Oxycodone and hydrocodone are prescription opioids used to treat mild to severe pain in individuals. They should only be prescribed for acute pain, such as after surgery or an injury or chronic pain related to cancer or palliative care. In some cases, they may be prescribed to pain patients who do not respond well to non-addictive treatment methods.
What Is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is a morphine-derived analgesic drug that belongs to a class of drugs called narcotics that is typically prescribed to treat moderate-severe pain. Narcotic pain medications are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means that although a health provider can prescribe this medication for certain health conditions, it also has a high potential for abuse and addiction.
Oxycodone can be found in several pain medications, including Oxycontin and Percocet, which also contains acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol). The pain relief effects of immediate-release oxycodone will be effective for 12 hours, but the instant-release versions will only last for about 4-6 hours.
What Is Hydrocodone?
Hydrocodone is derived from codeine, an opium alkaloid like morphine and thebaine. It is commonly found in the brand names Norco and Lortab, as well as Vicodin, which also contains acetaminophen. These drugs are typically used to relieve acute mild-severe pain or in patients, but like oxycodone, they can be highly addictive if used for a prolonged period. Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid for pain in the U.S.
Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone
Oxycodone and hydrocodone are both schedule II opioid drugs which, as noted, indicate that they can lead to abuse or addiction when used for an extended period. They are partially synthetic and derived from the opium poppy plant. Both medications make changes to the central nervous system (CNS), resulting in pain relief, relaxation, and feelings of well-being.
Besides the length of time in which these two drugs are effective, one key difference between hydrocodone and oxycodone is the likelihood of certain side effects. Oxycodone is more likely to induce side effects such as dizziness and drowsiness, headaches, and euphoric feelings. Hydrocodone may be more likely to cause abdominal pain and constipation. Oxycodone is also more potent in terms of effects than hydrocodone.
From a molecular standpoint, oxycodone and hydrocodone are very similar, with differences in their structure coming down to a single extra oxygen atom on oxycodone.
Effects of the Drugs
Oxycodone and hydrocodone have similar effects on how an individual feels while taking them. Both oxycodone and hydrocodone can make a person feel “high” and have potent effects. The former is considered more powerful and may be more likely to result in addiction than the latter.
Short-term effects of both oxycodone and hydrocodone include the following:
- Intense feelings of well-being and relaxation
- Reduced pain sensations
- Reduced anxiety
Other less desirable effects might include gastrointestinal issues, sweating, flushing, loss of appetite, cardiovascular problems such as adverse changes in blood pressure or heartbeat, and in extreme cases, seizures.
Allergic reactions that may manifest can include rash, itching, hives, and swelling of the throat, lips, face, tongue, or other extremities.
Respiratory problems may include decreased breathing or more serious issues, including difficulty swallowing. If an overdose occurs, it is related to profound CNS respiratory depression. It is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate interventions such as calling 911 and the administration of naloxone, a drug that effectively reverses the effects of opioids.
Abuse and Addiction
Like other drugs, oxycodone and hydrocodone use (and most certainly abuse) can result in addiction. Even if an individual takes this drug for a short period, they can develop a dependence on it, which means they need to use the drug just to feel “normal.” Over time, individuals will also build a tolerance to the drug and need an ever-increasing amount to achieve the desired results, which is why abuse may begin to occur.
Abuse is a primary cause of concern because both drugs can be habit-forming and lead to chemical dependence and full-blown addiction. Oxycodone is more potent than hydrocodone, and therefore it may have a higher likelihood for abuse, but both can lead to addiction due to their “feel-good” effects.
Combining Opioids With Other Substances
When a person combines an opioid like oxycodone or hydrocodone with other prescription or illicit drugs, there can be adverse interactions that result in unpredictable complications, compounded effects, increased likelihood of addiction to one or both substances, and life-threatening overdose.
When opioids are used in conjunction with muscle relaxants, barbiturates, or alcohol, brain and body function may be slowed to the point of breathing impairment. Mixing opioids with alcohol is especially dangerous, and drinking in excess can be detrimental in and of itself to your health.
Oxycodone, hydrocodone, and similar opioids are all associated with specific side effects which occur when a substance-dependent person quits abruptly or “cold turkey.” Many of these effects can be mitigated or prevented by undergoing medical detox, a process in which a person is monitored around-the-clock by health professions and given medications to ease symptoms and reduce the likelihood of complications.
Common effects associated with opioid withdrawal may include the following:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Body aches and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Fever and chills
- Shakiness and tremors
- Fast heartbeat
- Accelerated breathing
- High blood pressure
Symptoms can begin to manifest within 12 hours after the last dose of the drug has been ingested. The severity and number of symptoms depend on several factors such as the duration of abuse, average amount of drug frequently used, and whether a person quits on their own or takes advantage of professional therapeutic offerings such as medical detox.
Physical withdrawal effects will usually subside between 5-7 days. Emotional symptoms can persist for weeks or months, which is one reason why undergoing long-term intensive treatment is beneficial for persons in recovery.
The First Step to Getting Treatment
The first step in getting professional help for opioid addiction is to locate an accredited, specialized treatment center, such as Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery. A reputable recovery rehab center should be able to provide the proper care and resources to allow individuals to get treatment help for their addiction.
Our treatment programs are designed by addiction specialists and offer a detox program, counseling, and other recovery program options that help individuals get clean and free from addiction.
Our programs focus on both each person’s mental health but physical health as well. Our recovery rehab focuses on the underlying factors contributing to a person’s desire to abuse substances. We treat addiction to all types of prescription drugs, including opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and many others.
We understand the adverse consequences that occur as a result of the abuse of drugs or alcohol, and our client’s health and wellness are our number one priority. We offer both evidence-based support methods as well as holistic care options that treat the adverse symptoms and withdrawal effects that occur when a person becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol.
Some of our treatment methodologies include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, addiction education, mindfulness therapy, art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and much, much more. We aim to provide each individual the tools, resources, education, and support they so desperately need to achieve a full Recovery, maintain sobriety, prevent relapse, and foster the happy and healthy lives they deserve!