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Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone for Pain Relief

Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone

Comparison – Oxycodone and Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone and oxycodone are the opioid analgesic class medications that help treat moderate to severe pain. These medicines are narcotics, which means you can build physical or mental dependence on either of these medications. Both drugs work by altering the brain’s functioning. They prevent the mind form processing the pain signals coming from the body, so the person cannot experience the painful sensation.

These drugs are potent medicines, so doctors only prescribe them for people who have undergone surgery or experiencing pain that other, less concentrated, and non-opioid medications cannot manage. Both are Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and addiction.

Difference between oxycodone and hydrocodone

Both medicines’ dosage varies by age and the patient’s condition. Doctors generally prescribe the lowest effective dose for the minimum possible duration to minimize dependence and abuse risk.


Doctors usually prescribe oxycodone alone. The generic immediate-release version is available as OxyIR, and you can also find it extended-release variant under the name OxyContin. This medicine is also up for sale in combination with other drugs. You can find a popular combined version by the name of Percocet, that contains oxycodone and APAP.


This medicine is available under the most popular brand names like Norco or Vicodin that contain this drug in combination with Tylenol. You can find this medicine in the tablet or liquid form in the market. Ibuprofen and hydrocodone combination helps treat cough, as some prevalent cough medications like Hycodan syrup and tablets and Tussionex suspensions contain this combination.

Zohydro ER and Hysingla ER are the extended-release forms of this drug that do not combine it with any other medication.

Who They’re for?

Hydrocodone and oxycodone provide relief from moderate to severe pain and are suitable medications for people who have problems due to injuries, cancer, surgery, or chronic pain. Doctors recommend these medications for short-term treatment, usually along plenty of rest and some exercise.

These medicines are available in a long-acting formula that is useful for people who have taken narcotics for at least a week and have issues requiring ongoing treatment with opioids.

It is necessary to remember while using either of these drugs that opioids can interact with several other medications. These can also be very addictive, making them not suitable for everyone. People with a history of substance abuse and those consuming other opioid medications should not use them, as they might experience harmful effects by mixing them with their regular medicines.   

Drug Class of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone and How That Class Works?

Hydrocodone and oxycodone both belong to the class of drugs known as opioid analgesics or narcotics pain medications. Medicines in this class work by interfering with the brain’s functioning and altering it to achieve their desired outcome.

Once you consume these drugs, they start to metabolize in the stomach and release an opioid substance that reaches the brain. Upon reaching the brain, these the opioid element binds to the mu-opioid receptors and start affecting neurotransmitters responsible for carrying pain signals from the body to the brain. These medicines block the pain signal from reaching the brain, making you believe that you are not experiencing any discomfort.

Because of how these medications interfere with the brain’s functioning, these can make a person physically or psychologically dependent. The United States DEA marks theses drugs as potentially addictive and prone to abuse and placed them under schedule II of the Controlled Substance Act, as controlled substances that are not available for consumption without a doctor’s prescription.

Forms and Dosing

These medications are available in immediate-release and the extended-release formulation, and the effective dose also varies depending on which formula you choose. Try to follow your doctor’s guidelines when using these drugs to avoid a fatal overdose of opioid medications. Usually, doctors begin the treatment with the lowest effective dose, which is different for each person because everyone has different opioid tolerance levels.

When you start using the medicine, your body will develop tolerance towards hydrocodone or oxycodone. Once you reach that point, your doctor may gradually increase your dosage to ensure that you get a sufficient amount to relieve pain.

How to take these medicines?

Try taking these medicines exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Hydrocodone and oxycodone are available in various forms, and the way to consume each one is different. You can find these medications in the following variants:

  • Quick-release tablets
  • Extended-release tablets
  • Extended-release capsules
  • Liquids
  • Concentrated liquids

These medicines are also available in combination with other pain-relieving drugs, like:

  • Asprin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen

Typically, doctors advise taking the extended-release tablets only once a day, at about the same time. While using these medicines, you should also refrain from crushing, chewing, snorting, or injecting them into your veins. The extended-release tablets/capsules can be extremely dangerous if you tamper with them.

It is crucial to follow a professional’s advice when terminating treatment with an opioid drug because these medicines can be highly addictive, and stopping their use without consulting a doctor can result in severe withdrawal symptoms.


Oxycodone and hydrocode are both equally effective medications for treating moderate to severe pain. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study in an emergency room setting concluded that the pain relief provided by both the drugs was similar. Not only that, but both also cause similar side effects, though hydrocodone resulted in slightly more constipation.

Another study conducted in 2016 to compare these drugs’ effectiveness also found no significant differences between them. The researchers gave hydrocodone to one group and oxycodone to the other. About 60% of participants reported experiencing a 50% reduction in their acute musculoskeletal pain.

Both of these medicines are effective treatment for keeping the pain sensations under control. However, these drugs only work on the symptoms and provide you relief as long as you use them because they don’t address the underlying cause. Because of their inability to treat the root cause of pain and the possibility of abuse and addiction, doctors usually explore other non-opioid pain medications before recommending them.

Side Effects of These Medications

Because both these medicines are opioids and work similarly. They tend to cause similar side effects to their users. These adverse effects can be mild or severe, so do not use either of these drugs without consulting with a healthcare professional because the painful symptoms can put you in a life-threatening situation. 

  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • reduce sex drive
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • itching
  • sweating
  • severe breathing problems

While the mild discomforting symptoms are not a reason to worry, you should try to seek a doctor’s help if you experience any of these drugs’ severe adverse effects. Ignoring the intense symptoms can result in lasting health damage. 

Warnings and Interactions

FDA requires its strongest warning (boxed warning) on these medications. Some other cautions include:

  • Risk of abuse, addiction, and misuse, which can result in overdose and death.
  • These can cause severe life-threatening and sometimes fatal respiratory problems.
  • Accidental consumption of these meds by children can result in a deadly overdose.
  • Opioid usage during pregnancy can lead to withdrawal symptoms in the newborn kid, which can be life-threatening if not recognized and treated timely.
  • Using these drugs with medicines that metabolize by the enzyme cytochrome P 45 3A4 can increase opioid levels and worsen the side effects.
  • Consuming these medications with benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, or other CNS depressants can result in extreme sedation, coma, or death.
  • Patients with respiratory depression or severe bronchial asthma should refrain from using these drugs.
  • These medicines can cause adrenal insufficiency leading to low blood pressure, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, and anorexia.
  • These drugs can increase the risk of seizures in people with seizure disorders.
  • Reduce these medicines’ use slowly because abruptly stopping their consumption can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Oxycodone and hydrocodone can also interact with the following medicines to produce some undesirable effects:

  • Sedatives
  • Anxiety medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Antivirals
  • Antifungals
  • Antibiotics

Opioids can also adversely interact with alcohol and other recreational drugs like marijuana. For avoiding harmful drug interactions, try to provide a list of all the medications you are using to the doctor before starting treatment with these opioids.

Which Medication Is Best for You?

Hydrocodone and oxycodone have similar effects on people with moderate to severe pain. There is no significant difference between the two medications, so you can choose either of the drugs to treat your problem. But, before you consume one of these medicines, make sure to talk to a doctor and assess their pros and cons.

The doctor will help you choose the best medication based on your medical history and pain level. Some medical professionals believe that hydrocodone is less potent than oxycodone. So, they might recommend you start the treatment with hydrocodone. If it didn’t work as expected, you could switch over to more potent oxycodone.

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