Percocet is one of many opioids that can be used for pain. This is a review of its similarities and differences with other painkillers and its generic version.

Article at a Glance:

  • Percocet is one of many opioids that can be used for pain
  • Percocet has similarities and differences with other commonly prescribed opioids like oxycodoneVicodinNorcotramadol and generic Percocet
  • Knowing about these similarities and differences is important, especially if you are prescribed more than one opioid

How Do Other Painkillers Compare to Percocet?

Many different opioid painkillers exist, and not all are created equal. They can vary based on the frequency of dosing, potency, side effects, active ingredients and addictive potential. Especially if you are prescribed more than one opioid at the same time, it is important to know the differences between the drugs.

Oxycodone vs Percocet

Oxycodone is the opioid component of Percocet. However, oxycodone is also available as a drug all on its own. Oxycodone-containing drugs were the 52nd most commonly prescribed agents in the United States in 2017.

The Similarities:

  • Both drugs are classified as Schedule II opioids by the DEA, meaning they have a high potential for abuse.
  • Both drugs contain oxycodone as their opioid ingredient.

The Differences:

  • Oxycodone can be prescribed on its own and contains only an opioid, instead of a combination drug like Percocet.
  • Percocet is a short-acting opioid that is designed to be taken every six hours as needed.
  • Oxycodone comes in several different dosage forms, including a short-acting drug designed to be taken every four to six hours as needed, and long-acting forms which are designed to be taken around the clock.
  • Because Percocet contains acetaminophen, its side effects include possible liver toxicity if too much acetaminophen is taken.

Vicodin vs Percocet

Vicodin and Percocet contain acetaminophen combined with different short-acting opioids. While Percocet contains oxycodone, Vicodin contains hydrocodone. Both oxycodone and hydrocodone are similarly potent, although oxycodone may be slightly more potent in some people. As of 2017, hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination drugs like Vicodin were the 13th most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.

The Similarities:

  • Both drugs are classified as Schedule II opioids by the DEA.
  • Percocet and Vicodin both contain acetaminophen and an opioid.
  • Percocet and Vicodin are similarly potent.
  • Percocet and Vicodin are both used only as needed for pain.

The Differences:

  • Percocet contains oxycodone while Vicodin contains hydrocodone.
  • Percocet should be taken every six hours as needed while Vicodin may be taken every four to six hours as needed.
  • Percocet and Vicodin contain slightly different amounts of acetaminophen: Percocet contains 325mg of acetaminophen while Vicodin contains 300mg.

Norco vs Percocet

Similar to Vicodin, Norco relieves pain with a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. This is in contrast to Percocet, which relieves pain with oxycodone and acetaminophen. Both oxycodone and hydrocodone have similar potency. As of 2017, hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination drugs like Norco were the 13th-most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.

The Similarities:

  • Both drugs are classified as Schedule II opioids by the DEA.
  • Percocet and Norco both contain 325mg of acetaminophen and an opioid.
  • Percocet and Norco are similarly potent.
  • Percocet and Norco are both used only as needed for pain.

The Differences:

  • Percocet contains oxycodone while Norco contains hydrocodone.
  • Percocet should be taken every six hours as needed while Norco may be taken every four to six hours as needed.

Tramadol vs Percocet

Unlike Percocet, tramadol is considered a weak opioid that is about four to six times less potent than oxycodone. For this reason, tramadol is less prone to abuse and dependence and is a Schedule IV opioid for which doctors can prescribe limited refills.

Tramadol was the 32nd most commonly prescribed drug in the United States as of 2017.

The Similarities:

  • Both drugs are opioids.
  • Both drugs come in a tablet form.

The Differences:

  • Percocet is a Schedule II opioid, while tramadol is a Schedule IV opioid.
  • Tramadol is a much weaker opioid than the oxycodone that is in Percocet.
  • Tramadol comes in both a short-acting dosage form that can be given every four to six hours as needed and long-acting dosage form that should be given once daily on a scheduled basis, while Percocet only comes in a short-acting form that should be given every six hours as needed.
  • Tramadol can increase seizure risk, while Percocet has not been shown to have the same effect.

Generic Percocet vs Name Brand Percocet

Both generic and brand name Percocet contain the same active ingredients and strengths of acetaminophen and oxycodone. For this reason, the FDA considers them basically equivalent. Regardless of whether someone is opting for generic Percocet or a brand name version of the drug, both medications are Schedule II opioids that can lead to addiction and dependence.

However, costs can vary between brand name and generic Percocet, with the generic version generally costing less than the brand name drug.

While the active ingredients in the drugs are the same, the inactive ingredients, also known as excipients, can vary between brand name and generic drugs. These ingredients are sometimes included for drug stability, texture, taste or color. Some people may be sensitive to some excipients or notice that the brand name and the generic drugs appear different for this reason.

What is Percocet?

Percocet is a potent opioid narcotic that is used for the management of pain ranging from moderate to severe. This prescription drug is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a high likelihood of abuse and addiction. It’s commonly prescribed for situations such as serious injuries or following surgery.

Percocet contains both the opioid oxycodone and the analgesic acetaminophen. Although prescription data for Percocet is not separated out from oxycodone, as of 2017, oxycodone products were the 52nd most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.

How Does Percocet Work?

Percocet contains both oxycodone and acetaminophen, which work in different ways to treat pain.

When someone takes Percocet, the oxycodone component of the drug binds to the brain’s mμ opioid receptors. This reduces the amount of pain you feel, although experts aren’t sure of the precise mechanism. Additionally, the neurotransmitter dopamine floods the brain, creating euphoria. This triggers the brain’s reward system, which is why oxycodone has the potential to be so addictive.

The acetaminophen component of the drug also promotes pain relief, although doctors are not sure how it works.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, such as Percocet, Vicodin, Norco or tramadol addiction, contact The Recovery Village to discuss treatment options for opioid addiction.

Melissa Carmona
By – Melissa Carmona
As the content manager at Advanced Recovery Systems, Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. 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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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.