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Oxycontin is the 12 hour controlled release form of the drug Oxycodone. Both Oxycodone and Hydrocodone are semisynthetic opioids used for pain treatment, and both are highly addictive drugs – the powerful narcotics that are commonly abused, and bought and sold illegally in the United States and around the world. But how are the two drugs different from one another?

Both are synthesized from the opium poppy, but Oxycodone comes from the opium alkaloid thebaine, and Hydrocodone comes from codeine. Hydrocodone is the active ingredient in branded drugs like Vicodin, and Oxycodone the active ingredient in Percocet and Oxycontin.


Schedule Changes

Oxycodone has been long defined as a schedule 2 controlled substance – or a drug that has a strong potential for abuse but still is considered to have a valid medical purpose.

Hydrocodone was defined as a schedule 3 controlled substance – as in has some potential for abuse, but less than that of a drug in the schedule 2 category. So that would make it less addictive than Oxycodone, right? Well, that changed in 2014 when the Food and Drug Administration moved Hydrocodone up to schedule 2. Now, both Oxycodone and Hydrocodone are in the same class of legal drugs that have the highest chance of abuse.



Both Oxycontin and Hydrocodone are considered to be similarly effective for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. They both function the same in your body – by blocking the pain signals that nerves are attempting to send to your brain. The effect is a pleasant, sometimes euphoric sensation that may occur whether or not the user has any moderate to severe pain the first place. The two drugs are considered to have very similar effectiveness.


Length of use

Oxycontin and Hydrocodone also work for roughly the same length of time – prescribed for oral use and effectiveness of 12 hours. In both cases, the medicine can be used over a relatively long period. Similarly, patients reported feeling initial and equal pain relief from both drugs about 30-60 minutes after they took the normal dose.


The differences show up in the side effects

So – Oxycontin and Hydrocodone are very similar in the chance for abuse, effectiveness at moderate to severe pain management, how long it takes to kick in and how long it lasts. Yes, these drugs come from two different opium poppy alkaloids, but are there any actual functional differences?

The answer is yes, and users will see that in the form of side effects. Both drugs have common side effects of dizziness, nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, itching, lethargy, shallow breathing, drowsiness and motor skill impairment, and severe but uncommon side effects of seizures, rapid heartbeat, painful urination, and confusion.

The one major difference? With Hydrocodone, the chances of constipation and stomach pain are higher.


The bottom line

 OYes, Oxycontin and Hydrocodone have many similarities, and in many ways, can appear to be the same exact drug. That’s not quite the case, they have different scheduling histories, different scientific makeup, and slightly different side effects. Yes, they are similar, but not the same.