Percocet Overdose Symptoms, Side Effects & Treatment

Percocet is the established brand name for the combination of two different substances: oxycodone and acetaminophen. Each of these compounds is considered a pain reliever, the main difference is that oxycodone is an opioid and acetaminophen is not.

Oxycodone is a semisynthetic prescription opioid. Similar to other opioid analgesics, oxycodone binds to opioid receptors in the brain to alleviate chronic pain. Physicians recommend the medication for moderate and severe pain relief for instances ranging from a toothache to cancer treatment. It is highly addictive, often overprescribed and contributes to thousands of overdose deaths annually.

Acetaminophen also reduces pain, discomfort, and fever. It is used for several basic treatments from headaches to colds. The drug is well-known for having dangerous interactions with the liver when taken in excess. When combined with oxycodone, acetaminophen performs the specific function of increasing oxycodone’s painkiller effects while lowering the dosage needed to take effect.

Percocet is stronger than oxycodone on its own. Additionally, the combination with acetaminophen allows it to last longer and be more effective in most instances.

Some street drug dealers have taken advantage of this fact. In June 2017, several overdose deaths in the state of Georgia were linked to fake Percocet. Individuals looking to use this prescription drug recreationally were tricked into purchasing and consuming a deadlier opioid. Misuse of Percocet is dangerous enough, adding the unpredictability of illegal knockoffs makes the likelihood of accidental overdose even higher.

The combination of the opioid oxycodone and the drug acetaminophen in Percocet makes this a unique drug — with overdose symptoms and side effects that separate it from other prescription drugs.

Percocet Overdose | Percocet Overdose Treatment, Signs, & Symptoms
Chasing a Percocet high puts people at high risk of an overdose. Several symptoms may manifest following Percocet misuse, including:

  • Muscle weakness: can occur as limpness of the extremities or a full-body sluggishness.
  • Difficult or uneven breathing: healthy lung activity is characterized by an even, uninterrupted rising and falling of the rib cage. Momentary lapses in this cycle are points of concern.
  • Fatigue or stupor: beyond feeble muscle contraction comes to a state of mental exhaustion as well. A clear head is not likely in an overdose. Victims may be unable to summon help themselves.
  • Nausea: this may be accompanied by vomiting or gagging. It might be impossible to keep food or liquids down for more than a few minutes, if at all.
  • Cyanosis: leading to blue or purple coloration of lips and nails.
  • Fainting spells or full coma: victims may collapse from a cumulative weakness of mind and body. At its worst, this could result in a full-fledged coma.
  • Seizures and body spasms: these will be uncontrollable and often sporadic.

These symptoms are very similar to a traditional opioid overdose.  The oxycodone component in Percocet is often the cause. The difference comes when considering the overdose symptoms of acetaminophen as well:

  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful stomach or abdominal region
  • Profuse sweating or clammy skin
  • Feelings of irritability or confusion

Neither overdose symptoms of oxycodone or acetaminophen should be discounted. Get victims to an emergency room immediately.

Side effects, substance use disorders, withdrawal symptoms, and overdose are all less likely with Percocet than with oxycodone. That being said, various outcomes can result from a Percocet overdose such as:

  • Kidney failure
  • Urinary infections
  • Chronic constipation
  • Tolerance and dependence
  • Immune system problems

Perhaps the most significant lasting side effect of Percocet overdose is liver damage. Both active ingredients found in Percocet are harmful to the liver, but acetaminophen is especially dangerous.

For people not accustomed to or without a tolerance to opioids, as little as 40 mg of oxycodone could result in an overdose.

Acetaminophen is what makes Percocet overdose such a concern. There has always been an inherent risk in mixing opioids with alcoholic beverages, but Percocet takes things to another level entirely. Acetaminophen and alcohol are a dangerous combination for the liver.

Percocet pills are usually capped off at 325 mg of acetaminophen each, and physicians strongly discourage taking any amount over 3,000 mg a day of acetaminophen. When left unchecked, acetaminophen is considered a hepatotoxic compound that creates permanent damage to the liver cells entirely. 7000 mg of acetaminophen means almost certain death for most people.

Physicians use an anti-opioid medication, naloxone, to suppress the effects of an opioid overdose. However, this will only help for half of the problem, something must also be done to counteract the acetaminophen poisoning. To do this, emergency medical practitioners can administer an antidote known as N-acetylcysteine. This compound is essential in preventing liver failure. The faster these substances are given to someone experiencing a Percocet overdose, the better chance they will have to survive this dangerous situation.

Worried about your Percocet dosage? Are you concerned someone you love is addicted? Call The Recovery Village. Our caring representatives are available to take your call anytime, day or night and will answer your questions and give you the guidance you need. It’s free, completely confidential and there is no obligation to commit to treatment. Hope and healing are possible, the first step is reaching out.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.