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Percocet (Generic Acetaminophen)

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Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, is a commonly used over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer. While it is generally considered safe when taken as directed, there are risks associated with its use, especially when exceeding recommended doses. Here are some of the key risks of taking acetaminophen:

  • Liver Damage: One of the most significant risks of acetaminophen is its potential to cause liver damage, especially when taken in high doses or over a prolonged period. In some cases, overdose can lead to severe and even fatal liver failure.
  • Overdose: Accidental or intentional overdose of acetaminophen can occur and may lead to serious health consequences. It’s crucial to follow recommended dosage guidelines and avoid combining acetaminophen-containing medications.
  • Alcohol Interaction: Consuming alcohol while taking acetaminophen increases the risk of liver damage. Alcohol and acetaminophen are both metabolized by the liver, and combining them can overload the liver’s capacity, leading to harmful effects.
  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to acetaminophen, including skin rash, itching, and swelling. In severe cases, anaphylaxis can occur, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.
  • Interaction with Other Medications: Acetaminophen can interact with certain medications, including those used for treating seizures and blood thinners. These interactions can affect the effectiveness of the drugs or lead to adverse effects.
  • Kidney Damage: While less common than liver damage, high doses or prolonged use of acetaminophen have been associated with kidney damage in some cases.

It’s important to use acetaminophen responsibly by following the recommended dosage, avoiding alcohol consumption while taking it, and being aware of potential interactions with other medications. If you experience any unusual symptoms or side effects while taking acetaminophen, it’s advisable to seek medical attention promptly. As with any medication, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional if you have specific health conditions or concerns.

Why is this medication prescribed?

Acetaminophen is commonly prescribed or recommended by healthcare professionals for the treatment of mild to moderate pain and to reduce fever. It is available over-the-counter and is often used to alleviate symptoms associated with various conditions, such as headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, toothaches, and colds. Acetaminophen is also used in combination with other medications to provide pain relief.

How should this medicine be used?

Here are general guidelines on how acetaminophen should be used:

  • Dosage: The dosage of acetaminophen varies based on age, weight, and individual health conditions. It’s crucial to follow the specific instructions provided by a healthcare professional or the guidelines on the product packaging.
  • Frequency: Acetaminophen is typically taken every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain or fever. It’s important not to exceed the recommended dosage or frequency, as this can increase the risk of adverse effects.
  • Administration: Acetaminophen is available in various forms, including tablets, capsules, liquid, and chewable tablets. It should be taken with a full glass of water. Chewable tablets should be thoroughly chewed before swallowing, and liquid formulations should be accurately measured using the provided dosing device.
  • Avoid Alcohol: It is advisable to avoid alcohol while taking acetaminophen, as the combination can increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Be Aware of Other Medications: If you are taking other medications, check for acetaminophen content to avoid unintentional overdose. Acetaminophen is often an ingredient in combination products, such as cold and flu medications.
  • Medical Guidance: Before using acetaminophen, individuals with liver disease or a history of alcohol abuse should consult their healthcare provider. Additionally, pregnant or breastfeeding women should seek medical advice before using acetaminophen.
  • Seek Medical Attention for Overdose: If an overdose is suspected (symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, confusion, and jaundice), seek medical attention immediately, even if there are no symptoms. Prompt treatment is essential to prevent severe liver damage.

It’s crucial to use acetaminophen responsibly and in accordance with healthcare provider recommendations to minimize the risk of adverse effects. If someone has questions or concerns about the appropriate use of acetaminophen, they should consult their healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Other uses for this medicine

Some off-label uses of acetaminophen may include:

  • Migraine Headaches: Acetaminophen is sometimes used to help alleviate mild to moderate migraine headaches.
  • Osteoarthritis: In some cases, acetaminophen may be recommended for pain relief in individuals with osteoarthritis.
  • Dental Pain: It is often used for short-term relief of dental pain, such as toothaches.
  • Menstrual Cramps: Acetaminophen may be used to reduce pain associated with menstrual cramps.
  • Post-Surgical Pain: In certain situations, acetaminophen may be part of a pain management plan after surgery.

What special precautions should I follow?

Special precautions to consider when using acetaminophen include:

  • Liver Health: Acetaminophen is metabolized by the liver, and high doses or prolonged use can lead to liver damage. Individuals with liver disease or a history of alcohol abuse should use acetaminophen with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
  • Alcohol Consumption: It is important to avoid or limit alcohol consumption while taking acetaminophen, as alcohol can increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Other Medications: Check the ingredients of other medications you are taking, as acetaminophen is often included in combination products. Taking multiple medications containing acetaminophen simultaneously can lead to overdose.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should consult their healthcare provider before using acetaminophen, as it is generally considered safe when used as directed, but guidance may be needed to ensure appropriate use.
  • Children’s Dosage: If giving acetaminophen to children, it is crucial to use the correct formulation and dosage based on the child’s age and weight. Never exceed recommended dosages.
  • Allergies: Individuals with known allergies to acetaminophen should avoid its use. Allergic reactions may include skin rash, itching, and swelling.

