Is Oxycodone Stronger Than Hydrocodone?

Oxycodone and hydrocodone are both strong opioid pain relievers often prescribed short-term for the relief of moderate to severe pain. However, they are also sometimes used to treat chronic pain conditions as well. Both medications act on the central nervous system by telling your brain that you are not really in pain. When taken, these medications produce a relaxed and calming effect. Oxycodone and hydrocodone are both classified as Schedule II drugs meaning that they have a high potential for being misused.

Is Oxycodone Stronger Than Hydrocodone?

Is Oxycodone More Powerful Than Hydrocodone?

So, is oxycodone stronger than hydrocodone? There have been various studies done on the potency and effects of both oxycodone and hydrocodone. One study, published by the National Library of Medicine, found that for treating acute low back pain, both medications treated pain the same.

The results of this study suggest that HC/IB and OX/AC are similarly effective and tolerable in relieving moderate or severe acute low back pain. Additional controlled longitudinal trials are necessary to evaluate the clinical utility of HC/IB in treating acute low back pain. (NLM)

Another study, published by the National Library of Medicine, also found that for treating acute pain associated with fractures, both oxycodone and hydrocodone provided about the same pain relief.

Treatment with acetaminophen and either oxycodone, 5 mg PO, or hydrocodone, 5 mg PO, resulted in pain relief among ED patients with acute fractures, and there was no difference between the two agents at 30 and 60 minutes. Adverse effect profiles were similar, with the exception of a higher incidence of subsequent constipation with the use of hydrocodone. These results suggest that oxycodone and hydrocodone have similarly potent analgesic effects in the first hour of treatment for ED patients with acute fractures. (NLM)

Various other studies have been done comparing the effectiveness of both medications for treating pain, and most of them seem to show that there is no difference between the two.

Bottom line

Both oxycodone and hydrocodone are powerful, but oxycodone is approximately 50% stronger than hydrocodone. Even so, this may not translate to better pain control. Some studies have shown that a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen is just as effective at treating pain as oxycodone with acetaminophen.

Side-Effects of Oxycodone Vs. Hydrocodone

Oxycodone and hydrocodone share some of the same side-effects, but there are also some differences. Let’s take a look at some of the similar side-effects of the two medications.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain
  • Hives and Itching
  • Changes in heartbeat
  • Swelling of tongue, face, and lips
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

One of the biggest differences between the two medications is that hydrocodone is more likely to cause constipation, stomach pain, and make you feel tired while oxycodone is more likely to cause drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, and feelings of euphoria.

Some studies have been done that indicate hydrocodone is less potent than oxycodone. One study even noted that oxycodone was 1.5 times more potent than hydrocodone. However, when they are both used to treat acute or chronic pain conditions they are about equal ineffectiveness.

Hydrocodone is the number one misused opioid in the United States probably due to the way it is prescribed. With that being said, it is also more likely to cause dependency than oxycodone. Hydrocodone is a highly restricted medication in a lot of European countries.

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