Smoking Percocet: What Are the Dangers?

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What Is Percocet?

Percocet is a brand of opioid painkiller. It’s commonly prescribed for pain management but is also easily abused.

Percocet is a combination of two separate medications:

  • Oxycodone: This is an opioid pain reliever, which works by affecting the way the brain perceives and responds to pain. It’s most commonly found in the drug Oxycontin.
  • Acetaminophen: This is an over-the-counter pain reliever (found in products like Tylenol) that helps to increase the pain-relieving effects of oxycodone.

As mentioned before, Percocet is part of the opioid class of medicines. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and others.

Opioids are highly addictive. The opioid crisis, particularly in the United States, has brought significant attention to the dangers of misuse and addiction associated with these substances.

Here are some facts regarding the opioid epidemic:

  • According to the Department of Justice, 107,622 people died from a drug overdose in 2021. Of that figure, 66% of the deaths were attributable to opioids.
  • Per numbers from the US Department of Health and Human Services, 1.6 million people suffer from an opioid use disorder.
  • Four out of five people who use heroin began by misusing prescription pain medications. Percocet, OxyContin, and Vicodin are a few commonly prescribed pain medications.

Like other opioids, Percocet carries such a high addiction potential. For this reason, the DEA classifies it as a Schedule II drug.

What Does Percocet Do?

Percocet is a prescription pain medication that is a combination of two active ingredients: oxycodone, which is an opioid (narcotic) pain reliever, and acetaminophen, which is a non-opioid pain reliever.

Oxycodone acts on the opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the transmission of pain signals. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is used to increase the pain-relieving effects of oxycodone.

Oxycodone also stimulates the release of dopamine, which can create a feeling of euphoria, leading to its potential for abuse.

Percocet can also have various effects on the body. The oxycodone within Percocet depresses the respiratory center in the brain, leading to slowed or shallow breathing. In high doses, this can be life-threatening. The drug can also impact the liver, since acetaminophen is metabolized there and can cause liver damage if taken in large quantities or over an extended period.

It can also affect the gastrointestinal system, causing constipation by slowing down the movement of the intestines and potentially leading to nausea and vomiting. Some who use it may also experience changes in the cardiovascular system, such as alterations in heart rate and blood pressure, though these effects tend to be less common.

Percocet Side Effects

Here are some of the side effects of Percocet:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mild itching

More serious side effects can include the following:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Liver problems such as jaundice

Finally, there’s the risk of addiction and dependence.

Percocet has a high potential for abuse and addiction, particularly if not used according to a doctor’s prescription. This can lead to physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and a compulsive need to continue using the drug.

Some people combine Percocet with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants to intensify their high. This is known as polysubstance abuse and, in the case of Percocet, can raise your risk of severe respiratory depression or even death.

The use of Percocet should always be under the supervision of a healthcare provider, and it should only be taken according to the prescribed dosage to minimize risks. Misuse or abuse can lead to serious health consequences, including addiction and death.

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How Do People Take Percocet?

The intended way to take Percocet is by swallowing the pill, as prescribed by a medical professional. However, there are other ways that people might use this drug, especially when misused or abused.

However, there are three popular ways of abusing Percocet:


Some individuals may choose to inject Percocet, which is an extremely risky and harmful method of administration. Injecting requires the pill to be crushed and mixed with a liquid to create a solution, which is then injected into the veins. This method is highly dangerous as it can lead to infections, vein damage, and other serious health issues.


Snorting Percocet involves crushing the pill into a fine powder and then inhaling it through the nose. This method can cause immediate and intense effects, but it also presents serious risks, including damage to the nasal passages and respiratory system.


Smoking Percocet is another unconventional and hazardous way to consume the drug. The pill is crushed into a powder and then smoked, usually by placing it on foil and heating it. Smoking Percocet can lead to lung damage and other respiratory problems.

The Dangers of Smoking Percocet

Smoking Percocet increases your risk of negative health outcomes as compared to other methods. For one, smoking Percocet leads to a much more rapid onset of euphoria, which makes it more addictive.

The damage to the respiratory system due to smoking Percocet is another issue. When Percocet tablets are smoked, the fillers and binders contained within the pills are inhaled into the lungs. These substances are not meant to be inhaled and can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or other serious respiratory issues.

Additionally, the risk of lung infections like pneumonia may increase with smoking Percocet. The inhalation of these foreign substances can cause persistent irritation and damage to the delicate tissues within the respiratory system, leading to long-term health problems that may be irreversible.

Can an Opioid Addiction Treatment Center Help?

