Oxycodone and hydrocodone, according to the National Institutes of Health, are both opioids with a high potential for addiction. The two drugs are so similar that there are no specific symptoms that can reliably differentiate the effects of oxycodone from the effects of hydrocodone. Here’s what you need to know about the two medications.
What is Hydrocodone?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, hydrocodone is a drug that relieves pain by binding to opioid receptors in your central nervous system. It tends to slow down bodily functions, such as digestion and breathing. It can also suppress coughs.
Several brand name drugs, such as Vicodin, combine hydrocodone with acetaminophen. According to a 2016 article published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology, there is evidence to suggest that acetaminophen can cause life-threatening liver damage or liver failure even at relatively low doses.
What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a drug that can slow down activity in the central nervous system and throughout the body. It can also suppress coughs, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Doctors may prescribe oxycodone alone or with acetaminophen. Some medications, such as Percocet, contain both drugs.
As with hydrocodone, acetaminophen poses a higher risk of overdose and liver damage when you take it with oxycodone, according to FDA advisories.
What's the Difference?
Oxycodone and hydrocodone are chemically very similar, and both belong to the opioid class of drugs. This means that the effects of a hydrocodone high are very similar to those of an oxycodone high.
Some possible side effects that the two drugs share are:
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in heartbeat
- Swelling of the face, lips, and tongue
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
However, tiredness is a more common side effect of hydrocodone, while drowsiness and constipation are likelier to occur with oxycodone.
Factors such as your dosage and whether you take the drugs orally or by injection will affect the appearance of such symptoms. Additionally, Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC, an addiction specialist at Lin and Aaron Coaching, tells WebMD Connect to Care that the symptoms of an oxycodone or hydrocodone high will depend more on the following than which drug you use:
- Your weight
- Your history of substance abuse
- Whether you use either drug alongside other medications
- Whether the drug formulation is instant release or time release
“In my experience, individuals who abuse opioid medications to get a high prefer oxycodone because of more easily abused formulations of the medication, often taken as OxyContin, Percocet and Roxicet,” Sternlicht additionally notes.
What to Look For
Abuse of either drug may escalate to addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 128 Americans die each day due to opioid overdose. As you become more dependent, overdose becomes more likely because you’ll need a higher dose to get the same high. An overdose on either drug can cause the following symptoms:
- Weakness or dizziness
- Slow heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Cold, clammy skin
Don’t hesitate to call 911 or your local emergency services if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of an opioid overdose.
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