Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone: What’s the Difference?

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What’s the difference between hydrocodone vs. oxycodone? Is one more effective – or more dangerous – than the other? How can you tell if someone has been abusing one of these these drugs, or is in danger of becoming addicted? Get the facts you need so that you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioids, our addiction treatment programs in Nashville can help. Call us now at 615-234-9071 or verify your insurance now. 

What Are Hydrocodone and Oxycodone?

To fully appreciate the differences between hydrocodone vs. oxycodone, it can help to begin by reviewing a few basic facts about these substances.

Hydrocodone and oxycodone are both semisynthetic opioids. They are referred to as semisynthetic because they are lab-created derivations of thebaine, which is a naturally occurring opioid. 

Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are commonly prescribed to people who have been experiencing moderate to severe pain (either chronic or acute):

  • Hydrocodone is present in several brand-name prescription painkillers, including OxyContin, Lortab, and Lorcet. 
  • Painkillers that contain oxycodone – either alone or in combination with other substances – include OxyContin, Roxicodone, and Percocet.

In addition to alleviating pain, both drugs can also cause elevated mood (to the point of euphoria) and deep relaxation or sedation. These effects make hydrocodone and oxycodone attractive substances for people who are seeking a certain type of recreational high. 

As is the case with other opioids – such as heroin, morphine, and fentanyl – hydrocodone and oxycodone are powerful, dangerous when misused, and highly addictive. In addition to addiction, people who abuse these substances also put themselves at risk for several other forms of physical and psychological damage, including overdose and death.

What’s the Difference Between Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone?

Though these two substances are extremely similar, there are a few important differences between hydrocodone vs. oxycodone. For example:

  • Hydrocodone is not as powerful as oxycodone. This means that a person will have to ingest a larger amount of hydrocodone to achieve the effects that they would experience via a smaller dose of oxycodone.
  • Since oxycodone is more powerful, it also poses a greater risk of overdose and death when misused. However, this does not mean that hydrocodone abuse is remotely safe. Misusing either of these drugs can lead to catastrophic results.
  • People who use these drugs may experience different types of side effects. Oxycodone use is more likely to cause fatigue and exhaustion, while hydrocodone use has been more closely associated with abdominal distress, nausea, and constipation.

How Can I Tell if Someone Has Been Abusing Hydrocodone or Oxycodone?

There is no such thing as completely risk-free use of either hydrocodone or oxycodone, even if they have been prescribed by an experienced physician. But when someone intentionally abuses either of these substances, their likelihood of experiencing negative outcomes may increase significantly.

If you suspect that someone you care about has been abusing either or both of these opioids, keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Dramatic changes in mood, attitude, and energy 
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Constricted (pinpoint) pupils
  • Impaired coordination
  • Change in appetite, which can lead to unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Recurrent flu-like symptoms
  • Frequent constipation

The following behaviors can also be warning signs that someone has been abusing opioids:

  • Taking a prescription painkiller more frequently, in larger doses, or for a longer period of time than directed by their physician
  • Visiting multiple doctors and/or lying about symptoms in order to get additional prescriptions for hydrocodone or oxycodone
  • Trying to buy, borrow, or steal prescription painkillers that have been prescribed to someone else
  • Having unexplained financial problems
  • Falling behind at work or in school
  • Failing to pay bills and meet other responsibilities
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Lying or being secretive about how they have spending their time or who they have been associating with
  • Neglecting their appearance and personal hygiene

Learn more: Commonly Abused Opioids

What Are the Signs of Addiction to Hydrocodone or Oxycodone?

Some people use the terms opioid abuse and opioid addiction interchangeably, but they have decidedly different meanings: 

  • Opioid abuse is a behavior. It refers to the improper use of hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other drugs in the opioid family. 
  • Opioid addiction is a behavioral health disorder. When someone develops this condition, they will lose the ability to control the amount and frequency of their substance use.

The following signs may be indicators that someone’s abuse of hydrocodone or oxycodone has caused them to develop opioid use disorder (which is the clinical term for an addiction to one of these substances):

  • They have powerful cravings for opioids.
  • They spend large amounts of time seeking, acquiring, and using opioids.
  • They stop taking part in activities that used to be important to them because of their opioid use
  • They use hydrocodone, oxycodone, or other opioids in ways that are especially hazardous, such as by combining them with alcohol or other drugs.
  • They develop tolerance, which means that neither hydrocodone nor oxycodone affect them as strongly as they used to. This can push them to use larger amounts of these drugs.
  • They continue to use the drugs even after incurring harm (such as overdosing, being arrested, getting fired, or losing a relationship) as a result of prior use.
  • If they try to stop or significantly decrease their opioid use, they quickly develop painful withdrawal symptoms.
  • They want to stop using opioids, but the are unable to do so.

Anyone who exhibits these types of symptoms is in crisis and needs help. An ideal first step is for them to be assessed by a qualified professional who can provide them with an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options.

It can be extremely difficult overcome the compulsion to abuse hydrocodone, oxycodone, or other opioids without help. But with proper care and a concerted effort, countless people have stopped using opioids and started living much healthier and more satisfying lives in recovery.

Find Help for Opioid Addiction in Nashville

Nashville Treatment Solutions is a safe and supportive place where adults can end their use of hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other addictive substances. 

Features of treatment at our opioid rehab center in Nashville, Tennessee, include detoxification, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP) with day and evening options, a traditional outpatient program, and sober living homes for patients who need a supportive residence while they are receiving care.

When you’re ready to get started, the Nashville Treatment Solutions team is here for you. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.