Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
February 11, 2019

How Long Does a Percocet High Last?


Pain, be it physical, mental, or emotional is a regular character on the stage of life. As we get older, its presence evolves into an increasingly familiar companion. Because grief, hurt, and heartbreak is part and parcel of human life, it is important that we learn how to handle such pain in a healthy manner. Sadly, many never learn these tools and are simply told to take a pill in order to feel better. While pain pills do have a time and a place, especially with serious injuries, they are also an inherent danger for abuse and addiction.

With a plethora of prescription painkillers currently on the market, it is critical for you to know what it is your doctor is giving you to put into your body. This means understanding its effects, side-effects, strength, and potential for abuse and addiction. While it is natural to innately trust your doctor and assume that they would never intentionally harm you, it is also foolish to follow anyone, even the highly educated, blindly. You should be aware that most of the opiate medications administered by physicians can be extremely addictive and harmful if abused; leading to the possibility of needing inpatient drug treatment in order to rise above the addition.

In the last two decades, Percocet has become one of the most commonly abused painkillers on the market, much in part thanks to its powerful high. Below, we will discuss the properties that make Percocet a particularly insidious pain killer with high potential for abuse and addiction. Further, we will break down how it interacts with the brain and answer the question: How long does a percocet high last?

What is Percocet?

Percocet is a semisynthetic opiate agonist/anilide analgesic first synthesized in 1917. This drug is a combination of oxycodone and paracetamol and is prescribed to people suffering from moderate to severe acute pain. It is fast acting, with the effects setting in as quickly as fifteen minutes after administration. Its effects can last anywhere from six to twelve hours.

Someone who abuses Percocet may take it in unsafe methods such as snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug. If someone takes the drug outside of the instructions of the prescription, they can feel an oxy-high that last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the dose and way it is administered.

It is sold under the brand names:

  • Depalgos
  • Endocet
  • Percocet
  • Ratio-Oxycocet
  • Roxicet
  • Tylox

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is a semisynthetic opiate analgesic that is sold under the brand name of OxyContin. It is an opiate-alkaloid synthesized from the poppy and is intended for those with moderate to severe chronic pain. It is most commonly administered orally and comes in immediate or controlled release. The onset of effects typically kicks in at around 15 minutes and will begin waning at 6 hours.

What is Paracetamol?

Also known as acetaminophen (APAP), is sold under the well-known brand name of Tylenol. By itself, APAP is an analgesic used to reduce fever and treat mild to moderate pain. When combined with other drugs such as stronger pain medicine or cough medicine, its properties enhance the potency or complement the effects of the drug it is being melded to.

Benefits of Combining Oxycodone with Paracetamol

Oxycodone and paracetamol both contain properties that synergize well with one another and make them quite useful for treating short-term moderate to severe pain. These benefits include:

  • Lower individual drug doses required
  • Efficacy and safety at the fixed-dose combination when taken as prescribed
  • Immediate interaction makes it quick acting and ideal for treating sudden strong pain.

For these reasons, Percocet is ideal for treating the following conditions:

  • Chronic musculoskeletal pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Cancer-related pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Chronic pain in elderly
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • People in severe pain but are allergic to Vicodin

How Does the Percocet High Occur?

Similar to other opiates, whether synthetic or natural, Percocet functions by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors which can be found in:

  • The spinal cord
  • Central nervous system
  • Peripheral nervous system
  • Gastrointestinal tract

When bound to these receptors, Percocet activates them, creating immediate analgesic effects.

The reaction between the opioid receptors in the CNS, PNS, Gastrointestinal tract, and spine creates the following effects.

  • Euphoric high (especially if taken in larger doses or outside of the parameters) thanks to the rush of dopamine released into the reward center of the brain
  • Pain relief
  • Heavy relaxation
  • Anti-anxiety

Such effects are obviously quite pleasant, which is why Percocet is considered to have such a high potential for abuse, even when taken as instructed. Most users will experience the climax of the Percocet high and rush during the initial come up, sometime between 30-60 minutes after taking the drug.

Thanks to the strong sense of well-being and euphoria Percocet produces, many people may not have the willpower or mental fortitude to simply use the drug to treat pain. Instead, they may use it to feel that rush, that high. When people abuse the drug for recreational purposes, they will push past the boundaries of safety in order to feel the effects quicker and more powerfully.

Side Effects of Percocet

There are a variety of side effects that may be felt alongside the euphoric Percocet high. These side effects can be felt anywhere from 6-12 hours after taking the drug.

