Codeine vs. Hydrocodone For Pain
There is a serious crisis happening in the U.S. right now when it comes to opioids and their abuse. Opioids are responsible for thousands of deaths each year, and it’s important not just for medical professionals but also individuals to understand what these drugs are and what their effects can be.
The following provides an overview of two opioids in particular which are codeine and hydrocodone. It covers codeine vs. hydrocodone for pain, and answers questions including “is codeine in hydrocodone.”
Codeine is usually combined with other medications such as Tylenol to create combination formulations that more effectively relieve pain.
Codeine is a narcotic that converts to morphine in the body of the user, and it binds to opioid receptors in the brain, which changes the way the sensation of pain is experienced in the brain and body of the user. It increases the tolerance to pain, but it doesn’t necessarily alleviate pain.
Common codeine side effects can include dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, and sedation.
Hydrocodone is considered a semi-synthetic opioid, which means it’s partially naturally derived, and it’s intended for pain ranging from moderate to severe. Hydrocodone is also sometimes used as an antitussive, means it can treat a cough.
Hydrocodone is often used in combination drugs such as Vicodin and Lortab, which include both the hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It’s also available in controlled-release versions for more around-the-clock pain relief.
First, what about the similarities with codeine vs. hydrocodone? Both are classified as narcotic or opioid pain relievers that change the perception of pain in the user, and both are available only by prescription. Both codeine and hydrocodone affect the same areas of the brain and can create a high in the user, although this happens at lower doses with hydrocodone in most people.
Both codeine and hydrocodone are central nervous system depressants, and side effects are similar with the two. For example, common side effects of both codeine and hydrocodone include constipation, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and dizziness. With codeine, it’s also possible to experience symptoms such as sweating, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. With hydrocodone, additional side effects can include itchiness and loss of appetite.
The side effects of both codeine and hydrocodone usually subside over time, although how side effects impact people can vary between individuals.
There are risks of abuse and addiction with both codeine and hydrocodone, although these risks may be more significant with hydrocodone since it’s considered more potent than codeine. Codeine is classified as a Schedule II narcotic by the DEA, while hydrocodone is Schedule III, meaning hydrocodone has a higher abuse potential than codeine.
Both codeine and hydrocodone can cause physical dependence. This occurs when someone’s brain and body become used to the presence of these drugs and then if they stop taking them suddenly they will go through uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. If codeine or hydrocodone are prescribed by a doctor, they will usually put patients on a tapering down schedule as they stop using them, in order to lessen or prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring.
What’s interesting when comparing codeine vs. hydrocodone is the fact that while hydrocodone is more potent, for many people codeine withdrawal is more uncomfortable than hydrocodone withdrawal.
Both codeine and hydrocodone can have dangerous interactions with many of the same substances as well. For example, neither codeine or hydrocodone should be combined with alcohol or sedatives, because of the risk of severe respiratory depression.
So what about the differences when comparing codeine vs. hydrocodone?
First, codeine is a naturally-occurring opiate, while hydrocodone is synthetic.
Hydrocodone is considered more powerful than codeine, so it can be used for more severe pain, while codeine is usually prescribed for pain ranging from mild to moderate. Codeine is available as an immediate-release medication, while hydrocodone is available in both immediate-release options and also extended-release tablets.
The answer is no, codeine is not in hydrocodone because both are opioids and both affect the user in many of the same ways.
The primary differences between codeine vs. hydrocodone include the potency of hydrocodone being stronger than that of codeine and the fact that hydrocodone is available as an extended-release medication.
Both do have many of the same risks and side effects, so if you’re prescribed either, you should follow your doctor’s instructions.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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