Always consult with a healthcare professional if you have specific health conditions, concerns, or questions about the use of acetaminophen. Following recommended guidelines and seeking guidance when needed can help ensure safe and effective use of the medication.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

There are typically no specific dietary restrictions associated with acetaminophen use. However, maintaining a well-balanced and healthy diet is always advisable for overall health.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

  • Regular Schedule: If you miss a dose of acetaminophen and are taking it regularly, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular schedule.
  • As-Needed Basis: If you are taking acetaminophen on an as-needed basis and forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is close to the time for the next scheduled dose, skip the missed dose and wait until the next scheduled time.
  • Do Not Double Dose: Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. Taking more than the recommended dose can increase the risk of side effects and adverse reactions.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Acetaminophen is generally considered safe when used as directed, but like any medication, it can cause side effects. Most people tolerate acetaminophen well when taken at recommended doses. However, exceeding the recommended dosage or using it improperly can lead to adverse effects. Common side effects of acetaminophen include:

  • Nausea: Some individuals may experience mild nausea as a side effect of acetaminophen.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting can occur in some cases, especially if the medication is taken on an empty stomach or at high doses.
  • Loss of Appetite: Acetaminophen use may lead to a temporary loss of appetite in some individuals.
  • Rash: Allergic reactions to acetaminophen can manifest as skin rash, itching, or hives.
  • Serious Skin Reactions: In rare cases, severe skin reactions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis can occur. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience blistering, peeling, or a severe rash.
  • Blood Disorders: Although rare, acetaminophen has been associated with blood disorders, including low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) and a reduction in certain types of white blood cells.
  • Liver Damage: High doses or prolonged use of acetaminophen can lead to liver damage. Symptoms of liver damage include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, and abdominal pain. Severe cases can lead to liver failure, which is a medical emergency.

It’s important to note that severe side effects are more likely to occur with overdoses or when acetaminophen is used inappropriately. Chronic alcohol consumption and pre-existing liver conditions can increase the risk of liver damage.

If you experience any unusual or severe symptoms while taking acetaminophen, seek medical attention promptly. Additionally, if you have specific health conditions or concerns, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using acetaminophen.

Always use acetaminophen as directed, follow recommended dosages, and be aware of its presence in other medications to avoid unintentional overdose. If you have questions about potential side effects or the safety of acetaminophen in your specific situation, consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?

Storage and Disposal of Acetaminophen:

  • Storage: Store acetaminophen at room temperature, away from moisture and heat. Follow the specific storage instructions provided on the medication packaging.
  • Childproof Container: Keep acetaminophen in its original childproof container to prevent accidental ingestion by children.
  • Out of Reach: Store acetaminophen out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Avoid Sunlight: Keep the medication away from direct sunlight.
  • Check Expiry Date: Do not use acetaminophen beyond its expiration date.
  • Proper Disposal: Dispose of unused or expired acetaminophen properly. Many pharmacies and community centers have medication take-back programs. If a take-back option is not available, follow specific guidelines for medication disposal provided by your local waste management authority.

In case of emergency/overdose

If you suspect an overdose or encounter signs of overdose, such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, confusion, jaundice, or unusual tiredness, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Overdose of acetaminophen can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening liver damage.

What other information should I know?

  • Medical History: Inform your healthcare provider of your complete medical history, including any liver conditions, alcohol consumption, or allergies.
  • Alcohol Interaction: Avoid or limit alcohol consumption while taking acetaminophen, as alcohol can increase the risk of liver damage.
  • Other Medications: Inform your healthcare provider about all medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as herbal supplements, that you are taking. Some medications may interact with acetaminophen.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your healthcare provider before using acetaminophen. It is generally considered safe, but guidance may be needed to ensure appropriate use.
  • Follow Directions: Always follow the dosing instructions provided by your healthcare provider or on the medication label. Do not exceed the recommended dosage.
  • Allergies: If you are allergic to acetaminophen or any of its components, avoid its use and inform your healthcare provider.
  • Regular Monitoring: If you are taking acetaminophen on a regular basis for an extended period, your healthcare provider may monitor your liver function through blood tests.

Remember to consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any specific questions about acetaminophen, its use, or potential interactions with other medications. Always seek professional medical advice in case of uncertainty or emergency.

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