Common side effects:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Itchiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed breathing
  • Sweating
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting

Serious side effects:

  • Apnea
  • Arrhythmia
  • Circulatory depression
  • Death
  • Hypotension
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizure
  • Shock

Check with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • A flushed face
  • Agitation
  • Allergic reactions
  • Blurred vision
  • Decreased urine
  • Dizziness
  • Liver issues
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental Confusion
  • Muscle twinges
  • Nervousness
  • Night terrors
  • Pain in lower back/side
  • Painful urination
  • Trouble sleeping

Cease taking the medication all together and find medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Breathing problems
  • Convulsions
  • Symptoms of overdose

The Half-Life of Percocet

Typically, Percocet’s half-life will average about 3.5 hours, though it can be either less or more. There are a variety of factors that can alter the particulars of how strongly the Percocet affects you, how long it lasts, and how long it stays in your system. Factors include:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Body fat percentage
  • Genetic components
  • Liver function
  • Kidney function
  • Metabolic rate
  • Genetic history
  • Gender
  • Past drug history
  • Size of dose
  • Frequency of dose
  • Duration of habit
  • Damage to liver
  • Damage to kidney
  • Damage to metabolism
  • Damage to the gastrointestinal tract

Addiction to the Percocet High

As mentioned, such effects will likely be felt more quickly and more strongly due to the size of the dose and method of administration. The triggering of large amounts of dopamine in the brain’s pleasure center conditions the brain and convinces it that it should seek out more of the substance in order to keep feeling that euphoria. When confronted by such a rush, the brain’s natural opiate release seems weak in comparison. As a result, natural opiate production, meant to reward a person for eating, drinking, sex, or exercise, is severely hampered as the foreign opiates rewire the brain.

A person who abuses Percocet can rapidly build a tolerance to its properties. Because of this, the effects will seem weaker than when first consumed. Due to this growing tolerance, a user will require more frequent or larger doses of the Percocet in order to obtain the same high. In practically no time at all, a Percocet user can find themselves mentally addicted to the rush and physically dependent on the drug to function normally. For such people, once Percocet is out of their systems, they will begin feeling cravings and withdrawal symptoms within hours.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Aches
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Depressed breathing
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

Overdose Chasing the Percocet High

Because Percocet is intended to be taken for severe pain in single doses and spaced out by hours, there is a chance a person could overdose every time they take it recreationally. That’s why it is so important for someone addicted to go through a Percocet detox before their issue escalates to this point. This is especially true for people who do the following:

  • Snort, inject, or smoke it
  • Take too much
  • Buy a pill on the black market and find out it was cut with something else or was, in fact, fentanyl
  • Combine Percocet with other drugs and/or alcohol

When an overdose happens, a series of processes occur in the body, beginning with the rush.

Percocet Rush

A Percocet overdose typically begins with the powerful euphoric high, which is what makes the drug so enticing. After taking the pill, this rush can be felt within minutes as the opiate analgesic activates opioid receptors and floods the brain with dopamine. In the case of an overdose, this rush may be larger than the brain is capable of handling. The surge of dopamine causes the brain to malfunction, leading to signaling and messaging being severely affected. Such dysfunction causes various motor functions within the body to slow or completely stop working.

Slackening of Breath

Opiates actively modify and impede the forebrain which is in charge of controlling:

  • Language center
  • Motor function
  • Nerve impulse
  • Perception
  • Receiving sensory information
  • Processing sensory information
  • Thought

A large Percocet dose will disrupt the body’s respiratory system, which would normally regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream by breathing. When under the influence, this monitoring system grows less effective, if not completely stops working. As a result, a person stops breathing, and, if asleep, does not wake up before it is too late.

Heartbeat Slows

Your heart rate can be dramatically affected by how often and how deeply you breathe. When Percocet artificially slows breathing, oxygen levels drop, and the heartbeat slows in response. Since the heart slows to crawl, an insufficient supply of blood is sent to other parts of the body, causing dysfunction in various places. In addition, a Percocet overdose could lead to cardiac arrest. 

Body Stops Working

The rest of the body is hugely reliant upon the heart and lungs to function properly. The lack of oxygen in the nervous system causes it to shut down, and the brain begins to suffer from oxygen deprivation. In as little as four minutes, this lack of oxygen in the brain can cause serious and even fatal brain damage. 

Pulmonary Edema

Fluids fill the airspace of the lungs, leading to foam that seeps out of the user’s mouth. The dysfunction in the body makes a person’s gag response stop working. So, the person may asphyxiate on this foam if they fall asleep on their back or if no one manually clears it out for them.

Fatal Consequences

If an overdose occurs without immediate medical intervention, long-term damage to the brain or even death may result. Oxygen deprivation from Percocet overdose has left many people mute or unable to move their legs because of the damage done to the brain. Unfortunately, Percocet overdose has left far too many people unable to wake up altogether.

Getting Help

Because there are serious dangers underlying even prescribed Percocet use, it is critical that you treat this drug with the utmost respect and enroll in a long-term residential treatment program. While the vast majority of people who wind up addicted to Percocet do so unintentionally, intentions do not matter when it comes to addiction. Percocet abuse and recreational use can have long-lasting consequences, including broken relationships, crushed dreams, and a failing body.

Strength of will most often cannot overcome the alluring promise of the Percocet high. So, if you see the signs of addiction in your life, do not wait for the problem to grow worse; rather, act immediately. Reach out to loved ones and medical professionals in order to chart a course of action with their aid. Because withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant and dangerous for some, it would be advisable to do a drug detox at an inpatient drug rehab center such as Beach House Recovery.