What Are the Differences Between OxyContin and Hydrocodone?

OxyContin and hydrocodone are both medications used to treat pain, but they have a few differences. OxyContin is a 12-hour time-released narcotic pain killer containing oxycodone as the active ingredient. Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. Hydrocodone, when prescribed with acetaminophen, is an instant-release painkiller, however, when it’s prescribed by itself, it’s in a time-released design similar to OxyContin. Both narcotics are semi-synthetic opioids that are used to manage pain and have a high potential for addiction, leading many people to abuse these medications. While oxycodone and hydrocodone are both synthesized using opium poppy, oxycodone derives from an opium alkaloid known as thebaine and hydrocodone derives from codeine. Brand name drugs such as Vicodin and Lortab contain hydrocodone, and oxycodone is found in brand-name drugs such as Percocet, OxyContin, and Roxicodone.

Let’s explore the differences in these two medications in regards to effectiveness, duration, scheduling, and side effects.


Hydrocodone and OxyContin work similarly to control moderate or extreme pain. Each drug blocks pain signals that your nerves are sending to your brain, resulting in reduced pain sensation. Both medications sometimes produce a sense of euphoria, regardless of whether the person is experiencing any pain. When it comes to effectiveness, both drugs are similar, however, oxycodone is a bit stronger.


OxyContin is effective for 12 hours, as it’s time released. Hydrocodone, as well as oxycodone in instant-release form, is effective for 4-6 hours. These durations refer to oral use of both medications. OxyContin and hydrocodone both begin working in 10-30 minutes. Peak effects occur in a half-hour to one hour for hydrocodone and approximately three hours for OxyContin. Instant-release oxycodone has similar duration lengths as hydrocodone.

Drug Scheduling

Oxycodone is classified as a schedule II controlled substance, which means that it has a high abuse potential, but the narcotic still has a currently accepted medical use.

Originally, hydrocodone was a schedule III controlled substance, which means that it has less abuse potential than a schedule II substance. This classification would mean that hydrocodone is less addictive than oxycodone, however, in 2014 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rescheduled hydrocodone as a schedule-2 controlled substance. Now, both medications have a similar risk factor for abuse.

Side Effects

Hydrocodone and OxyContin both have similar negative side effects, which occur occasionally when people are allergic to the medications or take too much. The side effects include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, itching, dry mouth, shallow breathing, lethargy, motor skill impairment, and drowsiness. In rare cases, people experience side effects, such as rapid heartbeat, confusion, and painful urination.

The major difference between these two drugs in regards to side effects is that hydrocodone has a higher chance of stomach pain and constipation.


OxyContin and hydrocodone are quite similar, and at first glance, both drugs appear to be the exact same. However, these two medications have different side effects, different scheduling histories, and different scientific makeups. While they are similar, OxyContin and hydrocodone aren’t the same.