Prescription opioids are a very significant topic of discussion in the U.S. today, as the addiction epidemic sweeps across entire communities.

Two drugs at the center of the opioid epidemic are hydrocodone and oxycodone. People often wonder what the differences are when comparing hydrocodone vs. OxyContin, and also what they should know about the hydrocodone vs. oxycodone high and addiction information.

The following provides an overview of each separately and a comparison of hydrocodone vs. OxyContin.

What is Hydrocodone?

Before comparing hydrocodone vs. OxyContin, what is hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid drug and a prescription painkiller. This narcotic pain medication that binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, and changes the way pain is perceived. Hydrocodone drug brand names include Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER, which are both extended-release medications. However, there are several other drugs that contain hydrocodone. The risks and side effects associated with most hydrocodone formulations come from the drug’s opioid components, and also acetaminophen components.

It also slows the overall activity of the central nervous system, which includes respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure. This slowing of the CNS is why it’s particularly important for people to follow dosing instructions and take hydrocodone exactly as prescribed.

Some of the side effects of hydrocodone can include nausea, vomiting, itching, constipation, headache, and drowsiness.

While hydrocodone does have benefits in a therapeutic sense, as with other opioids, there is also the risk of addiction and dependence. When people take opioids, particularly in high doses, it can create a euphoric high, so this is something that can lead to addiction.

Hydrocodone vs. OxyContin

OxyContin is a prescription opioid pain reliever that includes pure oxycodone. Oxycodone is a potent opioid that is also often available in combination medicines with other drugs like Tylenol.

When you’re comparing hydrocodone vs. OxyContin, there are a few key similarities. OxyContin is a brand-name drug has extended-release tablets, just like the brand-name forms of hydrocodone. This means that OxyContin has a large amount of the opioid oxycodone, and when someone takes it, it’s intended to gradually release into their bloodstream over a period of about 12 hours or so.

Brand-name drugs that include only hydrocodone include Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER, both of which are extended-release drugs. However, hydrocodone is also a component in many other drugs which may be short-acting, or immediate.

Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone High

Unfortunately, people frequently abuse prescription pain relievers, leading them to wonder about the differences between the hydrocodone vs. oxycodone high. As mentioned, oxycodone is the generic version of OxyContin, and OxyContin is time-release, while oxycodone is an immediate release.

Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are powerful pain relievers.

There is a potential of getting high with both hydrocodone and oxycodone, but oxycodone is stronger and more likely to lead to addiction than hydrocodone. Hydrocodone used to be the most commonly misused opioid in America because, until recently, it was easy to prescribe and obtain.

Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are classified as schedule II drugs by the DEA in the U.S., which means both are considered to have a high potential for abuse and addiction.

Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone: Which Is Stronger?

When comparing hydrocodone vs. oxycodone, which is stronger? Both are intended to treat pain ranging from moderate to severe, and both are often combined with other drugs like acetaminophen. Both hydrocodone and oxycodone can also be prescribed in extended-release versions for the treatment of around-the-clock and chronic pain.

Both are powerful, but oxycodone is approximately 30 percent stronger than hydrocodone. Many studies have shown that a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen was better at treating pain than hydrocodone with acetaminophen, however.

Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone Side Effects

Oxycodone is stronger than hydrocodone, but these opioids have similar side effects.

The most common side effects of both hydrocodone and oxycodone are drowsiness, nausea, vomiting and constipation. However, there is one difference between hydrocodone vs. oxycodone side effects. Because it’s much stronger than hydrocodone, oxycodone is more likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects and constipation than hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone Addiction

Is the hydrocodone vs. oxycodone addiction risk similar?

In general, yes. There is a similar risk when looking at hydrocodone vs. oxycodone addiction.

Both are classified as schedule II drugs, meaning a high abuse potential. It’s important for people to take both of these drugs exactly as instructed to avoid the risk of addiction, which can occur even when a person is prescribed either of these drugs.

Another similarity between hydrocodone and oxycodone is that the brand-name forms of the drugs come in extended-release forms.

One of the most important differences between the two drugs is that oxycodone is stronger than hydrocodone.

With hydrocodone vs. oxycodone, there are many similarities, and both are generic opioids often used in extended-release and combination drugs. The side effects and addiction potential are similar when looking at hydrocodone vs. oxycodone.

Camille Renzoni
Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
Jessica Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
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