Percocet while pregnant can cause infant withdrawal syndrome. Discuss with your healthcare provider if you plan to become pregnant or are pregnant, and weigh the benefits and risks of taking Percocet during your pregnancy.

Breastfeeding: Oxycodone and acetaminophen can pass into breast milk. The manufacturer suggests stopping breastfeeding while using Percocet due to the risk of significant adverse reactions in the breastfeeding infant. Talk with your healthcare provider if you plan to breastfeed, weighing the benefits and risks of taking Percocet while nursing and exploring other ways to feed your baby during this time.

Adults over 65 years: This population may be more susceptible to side effects such as respiratory depression. Hence, use caution and regularly monitor for other increased risks of issues such as falls/fractures, cognitive impairment, and constipation.

Children: Safety and effectiveness in children have not been established for all forms of this medicine. Use should be determined by your child's healthcare provider.

Missed Dose

Take a missing dosage as soon as you remember. If your next dose is too close, skip the missed dose and resume your regular schedule. Do not take two doses at the same time.

If you are taking this medication as needed, do not exceed the dosage prescribed by your healthcare provider. Call your provider if you are unsure what to do if you miss a dose.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Percocet?

Overdose symptoms of Percocet may include:

Narcan (naloxone) can be used to treat an overdose of Percocet. Your healthcare provider may prescribe naloxone to carry with you while taking this medication. Consult your healthcare provider if you have questions about obtaining or using naloxone.

What Happens If I Overdose on Percocet?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Percocet, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Percocet, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check your progress while you are taking this medicine, especially within the first 24 to 72 hours of treatment. This will allow your doctor to see if the medicine is working properly and to decide if you should continue to take it. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

It is against the law and dangerous for anyone else to use your medicine. Keep your unused medicine in a safe and secure place. People who are addicted to drugs might want to steal it.

Check with your doctor before using this medicine with alcohol or other medicines that affect the central nervous system (CNS). This medicine will add to the effects of alcohol and other CNS depressants (medicines that can make you drowsy or less alert). Some examples of CNS depressants are antihistamines or medicine for allergies or colds, sedatives, tranquilizers, or sleeping medicine, other prescription pain medicine or narcotics, medicine for seizures or barbiturates, muscle relaxants, or anesthetics, including some dental anesthetics. Also, there may be a greater risk of liver damage if you drink three or more alcoholic beverages while you are taking acetaminophen. Do not drink alcoholic beverages.

If you think you or someone else may have taken an overdose of this medicine, get emergency help at once. Your doctor may also give naloxone to treat an overdose. Signs of an overdose include: extreme dizziness or weakness, slow heartbeat or breathing, seizures, trouble breathing, and cold, clammy skin. Call your doctor right away if you notice these symptoms.

This medicine may be habit-forming. If you feel that the medicine is not working as well, do not use more than your prescribed dose. Call your doctor for instructions.

Do not use this medicine if you are using or have used an MAO inhibitor (eg, isocarboxazid [Marplan®], linezolid [Zyvox®], phenelzine [Nardil®], selegiline [Eldepryl®], tranylcypromine [Parnate®]) within the past 14 days. Using these medicine together may cause serious unwanted effects.

This medicine may cause sleep-related breathing problems (eg, sleep apnea, sleep-related hypoxemia). Your doctor may decrease your dose if you have sleep apnea (stop breathing for short periods during sleep) while using this medicine.

Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting may occur when you get up suddenly from a lying or sitting position. Getting up slowly may help lessen this problem. Also, lying down for a while may relieve the dizziness or lightheadedness.

This medicine may make you dizzy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Do not drive or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how this medicine affects you.

Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, unusual tiredness or weakness, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.

Serious skin reactions (eg, acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and toxic epidermal necrolysis) can occur with this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin, chills, cough, diarrhea, itching, joint or muscle pain red irritated eyes, red skin lesions, often with a purple center, sore throat, sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips, or unusual tiredness or weakness while you are using this medicine.

This medicine may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth while you are using this medicine.

Using narcotics for a long time can cause severe constipation. To prevent this, your doctor may direct you to take laxatives, drink a lot of fluids, or increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Be sure to follow the directions carefully, because continuing constipation can lead to more serious problems.

