OxyContin vs. Percocet: Which One is More Effective for Severe Pain?

Percocet is a powerful opioid that is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. This prescription medication is considered a Schedule II controlled substance because it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. It’s often prescribed for patients with situations such as severe injuries or after surgery.

Percocet has both the opioid oxycodone and the over-the-counter medication acetaminophen. As of 2017, oxycodone was the 52nd most frequently prescribed opioid drug in the United States. However, there was no way to tell which combination was actually prescribed (Read here about Percocet withdrawal symptoms).

OxyContin contains the medicinal ingredient oxycodone, but it is not in an immediate-release formulation. These extended-release pills offer longer-lasting relief than immediate-release oxycontin, which has a shorter impact. It can treat discomfort caused by injuries that need long-term management. It can also help manage cancer-related pain and arthritis.

OxyContin comes in different doses, ranging from 10 mg to 80mg of oxycodone in its time-released formulation, providing relief for up to twelve hours. Initially, OxyContin stood out from the rest of the opioid medications due to its ability to provide constant analgesia, which was not available from most other short-acting opioids.

Difference between oxycodone vs OxyContin

They are essentially the same things, but the main difference between them is that OxyContin is a long-lasting version of oxycodone. OxyContin may also be called a “controlled release” or an “extended-release” tablet. Oxycodone is released in two phases; the first phase lasts for four hours, followed by the second phase which lasts for another eight hours. The first layer of the tablet allows for the initial rapid delivery of oxycodone to the body, which provides relief within about 20 minutes. The outer layer gradually releases the remaining medication over a 12-hour period.

Oxycodone is an opioid analgesic that provides relief for about 4 to 6 hours so it needs to be given at least four to six times a day to provide all-day relief. Opioids are usually given for acute pain such as that following surgery, trauma, or infection. However, some opioids may be used for chronic pain, such as that associated with cancer. This prescription should only be considered for patients who have tried other medications and have not found them helpful.

There are many different types of opioids available, and not all are equally effective. They can vary depending on the frequency of doling out doses, potency, side effects, active ingredients, and whether they’re addictive. If you’re prescribed multiple opioids at the same time, you need to be aware of the differences between them.

Both are pain relievers that belong to the class called opioids or narcotics. Opioids are either made from naturally occurring opiates (extracted from the poppy plant) or synthetic derivatives of them (synthetic opioids). Many of the most commonly prescribed narcotic medications are classified as Schedule II drugs by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

While these medications may have some significant medicinal benefits, they are also substances that have a significant potential to be addictive. Individuals who use them for significant periods of time are at risk of developing a physical dependence on them (Read here about Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms).

Opioid Abuse Warnings

Combination formulations (Oxycodone-acetaminophen & Oxycodone-Ibuprofen) offer extra pain relief or anti-inflammation without increasing the dose of the narcotic analgesic.

It is important to note that prescribing any of these combinations should not be taken lightly, as they have been associated with long-term physical and psychological dependence, especially when used for conditions as innocuous as toothaches.

Oxycodone comes in several different brands, including Percocet and Percodan. OxyContin is a brand name and isn’t available in generic form. Over the past 20 years, OxyContin has been marketed with a warning against breaking the tablets into smaller pieces for consumption because doing so causes rapid absorption of the medication after ingestion, which may result in an overdose. This warning unintentionally alerted doctors and patients about how to misuse this medication. As a result, OxyContin became a central focus of the opiate epidemic.

Each of these prescriptions contains warnings about addiction and misuse. There is some legitimate value in using OxyContin to treat various forms of chronic discomfort, but it also has a high risk of abuse. The issue is that those who abuse OxyContin can crush these pills before snorting or dilute them and inject them for a faster, more potent effect than they would experience by taking the pill orally.

Neither of these opioids is recommended for patients during pregnancy or breastfeeding because they may cause serious adverse effects for both mother and baby, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

OxyContin became available in 1995 as a prescription, and it was marketed across the country by different types of doctors for a broad range of conditions. In the years following, a flood of OxyContin prescriptions in many different communities meant that it was easy to access for many people.

Risks & Side Effects of Narcotic Analgesics

When someone takes Percocet, the oxycodone portion binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. This helps reduce the amount of discomfort that you experience, but experts aren’t sure of the exact mechanism. Dopamine floods the brain, creating a feeling of euphoria. This opioid triggers the brain’s reward system, which is one reason why it has the potential to be addictive.

Doctors who switch patients from one opioid painkiller to another must calculate the equivalent morphine dosage. The morphine-to-oxycodone dose equivalent ratio is 1:2.

Both painkillers contain the same medicinal ingredient and therefore have similar common side effects, including:

  • Addiction
  • Abdominal pain & Constipation
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Dependence
  • Dizziness
  • Unusual fluctuation in blood pressure

They are both the same medication, but they’re in different formulations. They both work by binding to specific receptors in the brain called opioid receptors. They are selective for one type of opiate receptor, which is the μ-opioid receptor (MOR).

