Tuesday March 31st 2015

How does Percocet work?

How does Percocet work?

Percocet is the brand name for a combination pain medication that contains oxycodone hydrochloride and acetaminophen. Percocet is used to treat moderate to severe pain, but how does Percocet work? How fast? How long? And what can make Percocet work better? We answer here, and invite your questions about Percocet at the end of the article.

How does Percocet affect the brain and nervous system?

Percocet contains oxycodone, an opium-derived synthetic substance which effects brain activity, and acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever. In general, as the main ingredient in Percocet, oxycodone is a central nervous system depressant. Oxycodone seems to provide pain relief by acting on µ and kappa opioid receptors in the spinal cord, brain, and possibly in the tissues directly. Specifically, Percocet binds to opiate receptors in the central nervous system, numbing feelings of pain and sometimes causing a euphoric “high.” Keep in mind that using Percocet to get high comes with risks of dependence and addiction.

How does Percocet work in the body?

Percocet provides pain relief by stimulating the opioid receptors found in the central nervous system that activate responses ranging from analgesia to respiratory depression to euphoria.  How much is too much Percocet?  More than four (4) Percocet tablets per day can start to affect your liver.  Some effects of Percocet on the body are:

  • analgesia (pain relief)
  • euphoria (deep sense of well-being)
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • impaired coordination
  • itching
  • slowed heart rate
  • nausea/vomiting
  • respiratory depression
  • urinary retention

The more serious and life-threatening side effects caused by oxycodone are more likely to occur when Percocet is not taken as directed. Most people taking Percocet as directed experience only mild side effects. Finally, it only takes 2-3 days for  Percocet to get out of your system. So if the side effects of Percocet are undesirable the drug leaves the body relatively quickly.

How fast does Percocet work

Percocet is a short acting opioid, and onset of effects begin in 20-30 minutes after dosing. Percocet hits its peak blood plasma levels very quickly; peak effects of oxycodone occur in 30-60 minutes after you take Percocet. While some people chew, crush, snort or inject Percocet to try to get more immediate effects, these modes of administration increase risks for adverse Percocet effects or potential Percocet overdose. This is especially true for Percocet, which contains acetaminophen.

How long does Percocet work?

Percocet works for anywhere between 2-4 hours. As a short acting opioid, Percocet, should be prescribed at a dosing interval not to exceed 4 hours since the typical duration of effect from an oral dose is 3-4 hours. Percocet is taken as needed, generally every 4-6 hours. It should continue working for at least that long and should not be taken more frequently.

What makes Percocet work better

Percocet should work efficiently as a pain reliever and is taken as needed. Taking Percocet on an empty vs. full stomach does not change the effectiveness of the pain medication. However, there are guidelines to follow in order to take Percocet safely.

1. Avoid other CNS (central nervous system) depressants. Percocet should not be taken along with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines, which can cause excessive drowsiness and raise the risk of overdose.

2. Take orally. Percocet needs to be taken exactly as directed. That means it can’t be crushed, chewed, or snorted – when it’s taken in any of these ways, more oxycodone and acetaminophen than is safe may be released into the bloodstream, leading to a potential overdose.

3. Use as prescribed. Percocet should be taken in dose amounts and frequencies AS PRESCRIBED. Taking more Percocet than prescribed can result in serious advserse side effects and possible overdose.

Does Percocet work for everyone?

No. Percocet is not right for everyone. Percocet can trigger many unwanted or uncomfortable side effects. Plus, the oxycodone in Percocet can be addictive. This is why Percocet is not recommended for those with a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Other medications can react with Percocet which can limit your use. Always check with your pharmacist when starting a new medication. Anyone who experiences problems while taking Percocet should talk to their doctor immediately.

How Percocet works questions

Do you still have questions about how Percocet works? Please leave your questions here. We do our best to respond to you with a personal and prompt response ASAP

Reference Sources: National Drug Intelligence Center: OxyContin Diversion and Abuse
Medical College of Wisconsin: Improving Pain

ToxNet: Oxycodone
PubMed Health: Oxycodone
DailyMed: Percocet

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16 Responses to “How does Percocet work?
Marty Baldwin
6:23 pm July 19th, 2012

I cant find percocet that doesnt have oxycodone. it tends to make very sick . and its hard to find it w/o .

