Mixing Percocet and Alcohol

Author: NP Addiction Clinic
Published: August 2, 2022

Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances globally. Widely accepted across many cultures, alcohol addiction can be difficult to pinpoint and once a problem has developed, it's difficult to intervene. The dangerous effects of alcohol are increased when used in combination with other substances, including prescription drugs. Even if being used with a legitimate prescription, there are severe risks involved with combining alcohol and prescription medications.

Here we will look at the specific dangers of mixing alcohol with Percocet, a commonly used opioid. Typically individuals will be prescribed Percocet after surgery or to manage chronic to severe pain, but the substance, unfortunately, comes with a high risk of abuse. The combination of alcohol and opioid medications increases the health risks and brings a higher chance of addiction.

If you are on a prescription of Percocet, ensure you have a complete understanding of the drug and the way it interacts with other substances.

What is Percocet?

Percocet is the brand name for a prescription medication that is used in the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Belonging to the opioid group, two of the active ingredients in this drug are acetaminophen and oxycodone.

Oxycodone is a narcotic which is synthetically made in a lab to replicate the opiate, morphine. Alongside Percocet, other brand names for oxycodone include Percodan and OxyContin. Percocet was widely used in the 1970s, whereas OxyContin is a newer substance and was FDA approved in 1995, with an introduction to the US market in 1996.

Oxycodone is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it's under the same classification as heroin. This states that although there are defined medical purposes, it carries a high risk of abuse.

The other ingredient of Percocet is acetaminophen. Although on its own and in prescribed quantities, acetaminophen can be a harmless pain relief medication, but when combined with alcohol, it can bring serious risks to the user. In particular, it can have lasting and damaging effects on the liver. Alcohol also damages the liver, so the combination of acetaminophen and alcohol poses a higher risk and intensity of liver damage.

These two substances together also damage the lining of the stomach which can bring an increased chance of ulcers. If ulcers are left untreated, they run a risk of becoming septic, and this can cause fatal bleeding and infections.

How Does Percocet Work?

Percocet works by inhibiting pain signals traveling through the nerves to the brain. Interacting with the central nervous system, the substance interferes with heart rate and respiration. This can result in severe dangers if the substance is abused.

The Effects of Percocet

The effects of Percocet can include the following:

  • Mild euphoria
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased confidence
  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness

Side Effects of Percocet

Additionally, there are some dangerous side effects of the substance. These can occur whether the drug is being used on a prescription basis or illicitly. Side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Skin itching
  • Vomiting

Abusing Percocet can lead to addiction. Abuse is classified as when you take more of a substance than you are prescribed. If you start to use a higher dose of Percocet or take it more frequently than prescribed, this is Percocet abuse.

Drinking Alcohol and Abusing Pain Relief Medication

Despite their legitimate functions, many medications - prescription and over-the-counter - have the ability to interact dangerously with alcohol. Using substances simultaneously can affect the way each drug is metabolized by the body or the way it behaves in the system. This can have serious, sometimes life-threatening consequences. One example of a high-risk interaction is when sedative medications and alcohol are consumed together. In combination, these substances can enhance each other and impair a person’s ability to safely function.

Percocet and alcohol are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants. If mixed, it can result in drowsiness and liver damage. Additionally, the drowsiness caused by this combination can lead to secondary accidents.

Alone, Percocet and alcohol both have the ability to cause respiratory depression. This results in slowed breathing, and in some cases even an inability to breathe. The oxygen deprivation which comes as a result of breathing difficulties can lead to organ failure, coma and - without medical attention - death.

Some individuals may not intentionally combine the substances, however without fully understanding the risks and interactions, they can still put themselves at risk. Percocet has a half-life of just under four hours. This means half a dose of Percocet is metabolized during this time. If prescribed for chronic pain, the prescription may take 20 hours to be cleared from the system. Drinking alcohol within this time can increase the damaging effects of both substances.

Symptoms of Mixing Alcohol and Percocet

Both alcohol and Percocet have side effects when used in isolation. These effects are increased when combined, and they also bring further implications for the user.

Possible side effects of this combination include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart problems
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory depression
  • Internal bleeding

Overdose Risk

Choosing to drink alcohol and use prescription opioids is a severely dangerous and costly decision. The combination of these substances can result in overdose, and impacts your chances of survival should an overdose occur. Naloxone, the most common opioid overdose reversal drug, is less effective with the presence of other substances in the body.

Additionally, individuals who use both substances are likely to develop a higher tolerance to both drugs, which means they need higher quantities to feel the same high. This increases the likelihood of an overdose.

Symptoms of a Percocet overdose may be a severe manifestation of symptoms associated with abusing the drug. However, they may also include:

Overdose Symptoms

  • Stomach cramps
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Coma
  • Breathing issues
  • Blue fingernails and lips

These symptoms can be dangerous and, in some cases, life-threatening. Understanding the process of withdrawing from this substance and how you can go through withdrawal safely increases your chance of safely finding sobriety.

Addiction Treatment for Substance Abuse

Both Percocet and alcohol are associated with risky, potentially fatal, withdrawal symptoms. The most severe symptoms include Delirium Tremens (DTs), depression, and seizures.

For this reason, most experts recommend taking part in a medically supervised detox to reduce the risk of overdose and other distressing symptoms of withdrawal.

Drug addiction is not a reflection of somebody's character. Often, individuals engage in drug use to manage feelings of symptoms of other mental health issues. Abusing prescription painkillers and alcohol can both alter the brain's structure and function, resulting in severe cravings and urges to use. This can make sobriety feel impossible. The good news is recovery is possible and you too can find a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life.

If you are ready to reach out and seek help for Percocet and alcohol abuse, help is available in many forms. You can discuss your options with your doctor, a local addiction counselor, or join a support group. There are many treatment options to choose from but the process will always start with detox. Choosing to do this in the safe environment of treatment facilities increases your chances of a full and sustained recovery.

After you have cleared the toxins from your body you may engage with a combination of behavioral therapies and medical treatment to keep you on the right track for a healthier life.

Medical Detox

If you are living with a substance use disorder, it's highly recommended you seek professional medical advice.

Getting through an addiction is a challenging process and research generally finds that medically supervised, inpatient programs are more successful. This is due to a number of factors including:

  • The removal of triggers
  • Round-the-clock care
  • Medical intervention
  • A safe environment
  • A supportive community

Rehabilitation centers also usually offer aftercare support. This gives stability to individuals coming out of treatment and ensures they have support during the challenging days ahead.

This could include individual and family therapy sessions, access to support groups, and life skills training. These offerings usually have a multi-focus, supporting individuals to get through their addiction while also helping them to create a life where they can stay sober.

Help is Available

Our mission at NP Addiction clinic is to provide you with the most comprehensive and compassionate care possible. We know that every addiction is unique and we reflect this in our tailored recovery treatment programs.

We are a top-tier inpatient addiction and mental health clinic serving clients in Port St. Lucie, Florida. We offer a wide range of evidence-based therapies and treatment modalities administered by leading specialists in holistic mental health, alcohol, and drug abuse.

We work on a client-focused basis, using a variety of treatment methods which include:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Education and life skills sessions
  • Alternative therapies including art, music, and recreation
  • Family therapy
  • Transition support
  • Alumni activities

If you are living with alcohol abuse or opioid addiction, you're not alone. Your future can be substance free.

Get in touch with a member of our team at (772) 281-5433. We will be happy to take your call and answer any questions you might have.


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