Each of them are full agonists for opioid receptors. This means that they don’t have a ceiling effect for their symptom relief, so higher doses are associated with increased pain reduction. However, the risk for secondary outcomes, such as depression of the respiratory system and central nervous system, increases with higher doses. Also, the risk of overdose increases.

Both may be used to treat moderate-to-severe acute pain. However, OxyContin should only be used for patients who have tried other medications and found them ineffective.

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes both prescription painkillers and illegal street drugs. They may also be known as narcotic painkillers.

Which one is more effective? 

Depending on what a doctor prescribes the medicine for, the effectiveness of these prescriptions may vary. For patients who suffer from chronic, severe pain, OxyContin may be preferred because with two daily doses its effects can last for up to a 24-hour period. For people who suffer from acute symptoms, such as after surgery or trauma, oxycodone is preferred, because it’s fast-acting and can be combined with other pain-relieving medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Studies have shown that the efficacy of oxycodone is great when treating short-term severe pain. 

Opioids may help relieve severe discomfort that isn’t well controlled by alternative, nonopioid, analgesics, such as that caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Certain medical conditions (such as shingles)
  • Injuries
  • Trauma

Drug Interactions

Because they contain the exact same medicinal ingredient, they share many of the same interactions, including:

  • antibiotics, such as clarithromycin and erythromycin
  • antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants (eg, amitriptyline), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (eg, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, and tranylcypromine), or SSRIs (eg, fluoxetine, sertraline)
  • antifungal agents, such as itraconazole and ketoconazole
  • anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine, phenytoin, phenobarbital, or primidone
  • antipsychotics (such as butyrophenones, phenothiazines, or thioxanthenes) and atypical antipsychotics (eg, olanzapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone)
  • any medication that may cause drowsiness, such as benzodiazepines (eg, diazepam, lorazepam), first-generation antihistamines (such as doxylamine or promethazine), metoclopramide, or opioids (such as codeine, morphine)

Talking With a Medical Professional

If you’re experiencing pain, talk to your doctor about your specific symptoms. If you’re experiencing chronic symptoms, it might help to keep track of your symptoms over time so a physician can observe the changes.

Percocet can provide significant relief for most patients. Some people have to try different types and dosages of medications before they see improvements in the outcome.

It is important to do this experimentation under close medical supervision. A person should consider speaking with a doctor who specializes in pain management.

Frequently Asked Questions

Acetaminophen added to oxycodone in Percocet increases its effectiveness. For people with severe pain who don’t get relief from oxycodone alone, Percocet may be more effective than OxyContin.
OxyContin, a brand name for extended-release oxycodone, is available in the United States by prescription only. OxyContin is legitimately used to treat moderate to severe discomfort resulting from injuries, bursitis (inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs between joints), neuralgia (discomfort caused by nerve damage), arthritis (joint inflammation), and cancer.
Hydrocodone is used to treat moderate to moderately severe symptoms. It is usually combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Hydromorphone is used to treat moderate discomfort. It is usually given alone.
The patient must already have been receiving and tolerating opioids for at least 5 days continuously with a minimum of 20 milligrams per day of oxycodone or its equivalent for at lea­st two days before taking OxyContin. Use and dose for children under 11 years of age—Use and dose must be determined jointly by your doctor and pharmacist.
Acetaminophen is one of the active ingredients in Percocet. It works by reducing signals from the brain to the spinal cord. The addition of acetaminophen (Tylenol) to oxycodone increases the analgesic effect of oxycodone, meaning that Percocet may provide more relief than oxycodone by itself.
They are used to treat pain from injuries, arthritis, and other conditions. Morphine-like medications, such as oxycodone, are found along with non-opioid analgesics in a variety of prescriptions, including Percodan (oxycodone and aspirin), Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen), and Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen).
The combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen is a prescription drug used for the management of moderate to severe pain. Oxycodone acetaminophen is available under several brand names: Percocet, Tylox, Primlev, Roxicet, Endocet, and Xartemis XR.
Acute pain is caused by a specific disease or condition, serves a useful biological purpose, is associated with muscle spasms and sympathetic nervous system activation and is self-limiting. Chronic pain, in comparison, may be considered a chronic disease state. It usually outlasts the normal time of healing, if associated with a disease or injury. Chronic pain may arise from psychological states and serves no biological purpose. It has no recognizable end-point.
Prescription opioids are meant to treat acute pain, chronic pain, active-phase cancer treatment pain, palliative care, and assist in end-of-life treatments. Many people rely on prescription opioids to help manage their conditions. These prescription opioids should not be taken unless under the supervision of a physician.

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