What is the Difference Between Hydrocodone and Oxycodone?

hydrocodone vs oxycodone

Prescription drugs can provide much-needed support for those recovering from surgery, but in the long term, these substances are incredibly dangerous. Hydrocodone and oxycodone are often prescribed for the treatment of pain, but to the one taking the medication, it can be difficult to know the difference between these drugs.

Knowing the difference between these medications can aid in conversations with doctors, treatment teams, and family members for those who are struggling with addiction. Let’s take a look at the potential effects taking these medications can have.


Hydrocodone is the second most frequently encountered opioid in drug evidence, and this has been the case since 2009. Used as both a cough suppressant and to treat moderate to severe pain, this drug is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the United States. As this prescription became more accessible, its addictive qualities and side effects have become more evident.

Hydrocodone has been reported to have a euphoric effect. This can create an increased risk of dependence and addiction. Hydrocodone is often misused in combination with alcohol to elevate the effects of the drug, and illicit use affects all age groups, including school-age children. Restrictions on this drug have helped to lessen the number of individuals who take hydrocodone, but it is reported that 4.7 million people over the age of 12 misused the drug in 2020.

Hydrocodone is most commonly found in tablets in the illicit drug market, but it also appears in capsules and liquid form. Drugs that contain hydrocodone are tracked by the federal government to help prevent illicit use, and researchers credit the decrease in illicit hydrocodone use partially to this monitoring system. Hydrocodone is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has been identified as having a high potential for abuse. 


Oxycodone is often known for its highly addictive qualities and the rapid escalation of abuse of this drug after it entered the market. OxyContin is the most common brand name of oxycodone that has appeared in street forms. Much like hydrocodone, oxycodone is prescribed to relieve moderate to moderately severe pain. Oxycodone is a controlled-release drug, meaning that it is designed to aid in pain management throughout the day and effects should be seen for longer periods of time.

Side effects of oxycodone, such as euphoria, sedation, and respiratory depression, make it a drug that is often misused. This abuse can lead to dependence on the drug and an increased tolerance. Since the 1960’s, the misuse of Oxycodone has been a continuing problem in the United States. It has often been used by heroin users as a way to address symptoms of withdrawal. While there has been a decrease in misuse in the last few years, illicit use of oxycodone is still a vast problem amongst those aged 12 or older, with 3.2 million people misusing the drug in 2020.

This drug is often obtained through forged prescriptions, professional diversion, “doctor shopping,” and robberies of nursing homes and pharmacies. Oxycodone is also a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has highly addictive qualities.

Differences Between Hydrocodone and Oxycodone

Hydrocodone and oxycodone have many similar qualities, but the side effects of each of these drugs is where the main differences lie. Hydrocodone more commonly elicits a side effect of tiredness, and oxycodone often produces constipation and some drowsiness. Depending on what type of release the tablet is (instant release or time release), the effects of the drug on a person will vary. It is more common for opioid users to use oxycodone to achieve a high because it has more easily abused forms of the medication, and it is one of the most common street drugs.

There Is Hope For Addiction

Whether you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to opioids, there is hope and healing available to you at PACE Recovery. Contact us today to discuss our treatment model designed specifically for men.