Vicodin and Percocet are pain relievers that combine opioids with acetaminophen, which enhances the effects of narcotics. Like other opioid-based painkillers, they alleviate pain and minimize discomfort by binding with opioid receptors. Besides pain relief, both Vicodin and Percocet can also induce feelings of deep relaxation and euphoria.
Despite their similar effects, there are some subtle nuances between Vicodin and Percocet that you should keep in mind before taking either of these drugs.
This article will compare Vicodin and Percocet in terms of their composition, effectiveness, cost, side effects, and other differences to help you better understand the similarities and differences between these two medications.
What is Vicodin and How Does it Work?
Vicodin is an opioid prescribed to relieve severe, acute pain. It is a combination drug made up of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and it is available in two forms: brand-name or generic.
Brand-name Vicodin® comes in tablets of three varieties:
- Vicodin®, which contains 5 mg hydrocodone and 300 mg acetaminophen
- Vicodin ES®, which is made up of 7.5 mg hydrocodone and 300 mg acetaminophen
- Vicodin HP®, consisting of 10 mg hydrocodone and 300 mg acetaminophen
Meanwhile, the generic form is available as:
- Tablets consisting of 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg hydrocodone paired with 300 mg or 325 mg acetaminophen
- Liquid combining 7.5 mg or 10 mg hydrocodone with 325 mg acetaminophen per each 15 mL
On average, Vicodin alleviates pain for about 4 to 6 hours and has a half-life of around 3.8 hours. However, depending on your age, body fat, dosage, liver health, and other factors, it could stay in your system for as long as five days or even longer. For example, hair follicle tests can detect it for 90 days after the last use.
Since hydrocodone can be habit-forming, you should not use Vicodin for extended periods unless instructed otherwise by your healthcare provider.
What is Percocet and How Does it Work?
Percocet is another opioid medication commonly prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain. However, unlike Vicodin, it does not contain hydrocodone. Instead, it is made up of a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Percocet is also available in generic and brand-name forms.
The generic variation can be found in the following forms:
- Tablets consisting of 300 mg or 325 mg acetaminophen and 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 10 mg oxycodone
- Liquid containing 325 mg acetaminophen and 5 mg of oxycodone per each 5 mL
The brand-name Percocet®, on the other hand, comes in tablets combining 325 mg acetaminophen with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg oxycodone.
Like Vicodin, Percocet has a half-life of around four hours and provides pain relief for approximately 4 to 6 hours, but its traces may stay in your system days after the last dose. Similarly, it should only be used for short-term pain management and exactly as prescribed, as otherwise it may lead to addiction.
Major Differences Between Vicodin vs. Percocet
By far, the most significant difference between Vicodin and Percocet lies in their composition. Although both drugs contain acetaminophen, the former also contains hydrocodone, whereas the other active ingredient in Percocet is oxycodone.
Now, let’s compare Vicodin vs. Percocet in terms of effectiveness and cost.
Vicodin vs. Percocet Effectiveness
Both Vicodin and Percocet are very effective in managing pain, as they prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.
That said, a study comparing the subjective effects of oxycodone/acetaminophen and hydrocodone/acetaminophen on people who don’t abuse drugs found Percocet to be about 1.5 times more potent than Vicodin.
Vicodin vs. Percocet Cost
Despite being no different in composition and effectiveness, brand-name drugs, including Vicodin® and Percocet®, are typically more expensive than their generic variations. That said, Vicodin® is generally more expensive than Percocet®.
For comparison, if you don’t have insurance, you might pay around $140 for 100 pills of brand-name 300 mg/5 mg Vicodin® and between $36 and $60 for the same number of generic pills. One hundred pills of brand-name 325 mg/5 mg Percocet®, meanwhile, cost around $34, while its generic variant is sold for $17–$25 depending on the pharmacy.
Although most insurance companies cover generic variations of both drugs, Medicare Part D plans cover Percocet more often than Vicodin.
Side Effects of Vicodin vs. Percocet
Given that both Vicodin and Percocet combine acetaminophen with some type of opioid, they usually have similar side effects, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
It’s also important to mention that both Vicodin and Percocet can affect not only physical but also mental and cognitive abilities. This means that you should avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, or making important legal decisions for as long as you’re taking these drugs.
Besides that, both Vicodin and Percocet can have severe side effects that require medical attention, especially when taken more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed. These include:
- Respiratory and circulatory depression
- Breathing difficulties
- Low blood pressure
- Urinary problems
Drug Interactions of Vicodin and Percocet
Most drugs can have adverse or even dangerous effects when mixed with other chemicals, and so do Vicodin and Percocet.
