Health & Medicine General Medicine

Difference Between Oxycodone and Hydrocodone


Oxycodone and hydrocodone are drugs that belong to a group of drugs called opiate painkillers. Doctors can prescribe opiate painkillers to treat moderately severe pain. Prescription opiates can be very effective in treating pain. Unfortunately, these drugs are also highly addictive and have a high rate of abuse.

They also have a tendency to interact with certain drugs. This article explains the difference between oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Researchers do not know how oxycodone reduces symptoms and increases pain tolerance. But on the other hand, they do know how hydrocodone works. It works like other opiate drugs because it stimulates receptors in the brain to increase a person’s pain threshold (the amount of stimulation needed to feel pain) and reduce the feeling of pain (pain perception).

The difference between the two anesthetics is that hydrocodone can also be used in combination with ibuprofen to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation. It can also be combined with expectorants and decongestants (such as guaifenesin and pseudoephedrine) to treat nasal congestion, cough, and mucus release, which tend to occur when you have a cold.

For who

Oxycodone is used for the treatment of moderate-severe pain. People who take this medicine usually do so 24 hours a day until their doctor stops prescribing it. In other words, Oxycodone should not be taken as often as over-the-counter pain relievers.

Hydrocodone is also used to treat moderate to severe pain caused by chronic illness, injury, or surgery. Like oxycodone, it should only be taken on prescription. This is important because of the problem of addiction. Because of the way it is prescribed, hydrocodone may be more likely to cause addiction than oxycodone. It is used more than any other opiates in the United States and other European countries.


Oxycodone and hydrocodone are available in a variety of forms, including liquids, concentrated liquids, prolonged-release tablets, and prolonged-release capsules. Both drugs are also available in combination with other analgesics such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin.

A patient usually takes a prolonged release of oxycodone with food every 12 hours, while a patient usually takes a prolonged release of hydrocodone once a day at approximately the same time.


Oxycodone is believed by many to be a better pain reliever than hydrocodone. A 2016 study attempted to compare the efficacy of a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen with that of a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.

The study found no significant differences regarding the treatment of acute musculoskeletal pain between the two-drug combinations. Approximately 60 percent of participants reported a pain reduction of at least 50 percent in both groups.

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are both effective in reducing the sensation of pain. They are not addressing the underlying cause of the pain though.

Side effects

Oxycodone could cause more severe side effects and adverse reactions such as:

  • Loss of energy or strength (asthenia)
  • Gastritis
  • Twitching
  • Confusion
  • Hiccups
  • Insomnia
  • Dry skin
  • Dermatitis
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Urinary retention
  • Anxiety
  • Tinnitus
  • Gas or flatulence
  • Depression
  • Impotence

Hydrocodone may also cause more serious side effects and adverse effects such as:

  • Peripheral edema (swelling)
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Tremor
  • Tachycardia
  • Chills
  • Muscle spasms
  • Urinary tract infections (URIs)
  • Back pain
  • Hot flashes

 Both opioids can impair both thinking and the ability to drive or operate machinery. It can slow (depress) the elderly, disabled, and people with severe lung disease to breathe.

Bottom Line

Opioid medications are oxycodone and hydrocodone. A physician may prescribe such medications for moderate to severe pain relief. There’s very little difference in efficacy and cost between the two medications. Both oxycodone and hydrocodone, as opioid drugs, they carry considerable risk to dependence and addiction. With long-term use or high dosages, these risks increase. Many doctors advise trying other options for pain relief before considering opioids.

Many alternative pain treatments are available, including prescription non-opioid medicines, techniques for managing pain in the mind-body, and complementary therapies. A person may discuss the treatment options that are most likely to work for them with their doctor.

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