1:03 am July 20th, 2012

Hello Marty. Thanks for your comment. As far as I know, all Percocet contains oxycodone. Are you interested in trying a pain medication alternative, like tramadol, or hydrocodone? If so, you might request more information from your doctor.

Paul Smith
12:22 am January 28th, 2013

How long till perc starts to detach of the opiod receptors in your brain and how long till fully detached. Thank you in advance……

10:09 am January 28th, 2013

Hi Paul. Onset of oxycodone, the main ingredient in Percocet, is about 30-45 minutes after oral ingestion and can last for 4-6 hours. Wwhen the effect of oxycodone starts wearing off, oxycodone no longer occupies the opioid receptors in the brain. This time will be different for each person, but is around 4-6 hours after dosing.

4:56 am September 20th, 2013

Hey i just got prescribed percocet for Toothache pain and it works great , ive been on it now for 4 days still the same result pain relief and also its the least dose you can get 5mg/325mg is it ok to keep taking it for the toothache pain . Could it be used for a long period of time being as its only 5mg ?

10:12 pm October 20th, 2013

I am shocked at Marty’s question. I’m convinced it was a prank. It wasn’t a serious question…I hope it wasn’t…for his mental sake.

3:55 am November 15th, 2013

Ive been clean for 5 months an hit a stupid moment an snorted 60mg i did 30mg on Sun & 30mg on Monday. I have a drug test tomorrow morning which is Friday an im soo nervous i made a huge mistake an need advice. Im 140lbs & 5’7. Do you think i will pass a urine test?

1:32 pm November 15th, 2013

Hi Mistake. It depends on whether or not the test includes “Extended Opioids”. If not, the oxycodone will probably not be detected by a standard 5 panel or opiate drug test.

Jennifer Arias
7:49 pm March 7th, 2014

I’m a nursing student. I am researching the exact science as how to Percocet leads to constipation. Any help or explanation would be greatly appreciated.


4:29 pm March 17th, 2014

I have a lot of questions about percocet’s. Does anyone else take them for depression? If I’m depressed or un motivated, I’ll take a 5mil and snap right out of my slump and get a lot done that day. My biggest problem is that I love the way it works for me. Is there any natural supplements that work the same way? Please let me know!!!

Cindy martin
2:10 am June 7th, 2014

My daughter had her wisdom teeth pulled and the next eve a friend gave her a beer and 3 percs 10/325 around 8:45. She died at 4:00 am. This timeline does not add up to me. I think she rejected this person and he smothered her. She was 5’10.5″ and 156 lbs.
Never had taken an opiate before.

Cindy martin
4:02 pm June 7th, 2014

I wanted to add autopsy showed .059 ethanol and 94ng/ml hydrocodone which is in the theraputic range done at 7:00 am one say later. I need a toxicology expert.
pulmonary congestion

6:08 am June 13th, 2014

Hello Cindy. I am so sorry to hear of this tragedy. Percocet contains oxycodone and not hydrocodone. You do need to consult with a toxicology expert; I’d suggest that you call a diagnostic / drug testing lab and ask to speak with the Medical Review Officer. Learn more about some of the limits that an opioid naive person can handle before overdose. And perhaps even seek help with a private investigator? I wish you peace during this unsettling time of challenge.

4:59 am December 19th, 2014

Thank you to all the addicts, you make t difficult for people like me who have real severe pain to get the medications. I have nerve damage.

Ccrs revival
3:06 am January 19th, 2015

Hey jake I used to be addicted to opiates with no pain condition or anything….it was hell. I cleaned up my act only to have an accident and now have ruptured, herniated, compressed, degenerated, and slipped discs in my back as well as a pilonidal cyst from the impact. I now totally understand your frustration as its really hard to get powerful paun meds for severe pain an I’m in Ga one of 2 of the strictest opiate prescription states in the country thanks to fla not having a prescription database so addicts flocked there and then when they added the database everyone flocked to Ga where the state government shut alot of pill mills down and honestly yes the addicts play into this equation but the Drs running these mills prescribing 30s for what seems to be mild pain without a conclusive mri or ct bone scan to justify writing that rx. Godbless you all!

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