Alcohol & Percocet Risks

Glass of whisky with ice, (Close-up)
Percocet and alcohol make a risky combination. (Image: Paul Katz/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Percocet is the brand name for a pain-relief medication containing the analgesic acetaminophen — most commonly known as the brand Tylenol — and the narcotic drug oxycodone. Oxycodone has sedating effects in addition to its ability to relieve pain. Doctors mainly prescribe Percocet to relieve short-term, moderate pain associated with surgery, dental procedures, or injuries. Percocet can also be used to manage long-term, chronic pain. Combining alcohol with Percocet has certain risks, the Physicians' Desktop Reference notes, and a history of alcohol abuse also raises warning flags, due to the addictive possibilities of Percocet.

Liver Damage

The acetaminophen in Percocet can cause liver damage. In July 2009, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel voted to ban products combining narcotics with acetaminophen because of high death rates associated with these products due to liver damage, MSNBC reported. The FDA convened the panel to recommend ways to decrease overdoses of acetaminophen, the leading cause of liver failure in the United States. Because of the pleasurable narcotic effect of Percocet, some people are inclined to take more than prescribed. The Physicians' Desktop Reference notes that combining alcohol with acetaminophen increases the risk of liver damage. People who drink more than three alcoholic beverages per day may not be able to safely take Percocet or other medication containing acetaminophen, according to Drugs.com. This is also true for people who have ever had liver cirrhosis, commonly caused by alcohol.

Sedation Effects

Percocet may cause side effects due to its sedating properties. These effects include dizziness, drowsiness, impaired thinking, light-headedness, and blurred vision. These can make driving or operating machinery dangerous — and alcohol can worsen these effects, the Physicians' Desktop Reference cautions.

Respiratory Depression

Narcotics can depress your respiratory system, and can slow breathing if the patient takes larger doses than prescribed. Large enough doses of Percocet can completely stop automatic breathing — an effect that can be life-threatening during sleep if the individual is too sedated to wake up. Combining alcohol with oxycodone worsens respiratory side effects, according to the Percocet Abuse Help website, because alcohol also slows breathing. This effect is particularly dangerous for anyone already suffering from breathing problems.

Addiction

Because Percocet contains a narcotic drug, an individual taking Percocet for a long time can develop physical and psychological dependence. People with a history of dependence on other substances, such as alcohol, may be more prone to Percocet addiction, according to the Physicians' Desktop Reference.

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