Oxycodone vs. Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen)

  • Medical Reviewer: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Oxycodone vs. Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) for pain review

  • Oxycodone is a strong opioid narcotic pain reliever (analgesic), and Vicodin is a combination of two drugs, hydrocodone (a strong narcotic pain reliever) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Oxycodone and hydrocodone are similar to other drugs that are opioid narcotics, for example, methadone, fentanyl, and morphine.
  • Both oxycodone and Vicodin are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. However, hydrocodone also may prescribed to treat fever, inflammation, and cough.
  • Oxycodone also is available in combination with acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet, Tylox, Oxycet).
  • Other brand names for hydrocodone and acetaminophen, for example, include Vicodin ES, Vicodin HP, Lortab, Lorcet, and Norco.
  • Common side effects of both oxycodone and Vicodin include:
  • The dosages for oxycodone and Vicodin are not the same and should be reviewed prior to taking either medication.
  • Oxycodone and Vicodin interact with several other medications, for example, neither drug should be taken with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), a class of antidepressants. Combining oxycodone or Vicodin with alcohol or other drugs may lead to increased sedation and cause confusion.
  • Acetaminophen taken in large doses or when used with other drugs like alcohol may lead to liver toxicity or liver damage.
  • Oxycodone and Vicodin are listed as schedule II drugs by the Controlled Substances Act because their use may lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

What are oxycodone and Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen), and how do they work?

  • Oxycodone: Oxycodone is prescribed strong narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone. The precise mechanism of action is not known but may involve stimulation of opioid receptors in the brain. Oxycodone does not eliminate the sensation of pain but decreases discomfort by increasing the tolerance to pain. In addition to tolerance to pain, oxycodone also causes sedation and depression of respiration.
  • Vicodin is a prescribed combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is a strong narcotic pain-reliever (analgesic) and a cough suppressant, similar to codeine. Hydrocodone blocks the receptors on nerve cells in the brain that give rise to the sensation of pain. Acetaminophen is a non-narcotic analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer). Acetaminophen works by elevating the threshold to pain, that is, in order for pain to be felt, greater stimulation of the nerves responsible for the sensation of pain is necessary. It reduces fever through its action on the temperature-regulating center of the brain. Frequently, hydrocodone and acetaminophen are combined to achieve pain relief, as in Vicodin.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/4/2017

Quick GuideChronic Pain: Causes and Solutions

Chronic Pain: Causes and Solutions
FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

RxList Logo

Need help identifying pills and medications?

Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors