Vicodin and Percocet are both opioid drugs that are prescribed for pain relief. While Vicodin contains the opioid hydrocodone, Percocet contains the opioid oxycodone. Percocet and Vicodin are brand names of different drugs. The drugs work similarly, with comparable side effects, plus they both have a substantial risk of dependence and addiction with long-term use. Below we outline the difference between Vicodin and Percocet. We also describe directions for use, dosage information, and side effects of both drugs.
Vicodin is the brand name for the opioid hydrocodone, which, like other opioids, is often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It is a semi-synthetic opioid that binds to opioid receptors in the brain and body to block pain signaling and provide the user with relief.
Common side effects of Vicodin include:
In high doses, Vicodin may also produce a sense of euphoria or a high, which is why many people abuse opioids. Opioids are known for their high potential for abuse and addiction, so it is important to take prescription opioids as directed by the prescribing doctor to prevent addiction and other risks.
Percocet is the brand name for another prescription opioid called oxycodone. This medication contains both amphetamine and oxycodone and is also prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.
Percocet interacts with specific opioid receptors to provide feelings of pain relief, relaxation, and improved mood. It also acts like Vicodin when taken in higher doses than directed.
Common side effects of Percocet include:
More serious side effects may include trouble breathing, mood swings, abdominal pain, difficulty urinating, and loss of appetite. Get medical help right away if you experience any of these side effects.
The key difference between Vicodin and Percocet is that Percocet contains the opioid oxycodone while Vicodin contains hydrocodone. Both Percocet and Vicodin contain acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is also sold separately as an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Below are some additional differences between Percocet and Vicodin, broken up by section.
Both Vicodin and Percocet are sold in brand names and generic formulations. The brand-name versions come in tablet form, while generic versions come in tablet and liquid forms.
Both Percocet and Vicodin are taken every 4 to 6 hours because they are immediate-release medications, meaning their side effects wear off quickly. Unfortunately, their short-acting effects often enable users to take more doses of the drug than directed by the prescribing doctor.
Opioids are often prescribed for a short-term because they are so addictive. Taking these drugs for extended periods can grow a person’s tolerance to the point where the same doses are not effective.
Tolerance also co-occurs with physical dependence, which is when a person experiences withdrawal symptoms when they are not taking a drug or when they suddenly stop taking it. In addition to these risks, opioids are also known for their overdose potential.
While opioids themselves are dangerous enough, when it comes to Percocet and Vicodin, users also must consider the effects of overdosing on acetaminophen. The maximum dose of acetaminophen is 4,000 mg, the maximum dose of Percocet (oxycodone) is 40 mg, and Vicodin (hydrocodone) is 90 mg.
Both Vicodin and Percocet are effective for treating pain, with neither being better than the other. In a study on the difference between Percocet and Vicodin, researchers found that both drugs worked equally as well for treating pain short term.1
Another study also found that they work equally well in treating acute pain caused by fractures.2 However, we do want to point out another study, which found that oxycodone (Percocet) was 1.5 times more potent than hydrocodone (Vicodin) when prescribed and taken at equal doses.3
Even so, the efficacy of either drug also depends on the amount of acetaminophen they contain. Higher doses of acetaminophen could balance out these differences enough to where neither drug is any more effective than the other.
At the end of the day, your doctor will take all these factors into account, along with any history of medication you have used, the extent of your pain, and more. While Vicodin and Percocet seem similar, one might suit a patient better than the other for several reasons, so it is important to always speak to your doctor about the safest and most effective medications.
Like most drugs, Vicodin and Percocet can interact negatively with other medications. This means that when used with certain drugs, these medications can lead to dangerous side effects that can affect a person’s heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and more.
Not only can Vicodin and Percocet react poorly when mixed, but they can also be dangerous when mixed with other depressants or sedatives, such as other opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol. Many people mix opioids and alcohol to intensify the high they experience, unknowingly increasing their risk of overdose and even death.
To avoid any complications, be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you take. Also, be sure to ask your doctor about any drug interactions to avoid when taking medication.
Dependence and Withdrawal
Both Vicodin and Percocet can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal, even if they are taken as prescribed. For this reason, it is important to work with your doctor whenever you are going to stop using this medication.
Because they can cause dependence, Percocet and Vicodin are also habit-forming, meaning they can become addicting if they are taken longer than they are prescribed or in higher doses than directed. If withdrawal symptoms are making it difficult for you to quit using Percocet or Vicodin, our Heartland treatment center recommends our prescription drug detox, which offers medically-led withdrawal care and support to encourage long-term recovery.
If you are struggling with an addiction to Percocet or Vicodin, please know that help is available. Contact our Heartland recovery center today to learn more about our services and how they can help you overcome your dependence.
Starting with medically-assisted detox, we address the physical needs of our clients by providing them with the medical care needed to safely minimize cravings and reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. Following detox, clients can then move forward to our individual and group therapy sessions to work through the underlying psychological aspects of their recovery.