What Is The Difference Between Oxycodone And Hydrocodone?

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Both oxycodone and hydrocodone are powerful prescription painkillers. These semi-synthetic opioid medications are used to treat both short-and long-term pain that results from various conditions, such as cancer, chronic cough, surgery, arthritis, and more.

Oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) are very similar in chemical form and function. Because of this, there are very few differences between them.

Either medication can be prescribed on its own or as a combination medication, which includes oxycodone or hydrocodone and another drug. Oxycodone can be combined with other pain medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Some common oxycodone combination drugs include Percocet and Oxycet.

Hydrocodone may also be combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but it may also be combined with antihistamines to make a syrup, used to treat chronic coughing. Medications containing both hydromorphone and antihistamines include Tussionex and Zutripro.

Side Effects Of Oxycodone Vs. Hydrocodone

Oxycodone And Hydrocodone_Similar EffectivnessWhen taken as directed, the side effects caused by oxycodone and hydrocodone are typically mild. However, when these drugs are abused they may produce severe and potentially fatal consequences.

Oxycodone and hydrocodone produce very similar side effects, which may include:

  • changes in mood
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • a headache
  • insomnia
  • stomach pain
  • uncontrollable shaking

More serious side effects of these medications may include:

  • chest pain or tightness, changes in heartbeat, or heart failure
  • decreased sex drive
  • dizziness
  • extreme drowsiness or tiredness
  • low blood pressure
  • itching, hives, or rash (as a result of an allergic reaction)
  • irregular breathing or respiratory depression
  • irregular menstruation (women)
  • nausea, vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • seizures
  • sexual dysfunction (men)
  • swelling of the face, tongue, throat, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • weakness

Oxycodone Vs. Hydrocodone For Pain Management

When comparing which medication is best for managing pain, research shows oxycodone and hydrocodone are both effective at easing similar levels of chronic pain. There are very few differences between the effects of these two medications. However, one study notes that individuals taking hydrocodone are more likely to become constipated, compared to those taking oxycodone.

Some research also indicates that hydrocodone may be less potent than oxycodone. A healthcare professional will be best at determining which medication to give an individual, based on their unique medical history.

Risk Factors For Opioid Abuse

Narcotics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone have a very high potential for abuse, even when taken as prescribed. When used illicitly, the chances of becoming addicted to oxycodone and hydrocodone increase exponentially.

Oxycodone And Hydrocodone_Brain StructuresThese drugs are similar to other drugs of abuse, like heroin, alcohol, or cocaine, because they work to elevate the dopamine (chemical) levels in the brain. Prolonged, chronic abuse of oxycodone or hydrocodone can eventually alter brain structures, making it extremely difficult for individuals to stop using either drug on their own. This behavior is a common sign of addiction.

The potential to experience fatal overdose when misusing these prescription drugs is also extremely high. Over time, an individual’s body and brain become used to having a certain amount of these drugs in their system and will develop tolerance to them.

Once tolerance is established, individuals will need larger, more frequent doses of the medications to achieve the desired level of intoxication. This can be extremely dangerous, especially when abusing oxycodone or hydrocodone, partly because the opioids can cause certain dangerous effects when abused, such as decreased breathing and heart rates. When increasing the dosage and frequency of usage, a risk of dangerously slowed breathing and heart rates increases.

Abuse of oxycodone or hydrocodone is also dangerous because both drugs are available in extended-release (ER) forms. When the extended-release version of these drugs are abused, they are often removed from their extended-release capsule and crushed up, resulting in an extremely toxic dose being administered all at once, instead of over a 12-hour period. This greatly increases the likelihood of fatal overdose.

Possible signs of oxycodone and hydrocodone overdose include:

  • cold, clammy skin
  • excessive sleepiness
  • limp or weak muscles
  • loss of consciousness or coma
  • narrowed or widening of the pupils
  • slowed or difficult breathing
  • sudden death

Oxycodone And Hydrocodone Withdrawal And Detoxification

If an individual develops a tolerance to oxycodone or hydrocodone, they can become dependent on the drug. Once a physical or psychological dependence to either drug has developed, the body will need that drug in its systems to function normally. If someone who is dependent on opioids suddenly lowers their dose or stops taking them, severe withdrawal symptoms can occur.

Withdrawal symptoms from oxycodone and hydrocodone may include:

  • anxiety
  • excessive sweating
  • fever
  • insomnia
  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • a runny nose and other flu-like symptoms

Because abuse of these drugs can quickly lead to dependence and withdrawal, formal treatment programs often begin with a detox phase. Medically-supervised detox allows individuals in recovery from addiction or dependence to oxycodone or hydrocodone to rid their bodies safely of the drug so they can continue to therapy, counseling, and other treatment in an inpatient treatment program.

Treatment For Oxycodone And Hydrocodone Abuse And Addiction

While there are some differences between oxycodone and hydrocodone, abuse and addiction of either medication can result in long-term health consequences. It is vital to seek professional help to stop abusing these opioid drugs, as the results can be potentially fatal.

Oxycodone And Hydrocodone_Extended-Release

Behavioral therapy is shown to be effective in helping addicted individuals drastically change their skill set and lifestyle in order to build and maintain a sober life. Comprehensive addiction treatment can increase the chances of a complete recovery and healthy future.

For more on the differences between oxycodone and hydrocodone, contact a specialist today.

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Sources

The University of Maryland, Center for Substance Abuse Research—Oxycodone
U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus—Hydrocodone

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