Oxycodone and Hydrocodone: Side Effects, Forms, Dosages, Differences & Interactions
There is a running debate on the difference between oxycodone and hydrocodone. Also referred to as Percocet and Vicodin respectively, these two drugs are narcotic analgesics or opioids used to treat moderate to chronic pain. Both drugs are highly addictive and have contributed to the many drug-related overdoses and deaths during the ongoing opioid crisis. Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients misuse their prescription opioids, and 80 percent of heroin users first misused their prescription opioids. To better understand the dangers of these drugs and how to avoid them, let’s see the difference between Oxycodone and Hydrocodone.
What Are Oxycodone and Hydrocodone?
Oxycodone: Also commonly referred to as Percocet, oxycodone is an opioid or narcotic analgesic drug that acts on the central nervous system (CSN) to alleviate pain. Oxycodone is made by modifying thebaine, an organic chemical in opium. Also known as a semi-synthetic opiate, oxycodone works by blocking pain signals that travel from the body along the nerves to the brain. The effects of oxycodone usually begin within 30 to 60 minutes after use. These effects can last anywhere between 4 to 6 hours, depending on the dose.
Hydrocodone: is also a semi-synthetic opiate or painkiller prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Also known as Vicodin, hydrocodone is generally prescribed as a short-term option following surgery or to treat injury-related pain. The side effects of hydrocodone usually begin within an hour and peak after 1.3 hours after taking it. Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are habit-forming and can lead to a build-up of tolerance over time. Many individuals who abuse their prescription opioids usually require medically monitored detox to physically recover and get sober.
When comparing Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, you’ll find that both produce similar side effects, such as:
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Swelling of the face, lips, and tongue
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
But hydrocodone can make you feel tired, while oxycodone is more likely to make you drowsy or constipated. Taking too much can lead to an overdose, which causes these symptoms:
- Weakness or dizziness
- Slow heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Cold, clammy skin
Because both oxycodone and hydrocodone are opioids, when taken in large doses, they can produce a euphoric, sedative, and pleasurable high. This surge of pleasure caused by an influx of dopamine is what makes these medications so addictive and dangerous. Frequently taking large doses of opioids not only contributes to addiction but also increases your risk of overdosing.
Forms Of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
You can take either drug on its own or with another pain reliever like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. They might be in liquid, tablet, or capsule form. Both also come in extended-release (ER) capsules and tablets. They slowly release the drug into your body so it lasts longer. ER versions are not meant to treat short-term pain, like the kind you have after surgery.
Dosages Of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
Oxycodone and Hydrocodone come in many different doses. The dose your doctor prescribes depends on:
- Your age
- The cause of your pain and how severe it is
- How long you’ll take the drug
- Whether you have heart, lung, liver, or kidney disease
- Other drugs you take
- Your risk for addiction and abuse
Experts say you should start with a low dose. Your doctor can raise it if you need more pain relief. Follow your doctor’s instructions, and be sure to read the label when taking these medicines. Don’t take more than the instructions say you should.
How and When to Take Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
You take oxycodone once every 4 to 6 hours, or as needed, to manage your pain. The same is true if you take a form that includes another medicine, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. You only need to take the extended-release versions once or twice a day. Hydrocodone extended-release capsules are usually taken once every 12 hours. The extended-release tablet is usually taken once daily.
Ask your doctor whether you should take them with or without food. Drink plenty of water to swallow the extended-release capsules or tablets. Don’t stop taking these medicines without telling your doctor. When your body expects the medication but doesn’t get it, you might go through withdrawal. That can cause headaches, irritability, and other symptoms. But this only happens when you use the medicine regularly.
What Is the Difference Between Oxycodone and Hydrocodone?
This is going to get really technical, but the main difference between oxycodone and hydrocodone is that oxycodone has an extra oxygen atom. Also, oxycodone is synthesized from thebaine and is only used to alleviate pain, while hydrocodone is derived from codeine and can be used to relieve both pain and cough. Similar to oxycodone, drug manufacturers often combine hydrocodone with acetaminophen and other substances to create effective painkillers. At one point, hydrocodone was the most prescribed medication in the nation. However, after it was reclassified as a Schedule II substance, meaning it had medical use as well as a high potential for addiction, sales dropped, and oxycodone (OxyContin) became more popularly prescribed.
Is Oxycodone Stronger Than Hydrocodone?
There is a lot of controversy over which of the two are stronger or more effective. One study found that oxycodone and hydrocodone are equally potent. The study contained 73 subjects, 35 of which took oxycodone, and 32 took hydrocodone. Both groups were found to have experienced pain relief with 5 mg of oxycodone and 5mg of hydrocodone at 30 minutes. Though the hydrocodone patients had a higher percentage of constipation (oxycodone 0% vs hydrocodone 21%), they found both medications were just as effective in treating pain.
They seem so similar, but are oxycodone and hydrocodone the same thing? No, they aren’t, but they are both addictive. If you’ve been prescribed either of these medications, be sure only to take them as directed by your doctor. Do not mix opioids and alcohol or take any other combination of substances, known as polydrug abuse, which can increase your risk of health complications and overdose. Additionally, you should not mix oxycodone and hydrocodone. If you find yourself addicted to either oxycodone or hydrocodone, get help.
Drug Interactions Of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
Your risk for serious side effects may be higher if you take other drugs with hydrocodone or oxycodone. Make sure your doctor knows about all the medications and supplements you use. Certain drugs that depress the central nervous system are dangerous because the combination can lower your breathing and heart rate and even put you in a coma. These include:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Anti-nausea drugs
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Sleep aids
- Benzodiazepines and other sedatives
- Muscle relaxants
- Parkinson’s disease drugs
- Other opioid pain medicines
Some medications can change the amount of hydrocodone or oxycodone that gets released into your blood. Too much can lead to an overdose. Too little can keep you in pain and cause withdrawal symptoms. Be cautious with:
- Antifungal drugs
- Cancer drugs
- HIV drugs
- Rheumatoid arthritis drugs
Taking Oxycodone and Hydrocodone with antidepressants can lead to a dangerous buildup of the brain’s chemical serotonin. Other nonprescription drugs and supplements to avoid include:
- Kava kava
- Marijuana and cannabis products
- St. John’s wort
Reclaim Your Life From Oxycodone and Hydrocodone
Oxycodone and Hydrocodone addiction are chronic diseases that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Oxycodone or Hydrocodone Addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic? – www.hhs.gov
 Opioid addiction – U.S. National Library of Medicine (medlineplus.gov)
 Marco CA, Plewa MC, Buderer N, Black C, Roberts A. Comparison of oxycodone and hydrocodone for the treatment of acute pain associated with fractures: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Acad Emerg Med. 2005 Apr;12(4):282-8. (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)