How long the opioid medication Percocet stays in your system depends on factors like individual health, how much Percocet someone uses, and how long they’ve been using it. Understanding this timeline is important in avoiding Percocet addiction and preventing a potentially deadly overdose.
Percocet is a prescription combination medication of oxycodone and acetaminophen, and the combination element helps this medication fight pain in multiple ways. When someone uses Percocet, oxycodone activates the opioid receptors in the brain, which alters the individual’s perception of pain. Percocet doesn’t stop the pain, but it prevents the person from feeling that pain.
Percocet also has acetaminophen (Tylenol) added. Tylenol serves two purposes: it adds extra painkilling qualities, and it also helps prevent misuse since high amounts of acetaminophen can cause liver damage.
Percocet contains the active ingredients oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller, and acetaminophen is a non-opioid and non-NSAID painkiller.
Someone using an opioid like oxycodone may experience pleasant side effects such as euphoria or a sense of well-being. Opioids can trigger the brain’s reward and reinforcement response, which may lead to compulsive use.
Acetaminophen has a unique mechanism and works through serotonergic pathways in the central nervous system (CNS) to lower levels of pain. Unlike oxycodone, acetaminophen is not habit-forming.
The main painkilling effect of Percocet comes from the oxycodone component, which is an opioid. Oxycodone works by attaching to opioid receptors in nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, or central nervous system.
Percocet starts working within about 10–30 minutes and the effects last 3–6 hours. Percocet is usually prescribed multiple times per day to be taken every 4–6 hours as needed for pain.
Percocet lasts for 3–6 hours. A doctor usually sets a maximum number of tablets per day to help limit the risk of abuse and addiction. Percocet works best for short-term pain because of the fast action of both ingredients — oxycodone and acetaminophen.
If you take Percocet for a long period, usually more than four weeks, your tolerance can increase. When someone becomes tolerant to Percocet, they need higher doses of the drug to achieve the same painkilling effect. In this case, the effects of Percocet will not last as long as they will for someone taking the drug for the first time.
The half-life of a medication is the time it takes for its concentration level in the blood to reduce by 50%. A drug’s half-life can provide an estimate of how long Percocet remains in the system. It takes roughly five half-lives for most substances to clear the body.
The half-life of immediate-release oxycodone is 3.5 hours on average, and the half-life of the acetaminophen in Percocet is 2–3 hours on average. Therefore, Percocet stays in the body for approximately 17.5 hours before being completely removed.
Drug screenings may identify recent Percocet use. Percocet usually leaves the system within 17.5 hours, but it can be detected in certain drug screenings longer than that, due to metabolites the drug leaves behind.
When someone takes Percocet, the oxycodone in their blood is metabolized in the liver and then excreted in the urine and feces. Because its metabolites are present for longer than oxycodone, drug tests can detect recent use even after oxycodone has been eliminated from the body.
Someone getting a drug test may wonder — how long does Percocet stay in your urine? Percocet can be detectable in urine for up to three days after the latest use. Some oxycodone still remains in the urine even after most is cleared from the body. Urine tests are designed to detect small amounts.
Percocet use may be detected in blood tests for up to 18 hours after use. This timeline is based on how long it takes most of the drug to be removed from the system, which is five half-lives.
Oxycodone can be detected in oral fluid for up to two days. Saliva tests are not common because they are harder to use and less accurate than urine testing.
Percocet and other drugs are detectable in hair tests for up to 90 days. The detection time is based on how quickly hair grows.
Oxycodone, the opioid component in Percocet, can stay present in breast milk for 2–3 days. Researchers estimate that approximately 8% of oxycodone transfers from the mother’s body into the milk. This may be enough to cause adverse reactions in infants. Talk with your doctor if you are planning to breastfeed while taking this drug.
Several factors can impact how long Percocet stays in the bloodstream:
Percocet contains oxycodone, which can lead to physical dependence. This dependence can lead to Percocet withdrawal symptoms when a person abruptly stops the drug after taking high enough doses for a long enough time. This can happen even if the drug is taken exactly as prescribed.
Percocet withdrawal symptoms start 8–24 hours after the last dose. Symptoms may last from 4–10 days for most people and can include:
If you’ve been taking high, frequent doses of Percocet and are looking to stop, consider professional medical detox to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. As you detox, the addictive substance is being metabolized from the body. Medical detox is done in a controlled setting with trained professionals, and is considered the safest and most comfortable way to detox.
Percocet abuse usually involves taking a prescription in any way other than prescribed (higher doses, more often, or crushing or injecting the substance) or taking it without a prescription. Percocet and other forms of oxycodone have a high risk for abuse and addiction.
Signs of oxycodone addiction may include:
If someone takes multiple Percocet doses per day or higher doses than prescribed, they are also at risk of overdose. Symptoms of a Percocet overdose usually stem from the oxycodone in the drug, but the acetaminophen may also contribute to overdose in some cases.
Symptoms of a Percocet overdose include:
If you or a loved one live with Percocet addiction, contact The Recovery Village Columbus. Our accredited facility has skilled, licensed addiction professionals who provide evidence-based, compassionate care. We offer inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient and aftercare services.
Once you decide to make the call, our representatives will be happy to help you learn more about Percocet addiction treatment programs that may fit your needs. Begin your healthier future today.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.