Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone

An image of a person taking painkillers | Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone
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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:


Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are opioid-based prescription painkillers. Both medications are prescribed for the treatment of short-term pain triggered by surgery or injury. Hydrocodone and oxycodone were also increasingly used to treat chronic pain from the late 1990s onwards, triggering a U.S. opioid epidemic that remains unresolved today. Oxycodone vs hydrocodone are available in isolation or as combination medications. 

Acetaminophen, a mild painkiller, is often combined with oxycodone to make a combination medication like Percocet, sometimes effective where other opioid-based painkillers are ineffective. Hydrocodone can be combined with antihistamines and used as a cough suppressant or pain reliever like Lortab or Vicodin.

Oxycodone and Hydrocodone Are Both Potent Prescription Painkillers

Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are narcotic opioid analgesics. This class of medications affects the way your brain and CNS (central nervous system) process pain.

Each of these opioids has a similar mechanism of action that interferes with pain signaling in your CNS (central nervous system). Taking oxycodone or hydrocodone prevents your nerves from transmitting pain signals to your brain.

You require a prescription from a physician for either medication. Although the medications were in different drug schedules until late 201, both hydrocodone and oxycodone are now classified by the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) as schedule II controlled substances. Like all drugs in this schedule, there are medical applications for both of these medications, but they can both lead to the development of addiction in the form of OUD (opioid use disorder).

What Are Oxycodone and Hydrocodone Prescribed For?

Physicians prescribe oxycodone in the United States to relieve moderate or severe pain. Most people prescribed oxycodone for chronic pain take the medication on a continuous basis rather than taking the tablets as required, as with many OTC painkillers.

Hydrocodone is typically prescribed for the same pain-relieving purpose. The medication should only be used as directed by the prescribing physician. Researchers suggest that hydrocodone could be more likely to cause dependence than oxycodone. Hydrocodone is the most abused of all opioids in the United States. The medication has been tightly restricted in many European nations for many years.

Hydrocodone vs Oxycodone: Side Effects

The most reported side effects of hydrocodone and oxycodone are similar. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired motor skills

Taking oxycodone is more likely to bring about the following side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Euphoria

Taking hydrocodone is more likely to bring about the following side effects:

  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation

Some of the less common side effects of both hydrocodone and oxycodone are as follows:

  • Faintness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty urinating or pain when urinating
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Heart failure
  • Seizure
An image of a painkiller | Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone

Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone: Effectiveness

Both of these opioid-based painkillers are proven highly effective for pain relief. Researchers report that hydrocodone and oxycodone are equally effective for relieving pain in a medical emergency.

Although both medications are powerful pain relievers, hydrocodone has more of a tendency to cause constipation than oxycodone.

Research also indicates that products combining oxycodone with acetaminophen are 50% more potent that products combining hydrocodone with acetaminophen.

Which Medication is Best, Oxycodone or Hydrocodone?

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are almost equally effective for alleviating acute or chronic pain. Side effects triggered by the medications are similar and there are few differences between these schedule II prescription drugs.

If your physician prescribes one of these painkillers and it proves ineffective or brings about adverse side effects, it is worth exploring the other medication.

Are Oxycodone and Hydrocodone Addictive?

Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone both causes tolerance and dependence to rapidly form.

Regrettably, as the effects of the painkiller diminish, many people take more opioids or more frequent doses of opioids to achieve the same effects.

Becoming physically dependent on opioids means you will require the medication to function normally. In the absence of opioids, intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms will manifest.

Physical dependence on hydrocodone or oxycodone frequently leads to addiction. Opioid addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain condition. Although there is no cure for addiction to hydrocodone or oxycodone, opioid use disorder usually responds positively to pharmacological and behavioral interventions. We can help you with this here at Renaissance Recovery Center.

Opioid Addiction Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

Although opioids are fiercely addictive, most opioid use disorders respond favorably to treatment with a personalized array of MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and psychotherapy. We can help you initiate your recovery here at Renaissance Recovery Center.

Inquire about a supervised medical detox if you require help with opioid withdrawal. We can connect you with licensed medical detox centers throughout Southern California.

After a week or so of detoxification, you will be physically stabilized and ready to engage with one of the following treatment programs at Renaissance in Orange County:

Those who commit to recovery at Renaissance will have access to MAT, proven successful for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Additionally, you can take advantage of these evidence-based treatments at our affordable luxury rehab center.

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)

When you complete your treatment program, you may move to a less intensive form of therapy if you are not ready to transition back into daily living. You will also be equipped with an aftercare plan incorporating strategies that maximize your chances of sustaining recovery without relapsing.

Address the physical and psychological aspects of addiction to oxycodone or hydrocodone by calling 866.330.9449 today.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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