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Why Do People Misuse Percocet?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Jan 22, 2024 • 8 cited sources

People misuse Percocet for many reasons, such as these:[1] 

  • To experience euphoria 
  • To numb emotional or psychological distress 
  • To fight boredom
  • To enhance the effects of other substances 
  • To ease opioid withdrawal symptoms 

What Is Percocet?

Percocet is a prescription painkiller that relieves moderate to severe pain through the combination of oxycodone, a potent opioid pain reliever, and acetaminophen, a non-opioid analgesic.[1] 

In addition to pain management, the drug also triggers the pleasure pathway in the brain, creating a euphoric high, which many people begin to actively seek out.[2]

How & Why Is Percocet Misused?

Percocet is usually misused because of its opioid component, oxycodone, and the way it makes people feel. In addition to providing relief from pain, it can also cause people to achieve a high, or state of intoxication.[2] For some, this high is an escape from emotional and mental pain that they are not equipped to address in healthier ways.

People who misuse Percocet typically do so in a variety of ways, all of which are outside how the drug is intended to be taken. Common methods of Percocet misuse include the following:[3-5]

Crushing the Pills

By crushing extended-release pills, people can access multiple doses worth of oxycodone at one time, thus bypassing the time-release component.[3] Some people may crush Percocet tablets and snort the powder to experience the effects more quickly. 

Taking More Than Prescribed

By taking pills more often than recommended or taking multiple pills at once, people can experience a high as well as pain relief.

Mixing Percocet With Other Substances

Taking Percocet alongside other opioids, with alcohol, or in conjunction with other drugs (like stimulants or benzodiazepines) can exponentially increase its effect on the body. Combining substances also compounds the risk of overdose and other dangers.

Injecting the Drug

Just like people crush the pills and snort them, some people will crush the pills and dissolve the powder in water, so they can inject the solution. This method of misusing Percocet can result in almost instantaneous effects and an intense high, but it is extremely dangerous.

The Dangers of Percocet Misuse

Percocet misuse comes with the risk of serious and even fatal repercussions. The dangers associated with Percocet misuse include the following:[2,6-8]

Respiratory Issues

Percocet misuse can suppress the respiratory system, causing breathing difficulties. Using the drug in high doses or ways not intended by medical professionals significantly raises the risk of respiratory distress, which can be life-threatening.

Interactions & Side Effects

Misuse of Percocet increases the chances of experiencing adverse interactions with other medications or substances. It also increases the likelihood of experiencing side effects like drowsiness, confusion, constipation, nausea, and impaired cognitive function.

Development of OUD

Percocet is a highly addictive drug due to the high it creates in users. With repeated misuse, the development of an opioid use disorder (OUD) is likely. Once OUD is present, it is very difficult to stop misusing Percocet without addiction treatment that includes Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT).


Misuse of Percocet can lead to overdose, which can be fatal. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, extreme drowsiness, loss of consciousness, slowed heart rate and coma. Mixing Percocet with other substances, taking high doses and the presence of underlying physical or mental health conditions can all increase the likelihood of overdose.

Physical Health Risks

Long-term misuse of Percocet may result in liver and kidney damage, respiratory depression, blocked blood vessels in the brain or other organs, increased risk of stroke or heart attack and seizures.

Mental Health Issues

Extended use of Percocet can trigger mental health issues in the form of anxiety, depression, paranoia, cognitive impairment, confusion, hallucinations or suicidal thoughts.

Social Challenges

Percocet addiction can have severe repercussions for interpersonal relationships, self-esteem and confidence levels, as well as the ability to deal with life’s ups and downs. Legal problems may manifest if illegal actions are taken to get more Percocet, such as buying the drug on the street or forging prescriptions.

How to Stop Percocet Misuse

MAT is the evidence-based way to manage OUD related to Percocet misuse. Through medications like Suboxone, Percocet withdrawal symptoms and cravings are managed, so you can safely and successfully enter recovery.

Contact us here at Bicycle Health to learn more about our telehealth addiction services. After you meet with our addiction treatment specialists, we can often get you a same-day prescription for Suboxone and get you started on counseling right away. 

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. Prescription drug abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published October 2011. Accessed September 27, 2023.
  2. Opioid misuse and addiction. National Library of Medicine. Published April 2018. Accessed September 27, 2023.
  3. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published June 2021. Accessed September 27, 2023. 
  4. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published October 2021. Accessed September 27, 2023.
  5. Lankenau SE, Teti M, Silva K, Jackson Bloom J, Harocopos A, Treese M. Initiation into prescription opioid misuse amongst young injection drug users. Int J Drug Policy. 2012;23(1):37-44. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2011.05.014
  6. Dydyk AM, Jain NK, Gupta M. Opioid use disorder. StatPearls. Published January 2023 Jan. Accessed September 27, 2023.
  7. Kosten TR, George TP. The neurobiology of opioid dependence: implications for treatment. Sci Pract Perspect. 2002;1(1):13-20. doi:10.1151/spp021113
  8. Jalali, M.S., Botticelli, M., Hwang, R.C. et al. The opioid crisis: a contextual, social-ecological framework. Health Res Policy Sys 18, 87 (2020).

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