Despite the well-known risk of addiction, opioid medications have legitimate value in treating such ailments as severe pain. It pays to be cautious, however: even apart from the addiction danger, medications can have any number of unpleasant side effects. This article looks at the risks associated with one common opioid-containing prescription medication, Percocet.
Percocet doesn’t get all its pain-relieving power from its opioid (oxycodone) content: it also contains acetaminophen, the same non-opioid painkiller found in over-the-counter Tylenol. When Percocet went on the market in 1976, it was introduced as a safer alternative to the quarter-century-old Percodan, a then-popular oxycodone–aspirin combination which had been available since 1950 but which had its own side effects—notably a negative effect on blood clotting, which is associated with aspirin but not acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen is not harmless, however: when consumed for long periods or in large amounts, it is toxic to the human liver. There are even recorded cases of death from liver failure, though this is only a danger when acetaminophen is consumed in amounts well above any prescription dose.
Percocet Side Effects: Mild and Serious
When Percocet is taken according to prescription and for very limited periods (most medical experts now recommend that opioid pain relievers be reserved for short-term use), dangerous side effects are rare. Lesser but more common effects may include:
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
- Heavy perspiration
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent drowsiness (Percocet is best not taken, especially under a new prescription, before any tasks requiring alertness).
An unlucky minority of patients may experience:
- Exceptionally low energy or significant physical weakening
- Mood swings or depression
- Low blood pressure
- Severe headaches
- Breathing difficulties.
If you notice persistent symptoms, especially any that interfere with your quality of life, consult your prescribing doctor immediately.
The Worst Side Effect: Addiction
Again, though, the greatest “side effect” risk from Percocet is that what starts as a prescription may grow into an opioid addiction. This is far less likely to happen if you follow the basic safety rule of prescription medicine: take it exactly as directed, and never increase the dose without your doctor’s approval. Especially, don’t take an extra pill because the old dose no longer seems to relieve pain as effectively: that’s a sign you’re developing physical tolerance, which often is the first step toward addiction. Adding more oxycodone to the mix will only increase that risk.
You may suspect that you, or someone in your family, have a Percocet addiction already. See your doctor and an addiction-medicine specialist promptly if you have the following symptoms:
- Frequent “brain fog”
- Major changes in sleep patterns
- Increasingly poor coordination
- Performing below par at your work, in your social activities, or in your household—or losing interest in these things altogether
- A defensive attitude because others are hinting you’re overdoing your medication
- Flulike symptoms if you miss a regular dose
- Temptations to try stronger opioids because even large doses of Percocet don’t seem to “work” anymore
- Getting Percocet prescriptions from more than one doctor
- Buying extra doses from under-the-counter sources because no amount of prescription doses seems adequate.
The Worst Danger: Hidden Ingredients
Going to non-pharmaceutical sources for extra Percocet is dangerous for another reason: you may be unknowingly be buying the “side effect” of swallowing a completely different drug with the “Percocet” or “oxycodone” pill. The unregulated market is flooded with counterfeit pills, and many of them contain fentanyl (an exponentially more powerful opioid than oxycodone, and a drug now responsible for 80 percent of fatal opioid overdoses) or methamphetamine (a stimulant, in a completely different drug family from the opioids, and capable of triggering heart failure or lethal stroke).
Even if you do get real opioids, becoming desperate enough to seek drugs from an “unofficial” source is a sure sign that you have an out-of-control addiction. Don’t rationalize that you can handle it: staying on that path is a sure way to ruin, if not end, your life. Get medical help. Substance use disorder is treatable!
Find Freedom from Opioid Use Disorder
Doctors have learned to be more cautious about prescribing opioid-containing painkillers, but the risk of addiction still exists. Hope by the Sea is here to offer comprehensive, nonjudgmental help to people who suffer from Percocet addiction and other substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more. Hope Starts Here!