Percocet vs. Lortab for Pain

  • 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.

Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen) vs. Lortab (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) review

  • Percocet and Lortab are combination prescription medications used to manage moderate to severe pain.
  • Percocet is a combination of oxycodone (a narcotic pain reliever) and acetaminophen (a non-narcotic pain reliever and fever reducer).
  • Lortab is a combination of hydrocodone (a narcotic pain reliever) and acetaminophen used to relieve mild to moderate pain, fever, inflammation, and as a cough suppressant.
  • Both oxycodone and hydrocodone are classified as Schedule II drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means they have an increased risk for addiction and abuse. Withdrawal symptoms may occur if Percocet or Lortab are discontinued abruptly.
  • Percocet and Lortab have similar side effects that include:
  • Percocet and Lortab contains acetaminophen, and the most serious side effect of acetaminophen is liver damage or toxicity due to taking large doses of acetaminophen, chronic use, or use combined with alcohol.
  • Both Percocet and Lortab contain narcotic pain relievers that increase the effects of other drugs that slow brain function; for example, barbiturates, muscle relaxants, and benzodiazepines (including diazepam [Valium] and lorazepam [Ativan]). Combined use of these drugs with Percocet or Lortab may lead to increased respiratory depression, which may lead to respiratory arrest and death.
  • The safety of Percocet or Lortab during pregnancy has not been established. Newborns of mothers who were taking oxycodone for a prolonged period of time may exhibit withdrawal symptoms and respiratory depression.
  • Both Percocet and Lortab are secreted in breast milk and may cause side effects in the newborn.

What are Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen) and Lortab (hydrocodone/acetaminophen), and how do they block pain?

  • Oxycodone is a strong narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone. The precise mechanism of action of oxycodone is not known but may involve stimulation of opioid (narcotic) receptors in the brain. Oxycodone does not eliminate the sensation of pain but decreases discomfort by increasing tolerance to pain. In addition to tolerance to pain, oxycodone also causes sedation and respiratory depression. Acetaminophen is a non-narcotic pain-reliever and antipyretic (fever reducer). Acetaminophen relieves pain by elevating the threshold to sensing pain. It reduces fever through its action on the heat-regulating center of the brain. The combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen achieves greater pain relief than either taken separately. The FDA approved oxycodone/acetaminophen combinations in February 1980.
  • Hydrocodone is a narcotic pain-reliever 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 and Lortab. The FDA approved Lortab in January 1983.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/28/2016

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