Codeine vs. Oxycodone

With the U.S. experiencing the severe consequences of the opioid epidemic, it’s only natural to expect that people will have questions about this class of drugs and what the effects are. Two often discussed opioids are codeine and oxycodone.

Below is an overview of codeine vs. oxycodone, along with answers to questions like “is codeine in oxycodone.”

Codeine vs. Oxycodone: What is the Difference? | Is Codeine In Oxycodone?
Relative to other opioids, codeine is considered somewhat mild, and it’s less potent than many of the other prescription opioid pain relievers on the market. Codeine is frequently prescribed in combination drugs such as Tylenol 3, which contains the codeine as well as acetaminophen. The use of codeine in combination drugs helps improve its effectiveness.

Codeine can be given to patients to treat pain ranging from mild to moderate, and it also has antitussive effects, so it’s used in many cough syrups.

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid pain medicine that is considered mildly potent among all opioids. It’s prescribed in most cases for pain ranging from moderate to severe, and it can be prescribed as a single-ingredient medication as well as a combination medication. For example, oxycodone is often combined with acetaminophen or aspirin as a way to make it a more effective pain reliever.

Like other opioids, oxycodone does have euphoric effects meaning that when people take it, they may feel high. This is why oxycodone carries an abuse potential, as do other opioids.

It also binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and depresses the activity of the CNS, including respiration. This is how it alters the sensation of pain, but the depressant effects of oxycodone and other opioids can be dangerous or deadly.
Oxycodone is available as an immediate-release medication and also as a controlled-release tablet, providing around-the-clock pain relief.

Some of the brand name drugs containing oxycodone include OxyContin, Percocet, and Endocet, among others.

Side effects possible with oxycodone include the sense of euphoria touched on above, relaxation, drowsiness, respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and constipation.

There are both similarities and differences when comparing codeine vs. oxycodone.
First, the similarities.

Both codeine and oxycodone are opioid pain relievers, and both have therapeutic pain-relieving benefits and are available by prescription only in the U.S. Both codeine and oxycodone also act as cough suppressants, and common effects of codeine and oxycodone can include sedation, drowsiness, and depressed respiration. Both are also often used in combination medications.

Both codeine and oxycodone bind to opioid receptors in the brain and both increase the pain tolerance of the user.

Codeine and oxycodone can lead to abuse and addiction, as well as physical dependence. A physical dependence to opioids like codeine or oxycodone means that after taking them for a period of time, the brain and body may become used to them or dependent on their presence. When someone then stops using them, even if they’ve been using them as prescribed, they may go through withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms of both codeine and oxycodone can include restlessness, yawning, sweating, dilated pupils and muscle pains.

Because of the respiratory depression caused by both codeine and oxycodone, an overdose can occur if breathing is slowed to a dangerous level from these medications, or stops altogether.

Neither codeine or oxycodone should be combined with certain substances including other opioids, benzodiazepines, and sleep aids, or alcohol. These substances can increase the chances of negative side effects or an overdose.

So what about the differences in codeine versus oxycodone?

First, a key difference in codeine compared to oxycodone is the fact that codeine is less potent. It can be prescribed to treat moderate pain, while oxycodone is a more potent opioid that is meant to be reserved for moderate to severe pain. As a result, codeine also has less of a potential for abuse and addiction as compared to oxycodone, although it’s still a very real possibility.

Another difference in codeine versus oxycodone is that oxycodone is available as an extended-release tablet, although this is intended only for people who already have an opioid tolerance. Otherwise, an overdose is possible.

People often wonder “is codeine in oxycodone,” and the answer is no. Codeine and oxycodone are two different types of opioids, and they wouldn’t be used in combination with one another.
When a comparison is being made between codeine vs. oxycodone, some of the main differences are the strengths and the potential for abuse. Oxycodone is more potent than codeine and is used for the treatment of more severe levels of pain as compared to codeine. Oxycodone also carries a higher abuse potential because of its potency. However, both codeine and oxycodone can become addictive. People can also develop a physical dependence to both codeine and oxycodone.

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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