Oxycodone and Percocet are two of the most common prescription opioid painkillers on the market. While they are not necessarily synonymous, they are closely related.
Oxycodone is a generic name for an opioid drug that appears under various brand names (e.g. OxyContin). Percocet is a brand name for a drug made up of a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is most often recognized by the brand name Tylenol.
Both drugs have legal and medical application as pain relievers. However, easy access and cheap (illegal) production combined with their high addictive potential make both Percocet and oxycodone a common culprit in substance abuse cases.
Oxycodone and Percocet – or “percs,” as the pills are sometimes called – overlap in some areas, but the chemical make-up and symptoms of each make their applications slightly different.
Chemical Overview of Oxycodone vs Percocet
Both Percocet and oxycodone bind to opioid receptors in the brain. This attachment affects the central nervous system (CNS), essentially blocking pain.
You may have heard the terms “opiate” and “opioid” used interchangeably. The distinction isn’t always important, but it’s worth noting that “opiates” refer to natural opioids such as heroin, morphine and codeine, while “opioids” refer to all natural, semisynthetic, and synthetic opioids.
Chemistry In the Brain
The end result of almost any opioid is the same: pain suppression.
One specific kind of receptor in the brain, when activated, produces the effects that opioids are known for: the mu opioid peptide receptor (MOP), in its natural state, functions to manage the body’s response to pain.
Opioids cause the MOP receptors to activate artificially in order to achieve the pain-numbing effect that opioids are prescribed for.
Half Life of Oxycodone vs Percocet
The half life of an opioid refers to the amount of time it takes for an average patient’s body to eliminate half of a dose. If the dose size is 20mg and the half life of the opioid is 5 hours, then there will be around 10mg of the substance in the patient’s system after 5 hours.
The half life of opioids varies largely from one drug to the next. Length of time for an opioid half-life can be anywhere from 40 minutes to two and a half days.
Oxycodone can take effect as quickly as one hour after dosage, and reduces by half in about 4 hours. During this time, it binds to MOP receptors and numbs the sensation of pain by reducing communication between cells.
Whether a pain relieving drug is “short-acting” vs “long-acting” and how it is administered are two of the main factors that determine how long opioids remain in a person’s system.
In addition to pain relief, users often describe experiencing a sense of “euphoria” as a side effect of taking opioids.
This “numbing” or “carefree” feeling often motivates individuals to take oxycodone long after the pain that warranted the prescription is gone.
Compared to other euphoria-producing substances, oxycodone and Percocet are both less expensive and relatively easy to obtain. Since the body can build a tolerance to opioids quickly, people also may want to continue taking them to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
If a person is experiencing withdrawals, this is a sign that the body has begun to form chemical dependence upon opioids. Dependence forms even more quickly in individuals who abuse opioids, increasing the severity of withdrawals, and the likelihood they will slip into a full-blown addiction.
Oxycodone vs Percocet Applications
Doctors prescribe oxycodone most frequently in cases of ongoing moderate-to-severe pain, such as pain associated with cancer.
Percocet can also address this type of pain, but has the added benefit of treating conditions associated with fever. It can also be used to treat intense, flaring pain from a chronic condition when a long-acting pain drug doesn’t provide enough relief.
Oxycodone vs Percocet Side Effects
Dizziness and feelings of euphoria are more closely associated with oxycodone than with Percocet. Both drugs, however, share most of their side effects in common, such as:
- feeling relaxed and calm
- unusual drowsiness or sleepiness
- loss of appetite
- motor skill impairment
Serious, but less common side effects include:
- painful urination
- vomiting blood
- skin rash
Because of the presence of acetaminophen, Percocet can cause side effects such as upper abdominal pain, black or tarry stools, and yellowing of the skin and eyes. Additionally, long-term use of Percocet is not recommended both due to the possibility of opioid addiction as well as liver damage from the acetaminophen.
Breaking Oxycodone and Percocet Addiction
Unfortunately, even prescriptions like oxycodone and Percocet come with a risk of abuse. If you find you require the use of opioids to treat pain, it is important to communicate with your doctor about how to properly take it to avoid addiction.
If you find you or a loved one already exhibits signs of a chemical dependency, there is still hope. Addiction doesn’t have to take over their life. Contact us today to find out how we can help you re-learn to live life free from substance abuse.