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Is Percocet an Opiate?

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Percocet is a combination of a narcotic and acetaminophen that’s prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain. The narcotic portion of Percocet helps change the way the body perceives pain, while acetaminophen increases the drug’s effectiveness and reduces fever.

Percocet is considered an opioid because it’s a synthetic substance that works on opioid receptors in the brain. Understanding how opioids like Percocet work and how to use the drug responsibly can help you or a loved one safely manage your prescription pain medications.

Percocet Basics

Distressed man holding pillsPercocet, like other narcotics, is in a class of drugs called opioids. Opioids are any substance, synthetic or naturally occurring, that interact with opioid receptors, changing the body’s response to pain.1 Opioids also produce feelings of euphoria due to the release of dopamine from the brain’s reward center.

Opiates are related to opioids, but they’re made from naturally occurring substances in the poppy plant. Synthetic opioids like Percocet, on the other hand, are chemically derived substances that reproduce morphine-like effects.

Both opioids and opiates work on opioid receptors in the brain and are highly habit-forming. Using Percocet in ways other than prescribed by a physician can quickly lead to addiction.

Prescription Painkillers and Dependence

Percocet is one of many prescription opioids used to treat moderate to severe pain. Opioids are typically a first-option drug for pain after surgery or injury or to help manage chronic pain. Using Percocet as prescribed — beginning with the lowest dosage recommended and taking it for the shortest period of time possible — can reduce the risk of addiction while helping you stay ahead of pain that might otherwise get out of control.

Talk to your doctor about when to introduce over-the-counter pain relievers in place of Percocet as your pain eases and when you can expect to stop needing them altogether. Having a time frame with a definite end date in mind can help you pinpoint pain that’s lasting longer than it should. Prolonged pain after any surgery or procedure may be your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong.

The following signs may indicate a developing dependence on Percocet:

  • Needing more of the drug before the next dose is due
  • Becoming preoccupied with getting and using Percocet and needing a supply of the drug on hand at all times
  • Doctor shopping for new prescriptions for Percocet
  • Needing more Percocet to achieve the same level of experience
  • Stealing money from family members or friends to pay for more of the drug
  • Engaging in risky activities, like driving, while under the influence of Percocet
  • Changes in mood, personality and personal hygiene
  • The appearance of withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug2

If you or a loved one uses Percocet for pain and has even one of these symptoms, it’s time to get help.

Percocet Safety

For many young people, their first experience with opioids came from a friend or family member’s medicine cabinet. The current opioid crisis in the United States is partly fueled by this type of easy access to narcotic pain relievers.

Opioids can be an important and necessary part of pain management for many people, but being responsible with your medication is crucial to preventing the tragedy of addiction. The following suggestions can help keep your loved ones safe:

  • All opioids should be stored in their original containers in a locked cabinet well out of reach of small children.
  • Keys to the cabinet should be kept on your person at all times.
  • Take note of how much medication you have and how much is left in the bottle each time you use it.
  • Dispose of any unused narcotic pain relievers at your community take-back day.
  • If you don’t have a community take-back day, narcotic prescriptions often come with instructions on how to safely flush unused medications down the toilet to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands. You can also call your pharmacist for instructions on safely discarding unused opioids.3

Finding Help for Percocet Addiction

If you or a loved one uses Percocet to manage pain and thinks an addiction may be developing, we’re here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak with an admissions coordinator about the best treatment options for your situation. You are not alone. Call us at 760.548.4032 now.


1Opioids.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Accessed February 12, 2018.

2Drug Abuse and Addiction.”, Accessed February 12, 2018.

3Safe Use, Storage, and Disposal of Opioid Drugs.”, March 16, 2017.

By Patti Richards