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What’s the Difference Between Percocet and Heroin?

heroin versus percoset

Prescription opioids and heroin are both highly addictive and potentially deadly drugs, but there are important differences between them. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between Percocet and heroin, including the potential dangers of each drug, their effects on the body, and the potential for addiction. We’ll also explain the differences in the legal status of each drug and what the consequences are for users who are caught with either drug.

Overview of Narcotic Drugs

Definition of Narcotic Drugs

Narcotics are psychoactive drugs derived from opium, or synthesized from similar chemical compounds, that work by binding opioid receptors in the central nervous system to dull pain sensations. They are typically prescribed to manage severe pain, but they come with a large potential for abuse and addiction, due to their alluring effects.

Types of Narcotic Drugs

Narcotics range from prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin to illicit opioids like heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil.

Potential Risks of Narcotic Drugs

All narcotics have the potential to be habit-forming and lead to substance use disorder. They can also cause physical effects such as slowed breathing, decreased mental clarity, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and liver damage. Additionally, they may create psychological effects such as euphoria, enhanced self-confidence, buzzing sensations in the ears, bizarre dreams, impaired judgment due to a false sense of invincibility, confusion, paranoia, and intense cravings for the drug after even brief periods of abstinence.

Detailed Look at Percocet

What is Percocet?

Percocet is a combination medication containing both oxycodone and acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol). It is a prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain; however, it also has a high potential for abuse and dependence due to its effects on the brain’s reward system. It works by blocking pain signals in the body while also releasing endorphins that induce feelings of pleasure or euphoria when taken in large amounts or after long-term use.

What Are the Effects of Percocet Use? 

When taken as prescribed, Percocet can be an effective treatment for pain relief; however, if taken other than as prescribed it can create feelings of relaxation and lightheadedness due to its ability to slow down brain function. It may also produce feelings of extreme contentment or well-being which can easily lead someone down a path of addiction with prolonged use or higher doses than prescribed. 

How Common is Percocet Abuse? 

The misuse and abuse of Percocet have increased share over recent years; approximately 2 million people abused this drug in 2012 alone according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). As many as 31% of individuals who were prescribed an opioid admitted that they had misused it at least once during a 12-month period in 2017 according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

How Does Percocet Affect the Brain? 

Percocet works by binding to mu-opioid receptors that control feelings of pleasure and reward within the brain’s reward system as well as its perception of pain relief leading to its addictive potential that users often seek out when they take this drug recreationally or in higher doses than prescribed. 

Detailed Look at Heroin 

What is Heroin? 

Heroin is an illicit substance classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It is typically found sold on the street in either powder form or as a black sticky substance referred to as “black tar heroin” and is derived from morphine which is found naturally in opium poppy plants grown primarily in Central and South America as well as in Asia or Mexico. As an illegal substance, there are no regulations whatsoever regarding production or quality control making it highly dangerous with serious health risks associated with its use.

What Are the Effects of Heroin Use? 

When injected intravenously, heroin produces intense feelings of pleasure and relaxation throughout the body within mere seconds after injection followed by drowsiness within minutes that can last up to several hours depending upon how much was taken and whether other substances were mixed into it. Other short-term effects include impaired cognitive functioning such as clouded mental alertness, accompanied by slowed reaction times making users vulnerable if they attempt activities requiring concentration such as driving a car or operating machinery. High doses may trigger delirium or even coma preceded by shallow respirations or slow heart rate leading to death if not treated quickly. Long-term effects include tolerance: meaning users must take more heroin each time to get the same effect and physical dependence creates withdrawal symptoms when stopping which typically occur within just several hours.

How Common is Heroin Abuse? 

According to NIDA, 467,000 Americans reported abusing heroin in 2016 with most users falling between 18 – 25 years old. Additionally, NIDA states that its abuse rate has steadily increased over the past few years. It has been estimated that about 23% of individuals using opiates switch from prescription drugs such – such as OxyContin –—to heroin. People who misuse opioids may become increasingly tolerant of their effects leading them to seek out stronger, more potent forms produced illegally. Heroin’s increasing availability has caused usage rates to rise particularly among younger age groups. Reports show that nearly 50 percent of teens aged 12-17 surveyed knew someone who had used this substance. Sadly, due to its widespread prevalence, the number of deaths related to overdoses has quadrupled over the past decade according to the Center for Disease Control Prevention (CDC).  

Differences Between Percocet Heroin

Drug Composition

Percocet combination medication containing both oxycodone and acetaminophen whereas heroin illicit opiate derived from morphine found naturally in opium poppy plants.

Addictive Potential

While both substances have the same potential, typically doctors prescribe Percocet only enough of a dose to manage pain; because Percocet is heavily regulated, we’d consider it “less addictive” only because it’s harder to get ahold of.

Side Effects

Users of both these drugs experience drowsiness, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, and confusion (to name a few). However, because of heroin’s unregulated production process, safety purity cannot be guaranteed and may contain other toxic impurities.


The cost of buying these drugs varies considerably depending on where located; certain states take effective steps to control the illegal market others may not – though options to purchase them still exist throughout the nation, street value per gram is far cheaper than buying through pharmacies.

The difference between Percocet and heroin is stark and should be understood by anyone considering using either drug. Percocet is a legal prescription drug with a moderate potential for abuse and addiction, while heroin is an illegal drug with a high potential for abuse and addiction. Although both can carry risks of physical and psychological side effects, heroin carries the additional risk of contamination and unreliable purity.

Knowing the differences between the two drugs can help people make an informed decision about whether or not to use either drug and reduce the potential for harm. With the potential consequences and dangers associated with these drugs, it is important for people to understand the risks and make an informed decision about their use.

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