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Hydrocodone and Oxycodone are among the most widely prescribed painkillers in the U.S. today. Given to patients after surgery or an injury to manage acute pain, these narcotic painkillers are often cited as causing major addiction. In fact, these medications are highly debated and can be controversial. 

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are effective if the patient is taking them short-term. The problems set in after long-term use. The debate continues to rage on regarding the use of narcotic painkillers and the merits of each. One is often cited as being less addictive than the other, so let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone

It is important to know the major differences between Oxycodone and hydrocodone. Pain relief may be a priority for any patient, but abuse of these drugs can be devastating and life altering. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between the two. They have different names and delivery methods for offering pain relief. 

Hydrocodone is made from codeine. This opiate, known best as Vicodin, is related to the opium poppy. Most of the time, hydrocodone is mixed with other properties, like expectorants and acetaminophen. That is why doctors sometimes prescribe hydrocodone for coughs and non-pain related issues. 

Oxycodone is much more dangerous and addictive than hydrocodone. Known by OxyContin and Percocet, it is also mixed with acetaminophen. Thebaine is an active ingredient in oxycodone, which is synthesized directly from the poppy plant. This ingredient creates an intense euphoric feeling with a high potential of abuse. 

Other differences between these drugs are minimal. They have virtually the same in strength and the speed at which they work. The side-effects are also quite similar. Both are at the crux of the opioid epidemic taking root within America today. With a high chance of abuse, both drugs re-write brain activity and cause physical dependence. 

How Addiction Develops

Most narcotic prescription drugs are meant to be used for a short period of time. They are mostly safe when taken as prescribed. Most of the trouble happens after long term use. These medications, over time, will change a person’s brain chemistry. The person will get used to the drug, mentally and physically. 

Eventually, the body forms a tolerance to it. The dose you were prescribed is not enough to maintain the same levels of euphoria as before. The amount of dopamine released decreases. After more time passes, that higher dosage becomes less effective and the individual requires even more. It is a never-ending cycle that often leads to overdose and even death. 

Many patients who get started on opioid drugs for acute pain find themselves taking more intense drugs. This means a simple hydrocodone prescription can lead to harder, illicit drugs. If a patient stops taking these medications, it can cause depression, as the brain is not getting the same dopamine release it once was, making it difficult to stop. 

Side Effects of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone

Most of the side effects of these Schedule II drugs are similar, considering they are derived from the same plant. The effects include:

  • Dry Mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Motor skill impairment
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle soreness

Severe Side Effects

  • Painful urination
  • Rapid heartbeat that might be dangerous and could lead to heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Feeling woozy or like you might pass out
  • Confusion

Signs of Addiction

It is quite easy to detect a patient who may have an addiction to opioid drugs. First, consider their prior history. If they have a history of addiction to drugs and alcohol, they should not take either of these medications. Also, people with depression and anxiety may be at higher risk, as the medication helps give them a sense of euphoria. 

If a patient has healed from an injury and keeps taking the medication longer, the odds are that they are addicted. They may convince themselves that they are still in pain and are afraid to quit. That is because quitting can lead to uncomfortable side effects.