safety medical

Oxycodone vs. Hydrocodone (OxyContin vs. Vicodin)

When it comes to narcotics, oxycodone and hydrocodone are the popularly used ones in clinical practice. They are available only upon prescription, though one of them is more tightly regulated than the other. In this article, we shall take a look at oxycodone in a bit more detail in comparison to hydrocodone.


Despite this article being a comparison between the 2 drugs, it must be borne in mind that there will no doubt be similarities. In particular, both of these drugs are opioid based drugs that are useful as painkillers. They carry a similar abuse potential and can both be additive if used in the long term. Their side effect profile is also extremely similar and they cost the same as well.


One of the primary differences in oxycodone and hydrocodone is that the former can be used as monotherapy while the latter is used as a combination therapy. This means that oxycodone is useful as a painkiller by itself, while hydrocodone is often combined with another medication to exert its effects. This is because hydrocodone is not as potent as oxycodone in the effects it has.

In addition to its potency, oxycodone dosing must be observed meticulously as it is a more powerful molecule when compared to hydrocodone. It is more strictly regulated when compared to hydrocodone, and requires the presence of the patient (or a designated individual) when picking up repeat prescriptions from local pharmacies. Furthermore, repeat prescriptions must be re-prescribed by the physician and cannot just be an automated process. This is not the case with hydrocodone.

The choice for oxycodone or hydrocodone is ultimately down to the treating physician and the requirement of the patient.

Withdrawal can occur following long term use of both drugs, though the symptoms between the 2 vary a little. Patients who withdraw from oxycodone can experience nausea and vomiting, tremors, sweating and anxiety attacks to name a few. On the other hand, hydrocodone withdrawal can cause lack of sleep, diarrhoea and nausea. It is not possible to differentiate the 2 drugs from the symptoms alone, but due consideration must be given to them as patients will need medical assistance.

Oxycodone and hydrocodone, though similar in some senses do have a number of differences. The primary one is the potency and the fact that the latter is always used as combination therapy.

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