Often opioid prescription painkillers are combined with other medicines to increase their effectiveness. One such combination is oxycodone and acetaminophen. The combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen is most commonly known as the brand-name drug Percocet, although there are other names for this combination.
Some other brand names for the combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen include:
Again, the most common oxycodone and acetaminophen combination is Percocet. Various combinations of oxycodone and acetaminophen may be available as tablets or extended-release tablets.
Oxycodone and acetaminophen can be used to treat pain ranging from moderate to severe, and oxycodone is part of a class of medicines called narcotic analgesics. All narcotic analgesics impact the central nervous system by binding to opioid receptors and changing the way the person senses pain. The combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen strengthens the pain-fighting power of Percocet and other similar drugs. Acetaminophen may be an over-the-counter medicine, but when the combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone is effective at treating pain because it uses two different pain-relieving agents.
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With opioids including oxycodone, what happens is that you take it and you may feel a euphoric rush, particularly if you take a strong dose. Your brain floods your body with dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical, and then your brain wants to keep that feeling going. That’s why you can become addicted to opioids. Your brain is wired to repeat pleasurable activities.
This is why oxycodone is a Schedule II substance. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
There’s something else to consider when looking at the side effects of oxycodone and acetaminophen, and that’s physical dependence. Physical dependence is separate from addiction, and it can occur with or without a psychological addiction to the drug. Physical dependence means your body has become dependent on the use of a drug, which in this case would be oxycodone. When that happens, and you try to stop using it suddenly, you may have withdrawal symptoms.
Also relevant to discussing oxycodone and acetaminophen are the risks of the acetaminophen alone. Acetaminophen is not habit-forming and available without a prescription, but it can cause severe liver damage if too much is taken for a period of time. Usually, taking anything over 4000 milligrams of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period can be dangerous and may cause liver failure. Acetaminophen is available in many over-the-counter products, so be sure to check the ingredients list on common medications to ensure that you aren’t taking too much acetaminophen.
It’s also important that people taking oxycodone and acetaminophen avoid using other central nervous system (CNS) depressants while they’re using these drugs. This is because CNS depressants, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, can lead to extreme CNS depression. With marked CNS depression, side effects can include hypotension, profound sedation, coma or death.
It’s also important not to drink alcohol when you take oxycodone and acetaminophen because you’re amplifying the potential for liver damage to occur.