Difference between oxycodone and hydrocodone

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When I was little and had my usual leg and muscle cramps, my parents used to ask me to grit my teeth and bear the pain and would usually follow it up with their popular mantra “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Well sure, that mantra is indeed very true, but to suit today’s scenario, somebody ought to rephrase it “When the going gets tough, the tough pop a painkiller and then get going”.

The advent of medicines and painkillers especially, has got us all thanking god for having been born in an era where science develops at a rate faster that fruit flies do. Oxycodone and Hydrocodone are perhaps what one would call ‘blessings in disguise’. For a long time now, these two drugs have been the most widely used and also the most effective painkillers man has ever seen. (And of course, these are derived from good old morphine)

While it is a popular misconception that these drugs are almost the same, there a few differences that set these two medicines apart.

  1. Sources of the two drugs.

While both hydrocone and oxycodone are classified as narcotics, they have different sources.

Hydrocone is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from codeine while oxycodone is derived from thebaine. Thebaine though similar to codeine and morphine, is actually codeine methyl enol ether.

  1. Difference in potency of the two drugs.

While considering drug potency, Oxycodone is a lot more potent than hydrocodone. It is for this reason that it generally comes separately. It does not require any additional drug to enhance its potency. Hydrocodone however, comes as a mixed preparation in combination with different drugs to enhance its potency.

  1. Drug prescription.

While getting prescriptions and refills for hydrocodone can be quite simple, prescriptions and refills for oxycodone are not as easily available. Oxycodone is generally only prescribed to patients in dire need of a highly potent painkiller. These are thus administered to patients who have cancer and have undergone some kind of trauma. Hydrocodone on the other hand, is prescribed for moderate pain. It may also be administered as a suppressant for cough.

  1. Dosage of the drugs.

The dosage of hydrocodone and oxycodone differ drastically. For light weighted persons or patients with weak stomach, only 7.5mg of hydrocodone is prescribed. Oxycodone is generally not recommended for such patients. For patients with tough stomachs and heavy weight, 5mg of oxycodone may be prescribed. Oxycodone may also be administered to those who have a good metabolism rate.

  1. Drug abuse.

As mentioned earlier, hydrocodone is more easily available than oxycodone. As a result, hydrocodone is more abused and there have thus been numerous records of overdosage due to this drug. In addition, it’s cheaper rate also leads to it being abused far more than its oxycodone counterpart.

  1. Addiction and weaning off drugs.

As with any other drug, intake of hydrocodone and oxycodone for long periods can lead to their addiction. Dependance on oxycodone however is far more in comparison to hydrocodone. This makes a hydrocodone addiction faster and easier to get over. Hydrocodone does not generally last for long in the system, and its dosage can be lowered gradually. To wean off oxycodone, a lot of planning and advice is necessary. While it is possible to wean off this drug, it is sure to take a long time.

  1. The better painkiller.

While both drugs are prescribed as painkillers, oxycodone is definitely the stronger painkiller. Hydrocodone in the other hand, maybe used for minor degrees of pains but finds is use mostly as a suppressant.


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