Percocet is a dangerous narcotic, even when taken as prescribed. Read about the side effects, signs, and symptoms associated with Percocet abuse.

Percocet is a dangerous narcotic that can easily cause addiction — even in those who are taking the drug with a medical prescription. Over time, this painkiller can cause negative effects on a person’s body, their overall health and other aspects of their life. As a Percocet abuser continues to take the drug, they will begin to show certain tell-tale signs and symptoms of abuse, ranging from suspicious behavior to mood swings. If you suspect a loved one is abusing or is addicted to Percocet, watch for a combination of these signs and symptoms.

Signs of Percocet Abuse

Addiction is a medical disease — one that rewires the brain and affects motivation and cognition. The result is often changing priorities and behaviors. After they begin abusing Percocet, it may feel as though your loved one is a completely different person.

For example, maybe previously they valued their hobbies and enjoyed spending time with their family. Now, after abusing Percocet, they may be avoiding seeing their family and ignoring their hobbies. For someone who is addicted to Percocet, acquiring and using the drug becomes the most important thing in their life. Someone who was once motivated by their career, social life or personal relationships or may no longer be involved with these activities.

It’s not unusual for Percocet abusers or addicts to exhibit drug seeking behaviors and these other signs:

  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities
  • Spending more time alone
  • Avoiding family or friends
  • Spending time with a friend or group of friends
  • Avoiding their normal daily routine, such as attending work or school
  • A decline in performance at work or school
  • Asking to borrow money
  • Exaggerations of pain, or even faking illness
  • Frequent doctor visits, or “doctor shopping” in an effort to acquire new Percocet prescriptions
  • Frequent trips to the hospital for pain-related “emergencies”
  • Wearing long sleeves in the summer to cover track marks in the arms’
  • Loss of appetite

You may also notice these other physical signs in the abuser’s home and personal spaces:

  • An excess of pill bottles
  • An excess of shipping materials, as if they were ordering Percocet online
  • Prescriptions pads possibly used to forge prescriptions for Percocet
  • White powder on tables, sinks or handheld mirrors
  • Missing cash, such as from your wallet or coat pockets

In private, a Percocet abuser may be exhibiting these signs:

  • Trying to recreate their first high off of Percocet
  • Losing control while they’re on Percocet
  • Feeling they need Percocet to act “normal” or complete everyday activities
  • Tolerance, or needing to increasing their dosage of Percocet to experience the same effects
  • Symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea and shaking, if they try to stop using Percocet
  • Continuing to use Percocet even if they are encountering negative side effects

Addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, sex, race, financial situation or where they live. If you notice one or more of these signs in a loved one, they very well may be abusing or addicted to Percocet. Just as with any other medical disease, your loved one will need to see a doctor to recover from Percocet addiction. Drug rehab is a proven effective way of managing addiction.

Symptoms of Percocet Abuse

Beyond behavioral signs, Percocet abuse also causes several physical and psychological symptoms. If you suspect a loved one is using Percocet nonmedically and notice one or more of these symptoms — especially in combination with some signs of Percocet abuse — your loved one may be misusing Percocet.

Some of the common physical symptoms of Percocet abuse or addiction include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Constricted pupils
  • Flushed face
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sleeping too much or sleeping too little

Some of the common psychological symptoms of Percocet abuse or addiction include:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Panic attack

Beyond experiencing common symptoms, some abusers also experience more serious symptoms. In the rare occasion these serious symptoms do occur, it’s important to contact a doctor or visit the emergency room immediately. In addition to these common symptoms, some abusers also experience more rare, serious symptoms of using the drug.

Serious symptoms of Percocet abuse include:

  • Chest pain
  • Hives or Rash
  • Seizures
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Obtundation
  • Difficulty breathing or inability to breathe
  • Difficulty swallowing or inability to swallow
  • Swollen face, tongue, hands, feet or throat
  • Vomiting that cannot be stopped

It’s not uncommon for drug abusers or addicts to try and hide these symptoms from their loved ones. Often, abusers feel embarrassed or ashamed of their addiction, and in some cases they enjoy their addiction and don’t want to stop using. In the instances where they are unable to hide the symptoms of abuse from loved ones, Percocet abusers may avoid friends and family all together. For some, this may mean not visiting in person. It could also mean limited phone conversations to only a few minutes. If your loved one has discontinued contact with you and is showing some of these signs they may be abusing or addicted to Percocet.

Long-Term Side-Effects of Percocet Abuse

Percocet is a dangerous prescription opioid. The longer a person uses the drug, the more likely they are to develop certain long-term side effects that can drastically impact their health. In many cases, the conditions are possibly lethal and can cause death in Percocet abusers.

The long-term side effects of Percocet abuse include:

  • Addiction
  • Severe constipation and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Urinary retention
  • Bladder damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory failure
  • Decreased testosterone levels in men
  • Infection
  • Compromised mental capacities
  • Overdose
  • Death

Addiction is the most common of these side effects. A medical disease, addiction can occur in anyone regardless of their age, upbringing, gender, socioeconomic status, race or sexuality. Typically the addiction process begins with tolerance — when a person needs to take higher doses of Percocet to feel the same effect they once did from a lower dose. Tolerance often turns to dependence, when a person has to use Percocet or else they go into withdrawal. Dependence is characterized as a physical need for Percocet in order to avoid the ill feelings of withdrawal. Addiction is characterized as the psychological need for the drug.

While dependence and addiction are not mutually exclusive, they often go hand in hand. Not only do addicts feel withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue using Percocet — a sign of dependence — they also feel cravings for Percocet and are unable to stop using the opioid even though they experience negative side effects — the sign of addiction.

There is no cure for addiction disease, however it can be treated. Addiction professionals and others call this process recovery and believe addicts are always in a state of recovery once they choose to become sober. Addiction treatment requires a rigorous schedule of medical attention, including the detoxification process, and counseling, to understand why someone began using drugs in the first place and learn healthier coping mechanisms to avoid future drug use.

Percocet Overdose

If a person takes too much Percocet, they can accidentally overdose on the opioid. Overdose occurs when there is too much of a drug in the system for the body to process and detoxify, resulting in many serious complications that often lead to death. Percocet overdose is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not caught and treated early.

Symptoms of prescription painkiller overdose include:

  • Shallow or stopped breathing
  • Blue lips or fingers
  • Unconsciousness
  • Noisy breathing, similar to the sound of snoring, which may indicate airway obstruction
  • Limp limbs
  • No response to stimuli

If you believe someone has been abusing Percocet and they are exhibiting one or more of these overdose symptoms, call 911 immediately.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a Percocet addiction we can help. Contact The Recovery Village to learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs.

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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

Addiction Hope. “Percocet Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addic[…] & Side Effects.” Addiction Hope. 13 Aug. 2013. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

The Fix Staff. “Percocet Addiction: Signs, Side Effects, Rehab, and Recovery.” The Fix, 21 Jan. 2015. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

Holland, Kimberly. “Percocet Addiction.” Healthline, 16 June 2016. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment. “Physical Dependence and Addiction – An Important Distinction.” The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment, 12 Mar. 2016. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “Drug Overdose: A Medical Emergency.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.