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Percocet for Pain Management

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Updated June 11, 2014

What Percocet Is:

Percocet is the name for the prescription painkiller containing both oxycodone and acetaminophen. Percocet is an opioid painkiller, and is used to control moderate to severe pain. It is 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 10mg of oxycodone hydrochloride, and 325 to 650 mg of acetaminophen.

How Percocet Works:

Percocet reduces pain through each of its primary substances:
  • Oxycodone acts on the nervous system to change the brain’s perception of pain.
  • Acetaminophen is thought to inhibit certain pain-related chemicals in the body, thought its exact mechanisms of pain control are not fully understood.

Percocet Side Effects:

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 pulils” – these may be signs of an overdose, and require immediate medical attention.

Percocet Safety:

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.

Percocet 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, which is when the body becomes dependent on the drug to function. With Percocet abuse, drug use is compulsive and often non-medical.

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

Sources:

Medline Plus. Hydrocodone/Oxycodone Overdose. Accessed 9/22/09. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007285.htm

National Institutes of Health. Percocet (Oxycodone Hydrochloride and Acetaminophen) Tablet. Accessed 9/22/09. http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?id=9522

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Drug Abuse Chart. Accessed 9/22/09. http://www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/PrescripDrugsChart.html

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