For someone struggling with a Percocet addiction, checking into an opioid treatment center is the best course of action.

Working with an opioid addiction treatment center can offer significant advantages:

1. Medical Supervision & Detoxification

Opioid withdrawal can be painful and potentially dangerous. Treatment centers usually offer medically supervised detox programs that help manage withdrawal symptoms, making the detox process safer and more comfortable.

2. Personalized Treatment Plans

Everyone’s addiction experience is unique. Treatment centers work with individuals to develop personalized plans that may include therapy, counseling, medication, and other treatments tailored to the person’s specific needs and addiction severity.

3. Therapeutic Support

Opioid addiction often has deep psychological roots. Licensed therapists and counselors can provide one-on-one therapy and group counseling sessions to address underlying issues that may contribute to addiction, like trauma or mental health disorders.

4. Peer Support

Being around others who are dealing with similar struggles can provide encouragement and understanding that friends and family may not be able to offer. Group therapy and support groups create a sense of community, which can be vital for recovery.

5. Skill Development

Recovery doesn’t end with detox. Treatment centers often provide training in life and coping skills to help individuals navigate everyday life without relying on opioids. This can include stress management techniques, job training, and more.

6. Aftercare and Follow-Up

Addiction treatment centers typically offer ongoing support even after a person leaves the facility. This might include outpatient therapy, support group meetings, or regular check-ins with a counselor. Ongoing support helps to prevent relapse and ensures that the individual continues to make progress in recovery.

7. Family Support and Education

Addiction affects more than just the individual. Many treatment centers offer support and education for families, helping them understand addiction and how they can best support their loved one.

8. Legal and Ethical Standards

Professional addiction treatment centers are held to strict legal and ethical standards, ensuring that individuals receive care that is evidence-based and in line with best practices.

9. Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some individuals may benefit from medications like methadone or buprenorphine, which can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Access to these medications is often more readily available in a professional treatment setting.

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Percocet Addiction Treatment at South Coast Behavioral Health

The battle against opioid addiction is often a complex and arduous journey. Attempting to overcome addiction without professional help can be daunting and, in some cases, dangerous.

For those struggling with Percocet addiction, South Coast Behavioral Health offers compassionate and affordable addiction treatment.

The first step is going through a medical detox. Our medical detox program in California is staffed by caring and compassionate professionals who can provide you with medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms.

At South Coast, we take pride in offering care that is closely tailored to specific issues. To that end, we offer gender-specific detox programs, with medical detox for men in Irvine, CA, and medical detox for women in Huntington Beach, CA.

After detoxing, proper treatment can begin.

Treatment for substance abuse takes place along an entire spectrum of care. Along that entire spectrum are various behavioral therapies, support groups, and the use of medically-assisted treatment (MAT).

These levels of treatment are, in order, as follows:

Residential Treatment in California

After successfully completing medical detox, you’ll move to inpatient treatment in Orange County California. There, you’ll receive medically-assisted treatment and dual diagnosis treatment to deal with any cravings or co-occurring mental health issues you may be battling. We also offer residential treatment facilities in Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Huntington Beach for those who desire gender-specific treatment. There, patients get round-the-clock medical attention and monitoring while living at the institution full-time.

In addition to individual and group counseling and medication management, you’ll also have access to leisure activities and family support services.

Partial Hospitalization in California

Most clients start substance abuse treatment with South Coast in our residential treatment program. After completing that, many desire something that still provides structure and support, but with extra space and time to oneself. For that, we offer Partial Hospitalization in Newport Beach.

A step down from inpatient care but with more structure than conventional outpatient programs, partial hospitalization offers a good balance for those looking to ease back into normal life. Clients can receive care five to seven days a week for a number of hours each day, returning back to their homes in the evening.

This way, they can recover without putting their daily lives completely on hold, receiving intense therapeutic interventions like group and individual therapy, skill development, and medication management as necessary.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment in California

For those leaving inpatient residential treatment or partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are yet another gradual step forward on the road to recovery.

With a focus on group therapy, individual counseling, and education, clients undergoing Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Newport Beach can meet three to five days a week. Each session lasts three hours.

This level of care requires the least amount of attendance at a facility.

Get Started Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance addiction but wonder how long addiction counseling takes or have other questions, call us at 866-881-1184. Our highly qualified staff will be happy to help give you an idea of what to expect from your addiction recovery timeline, help verify your insurance, and assist with any other questions you may have.

Pierce Willans
Kelly McIntyre
Medically Reviewed by Kelly McIntyre, MS, LMFT
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