Oxycodone and Percocet are often confused for the same medication. This is understandable as both are opioid pain medications and both have been in the news a lot due to the opioid epidemic.

Percocet is a brand name for a drug that contains a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen — another pain medication more commonly known by its brand name, Tylenol.

Any drug that contains oxycodone, including Percocet, has a potential for abuse. Both oxycodone and Percocet are considered highly addictive. The key differences between them are:

  • Oxycodone is a derivative of opium and sold under different brand names, including OxyContin.
  • Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen.
  • Oxycodone and Percocet are both classified as narcotic analgesics.

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opiate that is made by modifying thebaine, an organic compound in opium.

Oxycodone is available in different forms. This includes:

  • immediate-release tablets and capsules (Oxaydo, Roxicodone, Roxybond), which are released into the bloodstream right away
  • extended-release tablets and capsules (OxyContin), which are released into the bloodstream gradually
  • oral solution, which is used for managing pain in people who cannot swallow tablets, and is often administered via a gastric tube

Oxycodone acts on your central nervous system (CNS) to block the feeling of pain. Percocet does this as well, but offers a second mode of pain relief from the acetaminophen, which is a non-opiate analgesic that also relieves fever.

Oxycodone is used to treat moderate to severe pain. The extended-release form provides relief of ongoing pain, such as pain associated with cancer.

Percocet is also used to treat moderate to severe pain, but can also be prescribed for conditions associated with fever. It can also be used to treat breakthrough pain when a long-acting pain drug doesn’t provide enough relief.

Percocet is not recommended for long-term use because acetaminophen has been found to cause serious liver damage.

Dosing depends on your need and age, the form of the drug, and whether the drug is immediate-release or extended-release. Both should be taken only as directed by a medical professional.

Both of these medications have been shown to be effective in providing pain relief. There is some evidence that oxycodone in combination with other analgesics, including acetaminophen, may provide more pain relief and fewer side effects.

Oxycodone immediate-release and Percocet begin working within 15 to 30 minutes of taking them, reach their peak effect within 1 hour, and last for 3 to 6 hours.

Oxycodone extended-release tablets are longer-acting. They start to relieve pain within 2 to 4 hours of taking them, and steadily release the oxycodone for about 12 hours.

Both medications can stop providing effective pain relief when taken long-term. This is called tolerance.

When you begin to develop a tolerance to a drug, you need higher doses to get pain relief. This is normal with long-term opiate use.

How quickly a person develops a tolerance varies. Your body will begin to adapt to the medication in as little as one week of taking regular doses.

The most common side effects of both oxycodone and Percocet are similar. These include:

Oxycodone is more likely to cause dizziness and feelings of euphoria.

Serious, but less common side effects include:

Percocet contains acetaminophen, which can affect the liver and cause side effects such as upper abdominal pain, black or tarry stools, and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

In low doses, acetaminophen can cause elevated liver enzymes. Taking too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage or liver failure. The risk of liver damage is higher if you already have liver problems, take warfarin, or drink more than three alcoholic beverages per day.

Both oxycodone and Percocet are considered highly addictive and can cause dependence and addiction. Tolerance can lead to physical dependence and physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped.

Physical dependence is not the same as addiction, but usually accompanies addiction.

Warning

Oxycodone and Percocet are classified as schedule II drugs. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for misuse. Both can cause physical dependence and opioid addiction.

Physical dependence

Physical dependence occurs when your body develops a tolerance to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect.

When your body becomes dependent on the drug, you can experience mental and physical symptoms if you stop taking the drug abruptly. These are called withdrawal symptoms.

Physical dependence can occur even when you take oxycodone or Percocet as directed. Becoming physically dependent on a drug is not the same as having an addiction, but physical dependence often accompanies addiction.

You can prevent withdrawal if you lower your dose slowly, typically over a week so. Your doctor can advise you on the best way to do this.

Addiction

Opioid addiction refers to being unable to stop using an opioid drug despite its harmful consequences and impact on your daily life. Tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal are commonly associated with addiction.

Signs and symptoms of opioid addiction include:

The risk of an opioid overdose is greater in a person who is abusing the drug.

Medical emergency

An overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately if you or someone else has taken too much oxycodone or Percocet, or if someone experiences any of the symptoms of an overdose, including:

Oxycodone and Percocet are known to cause interactions with other drugs. Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking before you take oxycodone or Percocet.

The following are clinically significant drug interactions with oxycodone. This is not an all-inclusive list — other drugs not listed here may cause an interaction. Significant drug interactions include:

Drug interactions with the acetaminophen in Percocet include:

Oxycodone and Percocet are powerful medications that shouldn’t be taken without consulting a doctor. Certain medical conditions can affect the use of these medications. Be sure to tell a doctor if you have any other medical conditions, including:

The cost of oxycodone and Percocet varies depending on the strength and form.

The price also varies greatly depending on whether you buy a brand-name drug, such as OxyContin or Percocet, or the generic version of the drug. Generic versions are cheaper.

These prescription medications are usually covered, at least in part, by insurance.

Oxycodone and Percocet are both very powerful prescription opioid pain medications with a high misuse potential, but they’re not exactly the same.

Oxycodone is one of the active ingredients in Percocet, which also contains acetaminophen. Speak to a doctor about which one is right for your condition.