If you have been using this medicine regularly for several weeks or longer, do not change your dose or suddenly stop using it without checking with your doctor. Your doctor may want you to gradually reduce the amount you are using before stopping it completely. This may help prevent worsening of your condition and reduce the possibility of withdrawal symptoms, including stomach cramps, anxiety, fever, irritability, nausea, restlessness, runny nose, sweating, tremors, or trouble with sleeping.

Using this medicine while you are pregnant may cause serious unwanted effects, including neonatal withdrawal syndrome in your newborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you think you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant while using this medicine.

For nursing mothers:

  • Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about taking oxycodone or about how this medicine may affect your baby.
  • Call your doctor if you become extremely tired and have difficulty caring for your baby.
  • Your baby should generally nurse every 2 to 3 hours and should not sleep for more than 4 hours at a time.
  • Check with your doctor or hospital emergency room immediately if your baby shows signs of increased sleepiness (more than usual), difficulty breastfeeding, difficulty breathing, or limpness. These may be symptoms of an overdose and need immediate medical attention.

Before you have any medical tests, tell the medical doctor in charge that you are taking this medicine. The results of some tests may be affected by this medicine.

Check with your doctor right away if you have anxiety, restlessness, a fast heartbeat, fever, sweating, muscle spasms, twitching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or see or hear things that are not there. These may be symptoms of a serious condition called serotonin syndrome. Your risk may be higher if you also take certain other medicines that affect serotonin levels in your body.

Using too much of this medicine may cause infertility (unable to have children). Talk with your doctor before using this medicine if you plan to have children.

This medicine may cause adrenal gland problems. Check with your doctor right away if you have darkening of the skin, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, loss of appetite, mental depression, nausea, skin rash, unusual tiredness or weakness, or vomiting.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Percocet?

Avoid taking Percocet if you have:

  • Allergic reaction to oxycodone, acetaminophen, or any part of the formulation
  • Significant respiratory depression
  • Acute bronchial asthma 
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction, including paralytic ileus (impaired motor activity in the bowel that's known or suspected)

What Other Medications Interact With Percocet?

Certain medications interact with Percocet and increase the risk of severe side effects, including anticholinergic side effects like dry mouth. Some of the drugs to avoid are:

Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about any other medicines you take or plan to take, including nonprescription products, vitamins, herbs, or plant-based medicines.

What Medications Are Similar?

Other drugs similar to Percocet include:

This is a list of drugs also prescribed for pain management. It is not a list of medicines recommended to take with Percocet. Do not take these drugs together except if your healthcare provider tells you to. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist any questions you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does Percocet treat?

    Percocet is used to control or ease moderate to severe pain in adults. Safety and effectiveness in children have not been established for all forms of Percocet. Use should be determined by your child's healthcare provider.

  • What are the common side effects of Percocet?

    Some common side effects include: 

    • Headache

    • Vomiting

    • Nausea

  • Can I drink alcohol while on Percocet?

    No. Avoid drinking alcohol while on this drug. Combining alcohol and Percocet will enhance and worsen the side effects of Percocet.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Percocet?

While Percocet is safe and effective in controlling pain, it may cause several serious side effects, including respiratory syndrome, coma, or death. Hence, when on this medicine:

  • Be sure to pick up your Narcan prescription to reverse an overdose with your Percocet tablets in case of an overdose.
  • Inform your healthcare provider if you are or plan to breastfeed. This medication can pass to an infant in breast milk and may harm your child.
  • Avoid driving and other activities that require you to be alert until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Avoid other acetaminophen products, as too much acetaminophen, may result in liver damage.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

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. Stoicea N, Costa A, Periel L, Uribe A, Weaver T, Bergese SD. Current perspectives on the opioid crisis in the US healthcare system: A comprehensive literature review. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(20):e15425. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000015425

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Percocet label

By Queen Buyalos, PharmD
Queen Buyalos is a pharmacist and freelance medical writer. She takes pride in advocating for cancer prevention, overall health, and mental health education. Queen enjoys counseling and educating patients about drug therapy and translating complex ideas into simple language.