What is the Difference Between Percocet and Vicodin?

What is the Difference Between Percocet and Vicodin? Percocet and Vicodin, which was discontinued in the U.S. market, are combination drugs that contain an opioid pain killer and acetaminophen, a pain reliever and fever reducer. Although very similar in their effects, these drugs differ in both their chemical composition.

What is Percocet?

Percocet is a prescription medication brand name used to help relieve moderate to severe pain. It contains a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone.1 This drug interacts with specific opioid receptors and provides feelings of pain relief, relaxation, and euphoria. The most common side effects include:1

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Other side effects of Percocet include slow breathing, constipation, reduced heart function, and cough suppression.1

What is Vicodin?

The prescription drug Vicodin contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opioid that binds opioid receptors to provide relief from moderate to severe pain. Common side effects of Vicodin include:2

  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Other more adverse side effects of Vicodin use can include shallow breathing, slow heartbeat, and fainting.2

Comparison of Percocet and Vicodin

Although these two drugs differ in their opioid composition, previous studies have shown that pain equally.3-4  have similar half-lives of approximately 4 hours, and both drugs are used to treat the acute onset of pain and can be expected to provide pain relief for anywhere between 4 to 6 hours.1-2

Aside from their similar side effects and efficacy in treating pain, there are some differences between these two medications. Published research indicates that Percocet is more likely than Vicodin to cause nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, and headache.4 Other studies show that people using Vicodin experience constipation and stomach pain more frequently than people who take Percocet.3

Percocet and Vicodin both bind opioid receptors and depress the central nervous system. And both drugs can cause serious side effects if taken at higher dosages. Overdose of either Percocet or Vicodin can result in dangerous outcomes that include:1-2

  • Decreased breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Organ failure
  • Death

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