How Does Percocet Affect the Body?

Not all drug use leads to dependency or addiction. Many people stop using drugs on their own. The problem is that you really can’t tell in which category an individual fits until it’s too late.

Even occasional recreational users may run afoul of drug tests. The opioid crisis has led to routine drug tests, such as by employers or for traffic accidents. These tests aren’t always sophisticated enough to determine whether one is currently under the influence or if it was used in the recent past.

Even if the drug is legal–for example, Percocet–but the individual doesn’t have a legitimate prescription, the consequences may be the same. So, how long does Percocet stay in the system?

What Is Percocet?

Percocet is a blend of the opioid oxycodone and the non-opioid pain-reliever and fever-reducer acetaminophen. Oxycodone is the active ingredient in OxyContin, and acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol.

Acetaminophen is a less-potent drug than oxycodone, so Percocet is not as potent as a similar dose of pure oxycodone, but stronger than just the oxycodone part of Percocet. Unlike OxyContin, Percocet is not an extended-release formulation that is made to last 12 hours when taken as directed but deliver an instant intense high when crushed.

Percocet’s effects are usually felt within 30 minutes and may last for six hours, but the drug may be detectable in the body for much longer than that.

The analgesic medication Percocet is used for moderate to severe pain. Like many such medications containing opioids, there is also a risk of opioid use disorder (OUD).

After users admit that they have disorders they wish to address, detox is another early step in recovery from opioid use disorder involving Percocet. Detox is withdrawal, eliminating the drug from the body.

Many former users find that the world seems different when they’re clean and sober compared to when they’re intoxicated. Since the individual needs to get used to changes, it’s better to start with a clean slate.

While there are medication-assisted treatments (MATs) that can gradually ease one off of the drugs, giving people with Percocet dependency or addiction time to adjust, the most essential element of detox is time.

Positive benefits of Percocet — the pain relief or pure euphoria — wear off much more swiftly than the withdrawal pains. If an individual needs to test clean for a drug test, it takes longer still. But not all drugs work their way through the system at the same rate.

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How Does Percocet Affect the Body?

Possible side effects of Percocet or other oxycodone medications include:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain

Possible signs of an overdose of Percocet or other oxycodone medications include:

  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath
  • Fast heartbeat or chest pain
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Feeling faint or light-headed
  • Agitation
  • High body temperature
  • Trouble walking
  • Stiff muscles
  • Confusion or other mental changes.

When and Why Are Drug Tests Used?

Drug tests are conducted for several reasons:

  • As a condition of employment. Many employers don’t want to hire someone with a substance use disorder problem because it could impair their work or lead to workplace accidents. The tests may be repeated annually as part of a physical, after a workplace accident, or if there is a decline in the employee’s workplace performance or appearance.
  • An automobile accident or other ticketable offense. There are no roadside drug tests for opioids akin to the alcohol breathalyzer test that are acceptable as evidence in court. If drivers cannot pass the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, other types of drug tests may be ordered.
  • After drug rehab. Drug testing–one-time, regular, or random–may be required to confirm sobriety and fulfill return-to-work requirements or probation.

How long does it take to withdraw from Percocet? There are both physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. The physical symptoms usually abate within two weeks, but the psychological symptoms– anxiety, cravings–can last months.

How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your System?

Percocet usually leaves your body within one day, but that’s not a magic number that is the same for every individual or every Percocet use. Other factors that may make a difference include:

  • How large a dose of Percocet is taken.
  • How it is taken. Percocet is usually in pill form, intended to be taken orally, but it can also be crushed for insufflation (snorting), added to tobacco or vaporizer (e-cigarette) for smoking, or dissolved for injection.
  • If use is acute or chronic (short-term or long-term). Chronic use may be detected for a week.
  • Any other drugs or alcohol.
  • The individual’s size, age, and metabolism.

How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your Urine?

Another question to consider is, how is Percocet use being tested? Since there is no Percocet breathalyzer test, at least not one whose results are accepted as evidence in court, it depends on other tests of bodily fluids or proteins, all of which remain detectable for different times, all long after the effects of the drug have worn off:

  • Blood: Traces of Percocet can be found in the blood for up to two days.
  • Saliva, sweat, and urine: Up to four days.
  • Hair: Up to 90 days.

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When Percocet Use Becomes an Opioid Use Disorder

Health care professionals–who presumably should know of the risks and be better prepared than laypeople to avoid them–have admitted to becoming addicted after one legitimate prescription of Percocet.

That’s because, despite the pharmaceutical companies claiming that the new generation of opioids (including oxycodone) released in the 1990s were not addictive, they were. That’s one of the elements that led to the opioid crisis.

Treatments are available, but they aren’t always used in a way to exploit their full benefits. Abstinence is the goal, but it isn’t always doable in one go. That’s why there are:

  • Medication-assisted treatments–buprenorphine (Suboxone), methadone, and naltrexone (Vivitrol)–that prolong the withdrawal from Percocet but make it less painful.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of talk therapy to teach healthier ways of coping with the psychological triggers to addiction.
  • Mental health screening to determine if there is a mental health component to the addiction–co-occurring stress, anxiety, trauma, or depression–that may contribute to the addiction.
  • Group therapy and peer support groups to help maintain sobriety after the initial rehab treatment.

Percocet is a useful medication but it is potentially addictive and can be abused.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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