Percocet vs Vicodin

Percocet and Vicodin provide relatively equal amounts of pain relief. But Percocet is way more expensive. More on similarities and differences in the face-off between Percocet vs Vicodin here.

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Both Percocet and Vicodin are brand names for drugs which contain opioids and acetaminophen. Percocet’s active ingredient is oxycodone and Vicodin’s main active ingredient is hydrocodone. Both drugs are recognized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as having a current medical use …BUT both Vicodin and Percocet pose significant risk for developing drug addiction, and the effects of Vicodin and Percocet can be serious . We review the relative advantages of each medication here.

| Natural | Synthetic | Delivery | Efficacy | Withdrawal | DEA

P       no      yes      tablet       reliable      difficult      Schedule II

V      no       yes      tablet      reliable       difficult      Schedule III

Natural or synthetic?

The main ingredients of Percocet and Vicodin are semi-synthetic narcotic analgesics whose main action is analgesia (pain relief). In real terms, this means that they are both created in laboratories, and although based on natural opiate derivatives, are not “natural”. Instead, their main ingredients, hydrocodone and oxycodone are classified as “opioid” drugs. Hydrocodone versus oxycodone?

PERCOCET = oxycodone hydrochloride + acetaminophen

VICODIN = hydrocodone bitartrate + acetaminophen


Both Percocet and Vicodin are taken orally as tablets.


Both these narcotics are prescribed for pain relief. Percocet and Vicodin provide moderate to moderately severe pain relief but Vicodin has the benefit of addictional therapeutic uses and is also prescribed for cough suppression. Both medicines are effective for providing pain relief, however, Percocet may have a slight advantage in strength and intensity of analgesic effect. In other words, some people like Percocet better for pain relief. You can speak with your prescribing doctor about the relative merits and dosing for each of these pain medications.


Because both Vicodin and Percocet are brand name drugs, name recognition of these opioids is high. So, you might request them when you need a strong pain reliever. But there is no medical reason or need to buy these brand name drugs and they are available in generic form.

Vicodin and Percocet are expensive when compared to generic alternatives. In fact, Vicodin costs on average about $180-$200 per month, while Percocet ranges from $400-$450 (depending on dose). Again, there is no reason to take the brand-name versions of any opioid, including Percocet, and Vicodin. Don’t get fooled by the name – ask your pharmacist for more information about generic alternatives.


Opioids like Percocet and Vicodin can produce non serious side effects such as drowsiness, lightheadedness, dizziness, sedation, nausea, and vomiting … most of which may be relieved by laying down. Some people wonder,  “Can Vicodin cause hair loss?”  – No, clinical trials have not reported this effect… or “Is Vicodin 500 mg addictive?” – Yes, this dose can cause both physical dependence and mental characteristics of addiction.   But more even serious physical side effects are possible with Percocet and include:

  • apnea
  • circulatory depression
  • hypersensitivity reactions
  • hypotension
  • shock
  • slowed or stopped breathing

Additionally, long-term use of opioids has been linked to:

  • constipation
  • decline in immune function
  • decrease in sex hormones (testosterone)
  • feelings of euphoria and dysphoria
  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • impaired sexual function
  • loss of interest in sex

Potential for abuse

Percocet is classified as a Schedule II narcotic by the DEA. Vicodin is a Schedule III narcotic. This means that U.S. law describes Percocet as having a higher potential for abuse than Vicodin.

Long-term use of opioids such as Vicodin and Percocet can lead to physical and/or psychological dependence on the drug. The risk of pain pill addiction is not known, but past drug or alcohol problems either you or your family, problems with anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders put you at greater risk of developing addiction.


People who have been through both Percocet and Vicodin withdrawal claim not to notice too much a different between the symptoms. Withdrawal from both Percocet and Vicodin can be painful, but getting the drugs out of your system is not life threatening. Safe withdrawal and detox is always completed under the supervision of a medical professional, because additional medications or interventions may help related symptoms, and you can know what’s normal from what’s not.

Got any more questions about Percocet or Vicodin? Fire away. We’ll be happy to help.

Reference sources: Consumer Reports on “Best buy drugs for opioids”
DEA scheduling for narcotics
MedHelp topic on “Codeine vs vicodin withdrawal”
NIDA drug pages on prescription drugs
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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