What Is the Difference Between Hydrocodone and Oxycodone?

Read on to learn the differences between these drugs and what effects they have on the body.

What Are Hydrocodone and Oxycodone?

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are opioids that can alleviate pain and induce euphoria, and both medications are potent and are only available with a doctor's prescription. Both may interfere with the transmission of pain signals from the central nervous system. They also interfere with the process by which your body sends messages to your brain to register pain.

Hydrocodone and Oxycodone Fundamentals

In the United States, roughly 6% of adults have misused prescription psychotherapeutic medicine in the past year, which is about sixteen million Americans.1

Even as concerned parties advocate for a reduction in the prescriptions of powerful painkillers, doctors continue to prescribe opioids and other narcotic medications to patients. This still happens because, despite drug abuse and misuse risks, narcotics can provide pain relief that other pain medications cannot for people suffering from chronic illnesses, cancer, or undergoing major surgery. Nevertheless, there is still a significant risk of developing a substance abuse problem.2


Acetaminophen is one of the main ingredients in hydrocodone. Doctors usually prescribed hydrocodone pain pills such as hydrocodone-acetaminophen. However, you can also purchase it as a single-ingredient medication. In addition to being the active ingredient in Norco, Vicodin, and Lortab, hydrocodone is also used in combination with ibuprofen to treat inflammation and pain.

If you're using hydrocodone and start to experience edema, tachycardia, tremors, and chills, you should stop taking it. Hydrocodone's side effects on the body are comparable to those of heroin, and if one develops a substance use disorder to hydrocodone, most people usually switch to heroin, as it is more readily available and less expensive.


Oxycodone can change how your body and brain respond to or perceive pain. It is the primary component of the painkillers Percocet and OxyContin. Your doctor can prescribe oxycodone for pain relief as a single-ingredient chemical.

Oxycodone sleepiness is a common side effect of oxycodone. The other oxycodone side effects include weakness or loss of energy, restlessness, anxiety, disorientation, sleeplessness, depression, irritability, and seizures. It’s important to only take oxycodone as it has been prescribed. 

Hydrocodone and Oxycodone

When to Take Hydrocodone and Oxycodone

Always follow your doctor's directions when using oxycodone or hydrocodone. Opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone come in a wide variety of forms also, including concentrated liquids, liquids, and extended-release capsules and tablets.

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What Painkillers Do They Work in Conjunction With?

You can also find both medications working in conjunction with other painkillers, such as:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen
  • Aspirin

Generally, you will only need to take the extended-release forms of oxycodone or hydrocodone once or twice. The usual dosage of hydrocodone extended-release capsules is one every twelve hours. However, one dose per day (of the extended-release variant) is sufficient in most situations.

Prepare and Consult a Medical Professional

Consult your doctor about whether or not to eat before taking oxycodone or hydrocodone. Drink plenty of water when using extended-release tablets or capsules to aid in swallowing and make other side effects much easier, especially for hydrocodone constipation relief.

When you do not take the medicine your body requires, severe withdrawal symptoms may occur. This may result in headaches, lack of sleep, and other symptoms. Make sure to notify your medical practitioner if you stop taking these medications before doing so.

How to Store Oxycodone vs. Hydrocodone

Keep your medicine in its original container. Make sure it’s out of reach from kids or pets, as if taken incorrectly or accidentally, it can cause death in some cases. You may get advice on how to properly dispose of old medicine from either your drugstore or your doctor.

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What Is the Equivalent Dose of Hydrocodone to Oxycodone?

An expert examination evaluating the effectiveness of hydrocodone and oxycodone in treating acute pain linked to fractures found that 5mg of hydrocodone was just as effective as 5mg of oxycodone. However, there appears to be some debate concerning the strength of oxycodone vs. hydrocodone on a milligram-by-milligram basis.

Is Oxycodone Stronger Than Hydrocodone?

The strength and dangers of oxycodone and hydrocodone are comparable; however, oxycodone is roughly 50% stronger, but this doesn't mean that the patient will have greater pain control. According to a few studies, hydrocodone plus acetaminophen can relieve pain like oxycodone but with fewer side effects.3

The Side Effects of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone

These two opioids can cause a wide range of adverse effects, and there is a possibility that any of these effects might endanger a person's life. These drugs may cause the following adverse effects:

  • Itching
  • Breathing difficulties, especially in the first one to three days of use 4
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Reduced sex drive 5
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Confusion

Hydrocodone-acetaminophen combinations are less likely to cause dizziness and nausea than oxycodone-acetaminophen combinations. 6

Interactions of Drugs with Oxycodone and Hydrocodone

Several medications can interact with oxycodone or hydrocodone, including the following:

  • Muscle relaxers
  • Antifungals
  • Antivirals
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Sedatives or depressants

Opioid prescriptions can also interact negatively with alcohol, several recreational substances, and even some dietary supplements.

Relevant Considerations

You need to present your doctor with comprehensive information regarding all of the prescription meds and OTC (over-the-counter) supplements you're taking to reduce the possibility of adverse drug interactions. If you are using the pain medication hydrocodone or oxycodone, please abstain from alcohol and other drugs of abuse.

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Are Oxycodone or Hydrocodone Addictive? 

The narcotics hydrocodone and oxycodone, when taken in high doses or for prolonged periods, can lead to potential dependence and addiction.

Understanding the Extent of the Risk Towards Addiction

Hydrocodone and oxycodone addiction is characterized by taking more of the substance than intended and placing drug use above personal and professional responsibilities. Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other drug addictions can range from mild to severe. As tolerance to the effects of hydrocodone and oxycodone increases, individuals will require greater doses to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

To minimize the risk of drug abuse, patients should let their doctor know of any changes they might be experiencing and have regular reviews of their opioid prescription and alternative treatment regimen.

Alternative Options

Doctors may recommend alternative pain management methods due to the dangers of opiate dependence and overdose. The following are a few possibilities:

  • Over-the-counter analgesics and other safer drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Treating nerve pain using non-opioid meds such as gabapentinoids and tricyclic antidepressants
  • Using nerve blocks to numb specific areas of discomfort.
  • Using mind-body chronic pain control strategies including meditation, exercise, stress management, acupuncture, yoga, and cognitive-behavioral therapy
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Hydrocodone and Oxycodone

Find Out More About Hydrocodone and Oxycodone at Ripple Ranch

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), non-opioid pain treatment, counseling, and resilience training through yoga and meditation are all options for those with substance abuse disorders at Ripple Ranch.

Do not hesitate to get in touch with Ripple Ranch right away if you think you or a loved one are experiencing a substance abuse disorder. We can help you or a loved one struggling with the side effects of oxycodone or hydrocodone abuse or usage. We have a world-class staff with unmatched skill in treating anything from withdrawal effects to co-occurring (dual diagnosis) disorders.

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