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Why are Percocets so Addictive?

Why are Percocets so addictive? That question doesn’t have a simple answer. The narcotic ingredient in Percocet, oxycodone, was first created by a German chemist trying to develop a non-addictive painkiller in 1916. It was released in that same country a few years later as a commercial preparation called Eukodal. It soon became clear that while the drug was a truly superior painkiller, it brought with it a significant risk of addiction in susceptible individuals. This is an important point because oxycodone doesn’t pose the same addiction risk for everyone who takes it. It appears that certain genetic factors are at play here.

It’s also interesting to note that the overall addiction rate for all drugs in the United States has remained constant at roughly 10 percent. This was true even before 1914 when opiates, marijuana, amphetamines and barbiturates were freely available, without a prescription and without social stigma. This strongly suggests that mere exposure to oxycodone isn’t enough to cause addiction. There must be other factors involved.

The problem comes about when understanding that there is really no way to know ahead of time of someone will become addicted to oxycodone or any opioid for that matter. In susceptible persons, the drug seems to create an extremely pleasurable sensation of euphoria, absence of worry and stress and altered perception of time. For example, a boring work shift may seem to fly pleasantly by under the influence of oxycodone. Others have likened the effect to being wrapped in a warm, comforting blanket insulating them from the world. After the initial euphoria wears off in about two to four hours, a dreamy state of half-awareness called a nod begins. This usually leads to a number of hours of peaceful slumber.

Not everyone likes the effects of oxycodone and other opioids, not by a long shot. Many people report such unpleasant effects that they’d rather just deal with their pain without opioids than tolerate the way they feel while under their influence.

How Does Oxycodone Affect the Brain?

The addictive qualities of oxycodone are significant and profound. If taken regularly for more than a few weeks at most, the drug causes changes in the brain that lead to its inability to function normally without oxycodone’s presence. As long as the drug is taken, the person will not notice these changes, but if they suddenly stop, withdrawal symptoms will set in some 8 to 18 hours after the last dose.

Most of oxycodone’s addictive qualities come from the way it works in the brain’s limbic system, which is associated with mood and emotion. It’s not surprising to learn that many drugs of abuse also work in this system, although not necessarily in the same way that oxycodone does. Oxycodone causes the brain to release more dopamine, resulting in feelings of pleasure and reward.

Why is Oxycodone So Addictive?

  • Power
  • Bioavailability
  • Effectiveness

Oxycodone is simply a very strong opioid. It binds completely with the brain’s mu opioid receptor, producing a powerful euphoric state in some people. It’s at least six to eight times stronger than codeine and some two to three times the power of hydrocodone. Orally, it’s even stronger than the gold standard of pain relief, morphine. In fact, by mouth, oxycodone is at least 1.5 percent stronger than morphine.

Oxycodone has the highest BA or bioavailability of all the opioids, an absolutely astonishing 88 percent. This means that up to 88 percent of any oral dose taken will reach the brain. Compare this to morphine’s dismal 45 to 50 percent oral BA and you will begin to see the increased addiction potential. More of the oxycodone reaches the brain, so there is more of an effect.

Another addiction factor is effectiveness. In short, it works. It works for pain so well that some people taking it for legitimate pain don’t want to give up either the relief they get or the associated pleasant feelings.


Percocet is a combination narcotic drug containing either 5, 7.5 or 10 milligrams of oxycodone and 325 milligrams of acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol. It was released on the American market in 1971, some 20 years after the introduction of Percodan, a similar preparation containing aspirin as its non-narcotic ingredient instead of acetaminophen.

Do you need help?

If you’re struggling with oxycodone dependence it’s not likely you’ll be able to stop without help. That’s why we’re here. Just call our professional counselors anytime at 844-903-2111. We will be able to guide you to the best treatment options in your area.