How Long Does Percocet Stay in Your System?

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Percocet is a pain reliever that's prescribed for people with moderate to severe pain. It contains the narcotic oxycodone, an opiate analgesic medication, and acetaminophen (Tylenol), a non-narcotic pain reliever and fever reducer. The extended-release version of Percocet is prescribed for people who need pain relief around the clock for an extended period. Knowing how long Percocet remains in your system can help prevent an accidental overdose from taking your next dose of medication too soon or by interactions with other medications you're taking.

Risks

The risks of drug interactions and overdoses from Percocet come both from the oxycodone opiate and acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen

An overdose of acetaminophen can result in irreversible liver damage and death. Because acetaminophen is used in a large number of combination medications, an overdose can happen when you don't realize that you're taking it in more than one medication.

Liver injury is also possible when your dosage of acetaminophen exceeds 4000 milligrams per day. Be sure to check that you aren't taking acetaminophen in any other over-the-counter medications or prescriptions. Combination drugs like Percocet are now limited to no more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per tablet, capsule, or dosage unit to help prevent these dangerous overdoses.

Oxycodone

The oxycodone in Percocet can produce serious or life-threatening breathing problems, especially during the first 24 to 72 hours after you've first started the prescription or when you're increasing the dosage. Be sure to tell your doctor if you've ever had any breathing problems like chronic bronchitis or asthma.

When oxycodone is combined with alcohol, other opioids, benzodiazepines, or other central nervous system depressants like cold or allergy medicine, this can result in profound sedation, breathing suppression, coma, and even death. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how other medications you may be taking could interact with Percocet.

Oxycodone can also interact with certain antibiotics and antifungal agents known as CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 inhibitors, creating a dangerous increase in the level of oxycodone when they're taken with Percocet or discontinued while using Percocet. Let your doctor know about all the over-the-counter and prescription medications, herbs, and supplements you're taking so they can be monitored and adjusted.

Because oxycodone is an opioid, or narcotic, it may cause physical and/or mental dependence when it's used for long periods of time. If you take Percocet and you get to the point where it feels like it's no longer controlling your pain, don't increase your dose on your own—call your doctor and discuss the problem.

The Role of Half-Life

The half-life of a drug is how long it takes, on average, for half of the initial dose to leave your system. It takes several half-lives to completely eliminate the drug from your system. Understanding the half-life of Percocet can help you avoid overdose.

Percocet has a half-life in your blood of 3.5 hours, but that varies depending on whether you have poor liver function and whether or not you've overdosed. This means that it will take an average of 19 hours to eliminate all Percocet from your system. In urine tests, traces of Percocet can generally be detected for 48 hours, starting 2 hours after that initial dose.

The average half-life of immediate-release oxycodone is about 3.2 hours in your bloodstream. It's metabolized in your body into noroxymorphone and oxymorphone and passes out of your body through your urine. When you're taking extended-release products, more drug is being released over a longer period and so it continues to be absorbed at different times. The half-life of extended-release oxycodone is about 4.5 hours.

How Long Percocet Remains in Your System

Drugs stay in people's systems for different amounts of time due to factors such as metabolism, hydration, age, other medications you're on, how long you've been taking the drug, kidney and liver function, weight, dose, how often you take it, and amount of body fat.

For the majority of people, Percocet is out of your bloodstream within 24 hours, but it's traceable in your saliva, urine, and hair for longer. Here's how long Percocet can normally be detected after it has been taken:

  • Blood: 24 hours
  • Urine: 3 to 4 days
  • Saliva: 1 to 4 days
  • Hair: Up to 90 days

If you take a urine drug screen for employment or other purposes while taking Percocet, it will be positive for opioids, so let your employer know ahead of time.

Withdrawal Symptoms

It's important that you never suddenly stop taking Percocet for any reason. This can cause extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that may be avoided by slowly decreasing your dose instead. If you want to decrease or stop taking Percocet, talk to your doctor about the best way to do this.

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Feeling restless
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Weakness
  • Feeling irritable and/or anxious
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Problems sleeping
  • Depression
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Appetite loss
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps

Percocet Overdose

If you suspect you have taken more than 4000 milligrams of acetaminophen in 24 hours, contact your doctor immediately, even if you feel well and don't have any symptoms.

Crushing or cutting an extended-release capsule or tablet can result in a large dose all at once instead of slowly and steadily, which can lead to an overdose. Be sure to swallow extended-release pills whole.

Some of the symptoms of Percocet overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Limp or weak muscles
  • Narrowing or widening of the pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Slow or stopped heartbeat
  • Blue color of skin, fingernails, lips
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

If you suspect someone has overdosed on Percocet, call 911 immediately. First responders should be able to revive the overdose victim by using a medication called Narcan (Naloxone) if they're notified quickly.

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Article Sources

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Additional Reading

  • Mayo Medical Laboratories. Opiates. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-info/drug-book/opiates.html

  • MedlinePlus. Acetaminophen. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated July 30, 2018. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a681004.html

  • MedlinePlus. Oxycodone. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated July 30, 2018. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682132.html

  • MedlinePlus. Hydrocodone/Oxycodone Overdose. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated August 14, 2018. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007285.htm

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Oxycontin Prescribing Information. Updated August 2015. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2015/022272s027lbl.pdf