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Injecting Percocet (IV Use): Risks And Side Effects

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 29, 2019

Percocet is a highly addictive prescription opioid that is sometimes injected (IV use). Injecting Percocet is one of the riskiest methods of use, and can lead to addiction, overdose, and transmission of infectious diseases.

Percocet is one of the most commonly prescribed opioids. This medication is typically taken to relieve pain caused by surgery, dental work, or an injury. Percocet is a combination medication, which means it is made up of two different drugs: oxycodone and acetaminophen.

Percocet is usually taken orally. People who struggle with prescription opioid addiction may inject Percocet for intensified effects. This method of use can lead to health risks, such as overdose and HIV transmission.
Injecting Percocet can also lead to dangerous side effects, including extreme drowsiness and mood changes. Some people get a feeling of euphoria or being “high,” which is why Percocet has a high potential for abuse.

Can You Shoot (Inject) Percocet?

Yes. Tablets of Percocet can be crushed and dissolved in water, then injected into the bloodstream. When a person injects Percocet, the full dose of the drug hits the brain and body at once. This causes a rush of pleasure, warmth, and sedation.

If a person abuses Percocet for any length of time, their body may become physically dependent on the substance. Being dependent on Percocet means a person’s body needs the drug to feel normal. Injecting Percocet can lead a person to become dependent much faster.

People who abuse Percocet may need higher and higher doses of the drug to get the same effect. This is called a tolerance.

Developing a tolerance to this drug can lead a person to experiment with riskier methods of use, such as injection. Injecting Percocet causes a person to get the fastest, strongest high possible.

Side Effects Of Injecting Percocet

Even when Percocet is taken as prescribed, this medication can cause hazardous side effects. When a person abuses the drug, the potential side effects of Percocet may become stronger.

The opioid in Percocet is oxycodone, which is associated with a host of uncomfortable side effects. The other medication in Percocet is acetaminophen, which can be toxic to the liver at some levels.

Percocet can cause both physical and psychological side effects, including:

  • sleepiness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • sweating
  • itching
  • change in sex drive or ability
  • narrowed or widened pupils

What Are The Risks Of Injecting Percocet?

Injecting any drug is extremely risky. When a person uses Percocet intravenously, they expose their body to health risks like infection and skin abscesses. Even if a person uses sterilized injection equipment, they could still encounter some of these risks.

Infections

Using a needle to inject Percocet can lead to infections on the skin and in the bloodstream. When a person repeatedly uses the same area of skin to inject drugs, they may develop an abscess. This is a pus-filled sore that can occur when the skin becomes damaged and infected.

Vein Damage

Repeated trauma to a vein or series of veins can lead to ulcers and venous disease. Injecting a crushed tablet like Percocet can also irritate the veins and surrounding tissue.

People who inject in the legs are 9 times more likely to suffer from venous ulcers, compared to those who inject in the upper body only. However, injecting drugs in any part of the body can cause damage to veins.

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Bloodborne Illnesses

The most common diseases transmitted by IV drug use are HIV and hepatitis C. HIV can survive in a used needle for up to 42 days. If an HIV-negative person uses injection equipment that has been infected with HIV, their risk of HIV transmission is very high.

People who share needles or works (other injection equipment) are also at risk for hepatitis A, B, and C. The best way to avoid HIV or viral hepatitis transmission is to stop injecting drugs. If a person continues to struggle with IV drug use, they should inject in a sanitary environment and never share equipment.

Addiction

Percocet is highly addictive. This powerful drug contributes to the opioid abuse and addiction epidemic currently hitting the United States. When a person takes more Percocet than they are prescribed, buys the drug off the street, or changes the method of use, abuse has occurred. This can quickly lead to addiction.

Once a person is addicted to Percocet, they may move on to riskier drug use behaviors, including injection. People suffering from opioid addiction may also increase their dosage over time, which puts them at risk for overdose.

Can Injecting Percocet Cause An Overdose?

Yes. Every day, 46 Americans die from prescription opioid overdoses. Oxycodone is in the top three prescription medications involved in overdoses. Injecting Percocet is the riskiest behavior for overdose.
Someone suffering a Percocet overdose may display symptoms including:

  • difficulty breathing
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • seizure
  • bluish or gray skin
  • limp muscles
  • cold or clammy skin
  • coma

People who are using additional substances (especially alcohol or benzodiazepines) are at an increased risk for overdose. Opioid overdose is a medical emergency. If you see someone displaying signs of a Percocet overdose, call 911 immediately.

Percocet Abuse And Addiction

In the U.S. alone, opioids are responsible for thousands of deaths each year. In 2016, more than 11 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids. And one in four patients who use opioids to treat legitimate pain end up struggling with addiction.

Once a person is addicted, they may progress to riskier behaviors like injecting the drug. When a person injects an opioid like Percocet, their risk of overdose spikes.

It can be extremely difficult to stop using opioids. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be brutal, which keeps a person in the cycle of relapse and withdrawal. Fortunately, addiction is a treatable disease that can be addressed in medical detox programs and rehab centers.

Getting Treatment For Percocet Addiction

Opioid addiction does not have to rule your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid abuse or injecting Percocet, help is available at rehab centers across the country.

Many people who are battling Percocet addiction require the use of medically monitored detoxification. In a detox program, patients are provided support and medication to help them get off opioids and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is also a helpful tool for people who are addicted to Percocet. Medical staff may prescribe MAT such as Zubsolv or Suboxone, in order to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings. MAT also lowers the potential for misuse.

To learn more about the risks and side effects of injecting Percocet, or for more information about treatment options, reach out to one of our specialists today.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Prescription Opioids

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Prescription Opioid Data

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Injection Drug Use and HIV Risk

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus - Oxycodone

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Buprenorphine

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - Intravenous Oxycodone

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - Hydrocodone and Morphine in Recreational Opioid Users: Abuse Potential and Relative Potencies

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