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Oxycodone vs. Hydrocodone: What’s the Difference?

The similarities between oxycodone and hydrocodone outweigh the differences, but there are a few distinctions between the two. Both drugs are prescription opioids used in pain management. They’re also both main players in the opioid epidemic and fall under the Schedule II drug designation of controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). However, there are some differences in features like source, common side effects, chemical makeup, and form, as well as the type of high they provide based on anecdotal reports.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone  is made in labs. It’s a semi-synthetic opioid derived from the poppy plant. Once readily prescribed, now physicians are using hydrocodone to manage pain much less since, like oxycodone, it was found to be one of the prescription painkillers that fueled the beginning of the opioid epidemic.

Brand names for hydrocodone include:

  • Lorcet
  • Vicodin
  • Norco
  • Lortab

Health care professionals usually reserve hydrocodone for pain from dental or surgery procedures and for cancer pain. Unlike oxycodone, hydrocodone usually contains acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever.

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is made from the poppy plant. It’s a semi-synthetic opioid derived from thebaine. It goes through chemical reactions that get it to its form as oxycodone. Physicians may use oxycodone to manage severe pain from dental procedures, cancer, injuries, and surgeries. Because of the opioid epidemic, medical professionals typically only prescribe oxycodone when other less-addictive pain management medicines aren’t appropriate or are ineffective.

Most people know oxycodone by OxyContin, which is a brand name for the drug. Other names for oxycodone include:

  • Percocet (contains acetaminophen)
  • Oxycodone hydrochloride extended-release tablets (generic version of OxyContin)
  • Tylox (contains acetaminophen)
  • Percodan (contains aspirin)
  • Roxicet (contains acetaminophen)

What Is the Difference Between Oxycodone and Hydrocodone?

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are interchangeable in many ways. They’re both strong opioid painkillers; they’re both used to treat similar types of pain; and they’re both commonly abused.

Some differences between hydrocodone vs. oxycodone include:

Side Effects of Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone

For the most part, hydrocodone and oxycodone share similar side effects. These usually include stomach pain like constipation and gastrointestinal issues. There are a handful of studies that found side effects like dizziness, headaches, and sleepiness are more common and intense in oxycodone vs. hydrocodone users.

Chemical Makeup

Oxycodone and hydrocodone mirror each other in chemical structure with one difference. Hydrocodone has one less oxygen atom than oxycodone.

Conditions Treated

One difference between hydrocodone and oxycodone is that hydrocodone is derived from codeine so it can treat symptoms of a cough. Other than that, the two drugs overlap in the pain for which they’re prescribed.

Milligrams and Form

Hydrocodone is prescribed in the form of a liquid, patch, or tablet. The tablets are typically yellow, orange, or white and are dispensed in 2.5, 5, 7.5, and 10 mg.

Oxycodone is prescribed in a liquid that’s injected, or as a pill. Oral doses come in 10, 20, 40, and 80 mg extended-release forms. Pills are typically oval and come in several different colors including pink, yellow, white, brown, and blue.


Hydrocodone comes from codeine and oxycodone comes from thebaine. Both drugs are created in labs and are synthetic opioid drugs.


Some substance abusers claim that the high feeling you get from oxycodone vs. hydrocodone is different. An anonymous survey found 2250 out of 3,000 opioid abusers used hydrocodone or oxycodone. Of those 2250, 1215 abused oxycodone because they felt it gave them a more intense high than hydrocodone.

Treating Hydrocodone or Oxycodone Addiction

Opioid addictions are treated similarly no matter what the drug. Whether you’re addicted to hydrocodone or oxycodone, you’ll likely require medical detox, medication, and a professional addiction treatment program. 

Opioid addiction treatment usually includes:

Medical Detox

When you abuse opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone, your brain and body become dependent on them to function. These drugs interfere with the production of important brain chemicals and central nervous system messaging. When you quit opioids after regularly abusing them, your system goes into overdrive. It’s trying to produce these chemicals on its own again. As your body and brain rebalance, you experience withdrawal symptoms.

Medical detox ensures that you’re safe and as comfortable as possible during this process. Medical professionals are with you around the clock, keeping watch over your vital signs and comfort level. They’ll ease withdrawal symptoms with medications and attend to any medical emergencies.

Residential Treatment

An inpatient treatment program puts space between you and triggers to use opioids. You can focus on yourself as you repair the physical and emotional damage of addiction. You’ll participate in behavioral therapies, individual counseling, and groups that help you address the root causes of substance abuse and addiction as well as learn healthy coping skills you need to stay sober.

Many people move from higher levels of care to lower ones that meet for less hours each week. Some will transition into a partial hospitalization program or intensive outpatient program after residential treatment. This helps you ease back into everyday life. You attend treatment during the day and live at home or in a sober living residence. The final step in treatment is an outpatient program that meets just one to three hours a week. It will serve as a weekly checkpoint for you and a place of support.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are medications that can help ease opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They work on the brain in similar ways as opioids, but they don’t get you high. This allows you to focus on your behavioral therapy and the relapse prevention skills you need to maintain long-term addiction recovery.


Recovery work doesn’t end when you leave the drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. You’ll work with your therapist or case manager to develop a continuing care plan that provides structure and sober support in everyday life.

Aftercare may include:

  • Individual counseling sessions
  • Family therapy
  • 12-step program meetings
  • Alumni events and meetings
  • Time in a sober living residence
  • Daily self-care practices
  • Online recovery resources

Addicted to Opioids?

Recovering from opioid addiction is possible. Whether you got addicted to hydrocodone and oxycodone after a medical condition or you’ve been purchasing opioids illegally, there are evidence-based treatment approaches that can help you get sober and stay sober if you’re motivated and dedicated to your recovery. Vogue Recovery Center can help. We’ve seen thousands of our clients take back their lives from addiction. You can too. Call us today.