Difference between Vicodin and Percocet

Updated on February 15, 2018

Vicodin and Percocet are potent prescription drugs administered to individuals requiring pain medication. However, these pain relievers vary in more ways than one, which this article seeks to explain in the simplest way possible.


Vicodin in capsule form

Vicodin is the brand name for a pain reliever medication that is composed of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid or a narcotic drug similar to morphine. It is the main ingredient in Vicodin that alleviates the perception of pain, including one’s reaction to pain, while increasing tolerance to pain. Hydrocodone also works as an antitussive that can relieve a cough. Acetaminophen is a less powerful pain medication that enhances the potency of hydrodone. It is listed as a Schedule III controlled substance and is under review by the US Drug Enforcement Agency to be categorized as a Schedule II narcotic.

Vicodin is known to cause several side effects. As an opioid, Vicodin is habit-forming and highly addictive. An allergic reaction to this drug can cause difficulty in breathing, hives, and facial swelling which also affects the tongue, lips, and throat. Acetaminophen may cause a fatal skin reaction in rare cases. Hydrocodone is also known to cause constipation. Excessive consumption of this Schedule III drug may cause infertility among women.

Percocet in tablet form

Percocet is a brand name for a powerful pain reliever that is administered to counteract moderate to severe pain. It is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen that works by changing the way the brain and nervous system handles pain. Oxycodone is an opioid drug that acts on the pain, while acetaminophen is a less powerful pain reliever that helps enhance the effects of oxyocodone.

Percocet is an opioid drug, and similar to morphine, is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means Percocet is a highly addictive drug that can cause physical and psychological dependence.

Known side effects caused by Percocet are as follows: fatigue, vomiting, itching, and mood swings. It can induce drowsiness or dizziness, thus, individuals taking Percocet are strongly advised against driving or operating heavy machinery. Oxycodone and acetaminophen can also worsen the effects of a previous head injury. Percocet can also interact with prescription and non-prescription drugs, and these include other opioids such as oxycodone and morphine, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anti-nausea medications, and alcohol, to name a few.

Vicodin vs Percocet

So what’s the difference between Vicodin and Percocet? Although both pain relievers are the same in so many ways, they vary significantly by their composition. Vicodin is a combination of the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Percocet is composed of oxycodone, another regulated opioid whose pain relieving effects are enhanced by acetaminophen as well. Due to their opioid content, the DEA classifies Percocet as a Schedule II drug while Vicodin is a Schedule III drug.

While both medications have been proven to work equally well, a separate study suggests that the oxycodone in Percocet is 1.5 times more powerful compared to the hydrocodone content in Vicodin when prescribed at equal doses. In terms of price, the brand name version of Percocet is generally lower than that of Vicodin.

Comparison Chart

Combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophenCombination of oxycodone and acetaminophen
Schedule III drugSchedule II drug
May cause allergic reactions such as facial swelling, difficulty breathing, hives, etc.May cause drowsiness, mood swings, fatigue, vomiting, etc.
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