Mixing these opioids with sedatives and depressants (e.g., benzodiazepines used for anxiety treatment) is especially risky, as it can induce overdose symptoms such as discolored skin, difficulty breathing, and unresponsiveness. Since this drug combination affects your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure and can result in an overdose, it can also be life-threatening.
Taking Vicodin and Percocet with antidepressants or other drugs that boost serotonin can be just as dangerous and induce a potentially lethal serotonin syndrome.
Because of the risks involved, you should inform your doctor about any medications you use before taking Vicodin or Percocet.
Other Risk Factors of Vicodin and Percocet
Vicodin and Percocet are relatively similar and thus share similar risk factors, including certain medical conditions and alcohol consumption.
As a general rule, never mix Vicodin or Percocet with alcohol. This combination can not only make you dizzy but also damage your liver. In the worst-case scenario, the combination of alcohol and these drugs can be lethal.
With this in mind, here are some risk factors associated with Vicodin and Percocet that you should discuss with your doctor before taking these drugs to reduce the risk of severe side effects:
- Liver disease
- Respiratory illnesses
- Low blood pressure
- Alcohol use disorder
- Seizure disorder
- Head injury
Are The Risks of Abuse Worth The Relief?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeled both Vicodin and Percocet with boxed warnings, indicating that these drugs can have severe and even life-threatening effects.
When you’re in pain, you might do just about anything to make it go away. Nonetheless, here are some risks you should be aware of before relying on Vicodin or Percocet for pain management:
- Liver damage. High doses of acetaminophen can wreak havoc on your liver. Since both Vicodin and Percocet contain it, you should be wary of the amount of acetaminophen you ingest. Adults should take no more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen per day. Consuming alcohol with Vicodin or Percocet can further increase the risk of liver damage and thus should be avoided.
- Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. Like other opioid medications, Vicodin and Percocet can lead newborns to develop neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. For this reason, you should avoid these drugs if you’re pregnant and discuss other treatment options with your doctor.
- Skin reactions. In rare cases, acetaminophen has been found to cause allergic reactions and potentially life-threatening skin conditions, such as toxic epidermal necrolysis. If you take Vicodin or Percocet and develop any skin irritation, seek medical help immediately.
Once again, to minimize these risks and avoid severe side effects, you should only take these drugs as per your doctor’s instructions. Better yet, to prevent these reactions, discuss with your doctor if there are any other non-opioid treatment options that could alleviate your pain.
Potential For Abuse & Dependence
Percocet and Vicodin are opioids that alter the way you respond to acute pain and, therefore, the way you feel. They both have a lot of potential for abuse that can easily lead to opioid dependence and addiction.
Although both drugs are classified as Schedule II Controlled Substances, Percocet is stronger than Vicodin and therefore has a higher risk of abuse and dependence associated with it.
Since Percocet and Vicodin can cause dependence and addiction, you may experience nausea, muscle aches, and other withdrawal symptoms when quitting these drugs. Never quit them “cold turkey” or without medical supervision, as this can be very dangerous.
ANR Treatment for Vicodin and Percocet Use Disorders
If you are struggling with Vicodin or Percocet addiction, the ANR Clinic can help you overcome opioid addiction quickly, safely, and effectively.
Accelerated Neuro Regulation (ANR) is an innovative opioid dependency treatment that addresses the root cause of addiction. As such, it can help you make a life-long recovery without the risk of relapse.
ANR reverses the impact Vicodin or Percocet use caused to your brain and rebalances your endorphin-receptor system to achieve long-term recovery. Since the hospital stay only lasts 36 hours on average, you can soon return to your daily life without any cravings or other withdrawal symptoms!
All of our treatment centers adhere to the highest standards of care and safety. We put your health and safety first, which is why the ANR procedure is only carried out in the ICU settings of accredited hospitals. Our experienced medical professionals will tailor the treatment to your unique medical history and needs to ensure maximum safety and results.
Hopefully, this article helped you learn more about Vicodin vs. Percocet.
At the end of the day, both of these drugs are relatively similar in their effectiveness, half-lives, side effects, and risks. If possible, you should try and avoid them altogether, as they come with serious risks and can be addictive. That said, your doctor can help you figure out which medication is more suitable for you based on your specific condition and medical history.
Now, let’s summarize what we’ve learned:
- Besides acetaminophen, Vicodin contains hydrocodone, whereas Percocet contains oxycodone, which is the key difference between these drugs.
- Percocet and Vicodin are indicated for short-term use and should only be taken as prescribed by a medical professional.
- Although Percocet is usually cheaper than Vicodin, research shows that it’s more potent and thus might have a higher potential for abuse and addiction.
- If you have to take Vicodin or Percocet, avoid alcohol and monitor your acetaminophen intake to protect your liver.