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Oxycodone vs. Percocet: Unraveling the Painkiller Mystery

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Nov 28, 2023 • 8 cited sources

Oxycodone and Percocet are opioid painkillers. Both contain oxycodone, but only Percocet has acetaminophen. This non-narcotic painkiller can ease swelling and increase the efficacy of the opioid inside Percocet. 

This table can help you understand both drugs at a glance:[1,2] 

What is it? Opioid painkiller Opioid painkiller 
Common side effects Constipation, nausea, sleepiness, dizziness, vomiting, itchiness, headache, dry mouth, weakness and sweatingConstipation, nausea, sleepiness, vomiting, tiredness, headache, dizziness and abdominal pain 
Withdrawal symptomsRestlessness, watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, sweating, chills and GI distressRestlessness, watery eyes, runny nose, yawning, chills and GI distress 
WarningsRespiratory depression, low blood pressure, severe sedation and misuse Respiratory depression, liver failure, severe sedation and misuse 
BenefitsSome types come with time-release formulations for extended pain relief The opioid painkiller is combined with an anti-inflammatory element
Drawbacks Misuse potentialMisuse potential, with severe liver risks at high doses 

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller that’s been popular among people who misuse drugs for many years.[3] Early formulations of pure oxycodone were crushable, so people could snort their pills or mix the powder with fluids and inject them. Some people who used the drug orally for pain transitioned to misusing the drug in time. 

Common street names for oxycodone products include hillbilly heroin, OC and oxy.[3] Several brand-name products containing oxycodone exist, including OxyContin and Percodan. Some users just talk about these drugs by their brand names. 

Every product has a different oxycodone strength. For example, OxyContin comes in extended-release tablets with 10 mg to 80 mg of oxycodone.[3] 

No matter what oxycodone product a person takes, they can develop a physical dependence. If you quit abruptly, opioid withdrawal symptoms like the following can develop:[1]

  • Restlessness
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Gastrointestinal distress

What Is Percocet?

Percocet is a prescription medication that includes two ingredients: oxycodone and acetaminophen.[2] Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller, and acetaminophen is an anti-inflammatory. 

Percocet comes in strengths of 2.5 mg to 10 mg of oxycodone, and all of those doses contain 325 mg of acetaminophen. Generic versions with similar strengths exist. The two work together to ease pain sensations and reduce swelling for long-term pain control.[2]

The oxycodone inside Percocet is a target for addiction, but the acetaminophen in the medication increases the dangers.[4] High doses of acetaminophen are dangerous for critical organs and can lead to severe illness that’s very hard to treat.[5-7] 

Percocet can be very addictive. People who misuse Percocet for the long term can develop withdrawal symptoms when they quit abruptly. Those symptoms include the following:[2]

  • Restlessness 
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Sweating
  • Chills 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety 
  • Backache
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 

What’s the Difference Between the Two Prescription Opioids?

While both oxycodone and Percocet contain oxycodone, several differences exist. Understanding what they are can help you determine which version is right for you. These are the areas in which they differ:


Percocet comes with either 2.5 mg or 10 mg of oxycodone.[2] Oxycodone comes in all sorts of strengths, ranging up to 80 mg of oxycodone.[3] The potency between these two medications depends on the version of the pills you choose. 

Onset of Action 

Few differences between onset occur between oxycodone and Percocet. They both contain the same main active ingredient, so they’re very similar in onset. 

Duration of Effect

Oxycodone has a half-life lasting between three and four hours.[1] A half-life is a representation of drug processing. This half-life suggests oxycodone persists within the body for about 12 hours before you won’t notice it anymore. That half-life doesn’t change between the two medications. 

Percocet contains acetaminophen, which has a much shorter half-life of up to three hours.[2] This means you’ll feel it for about the same amount of time that you’ll feel the oxycodone in Percocet. 


Both Percocet and oxycodone are oral medications. You take them as a pill with a little water or another fluid. They’re not meant for any other kind of administration. 

Side Effects 

Like all opioids, oxycodone comes with several side effects. They tend to get stronger with larger doses. 

Oxycodone side effects include the following:[1]

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness 
  • Sweating 

Since Percocet has oxycodone, it can spark the same side effects. And the acetaminophen in the drug can also cause abdominal pain.[2]

Medical Use 

Percocet and oxycodone are designed for pain control. People with moderate pain can use these medications to ease their discomfort. However, they’re both made for short-term use, so people should not use them for long periods. 

Is Oxycodone Stronger Than Percocet?

Some formulations of oxycodone are stronger than Percocet. The opposite is sometimes true. 

If you take a very strong version of oxycodone that contains 80 mg of active ingredients, it will be much stronger than Percocet with a fourth of the amount of oxycodone. 

But if the two pills you’re choosing between have the same amount of oxycodone, the Percocet will be stronger due to the added element of acetaminophen. 

What Is the Potential of Opioid Abuse?

Oxycodone has been a popular drug of misuse for a very good reason. The drug increases dopamine release deep within the brain, causing feelings of euphoria and sedation. For some people, those sensations are intensely pleasurable and hard to ignore. 

Both oxycodone and Percocet are addictive. Both come with packaging that states the abuse risk clearly. No one should take these drugs for a long period, but some people who do find it impossible to quit without help. 

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) involves using therapies like Suboxone to relieve chemical imbalances caused by drugs. These medications can also reduce drug cravings, so relapse is less likely.[8] 

At Bicycle Health, we offer telemedicine MAT. You’ll meet with a professional in a video appointment, and you can pick up your prescription at a local pharmacy. You can often get a same-day prescription for Suboxone, allowing you to begin your recovery journey immediately. 

This type of therapy is both effective and convenient. It also allows for a discrete pathway to management of your opioid use disorder. Contact us to take the first step today.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Oxycontin prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published August 2015. Accessed November 6, 2023. 
  2. Percocet prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published July 2018. Accessed November 6, 2023. 
  3. Oxycodone. U.S. Department of Justice. Published April 2020. Accessed November 6, 2023. 
  4. Yoon E, Babar A, Choudhary M, Kutner M, Pyrsopoulos N. Acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity: A comprehensive update. Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology. 2016;4(2). 
  5. Unraveling the mysteries behind America’s No. 1 cause of acute liver failure. Published March 28, 2017. Accessed November 6, 2023. 
  6. Haider MA, Gheit YS, Nagi T, et al. Severe acetaminophen toxicity from the use of oxycodone-acetaminophen with normal liver function tests and a completely asymptomatic course of hospitalization. ACG Case Reports Journal. 2023;10(8):e01126. 
  7. FDA mandate to limit acetaminophen in acetaminophen-opioid medications is associated with reduced serious liver injury. The University of Alabama at Birmingham. 
  8. Wakeman SE, Larochelle MR, Ameli O, et al. Comparative effectiveness of different treatment pathways for opioid use disorder. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(2):e1920622-e1920622.  

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