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What are the Differences Between Percocet & Vicodin?

author image Suann Schuster
Suann Schuster has been working as a freelance writer since 2004. She served as an item writer for McGraw-Hill Education and a curriculum author. Schuster now provides content for Science and Massage Therapy texts for McGraw-Hill, as well as for test banks. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Sedona.
What are the Differences Between Percocet & Vicodin?
Opium-origin of pharmaceutical opiates

The differences between Percocet, generically known as oxycodone, and Vicodin, generically known as hydrocodone, are in their chemical compound, purpose and side effects. Both of these opiate medications treat pain, however, Vicodin in its hydrocodone form mixed with acetaminophen, is prescribed for cough control as well as moderate to severe pain. Percocet as oxycodone, a mixture of acetaminophen, has a mood altering narcotic effect providing analgesia for pain.

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Chemical Composition

Percocet for moderate pain
Percocet for moderate pain

Vicodin--hydrocodone bitartrate--and acetaminophen is an opiad analgesic. It contains hydrogen that when added to acetaminophen, decreases the potency and potential for abuse; Vicodin has a schedule III drug classification noted by the United States Department of Drug Enforcement. The bitartrate compound provides a tablet base for the mixture and adds a bitter taste, making it less palatable. Its chemical make-up C18 H21 NO3_C4H6O6_21/2H20 may initially appear similar to Percocet however, the dilution occurs in the two and half parts of H2O.

Percocet--oxycodone hydrochloride--mixed with acetaminophen is a narcotic analgesic. The narcotic effect of this pain medication encourages a calming effect in the sufferer allowing the medicine time to work. Additional adrenaline pulsing through the body after an injury or accident lessens the sedative effect and decreases its efficacy. Percocet is a schedule II controlled substance similar to morphine; higher classifications indicate the potential for abuse. The category is also due to the chemical composition derived from opium alkaloid. This compound may seem similar to Vicodin, C18 H21 NO4*HCI, but it contains more oxygen and less H20. This difference in chemical structure indicates that even with added acetaminophen Percocet's strength is not diminished in the same manner as Vicodin.


Vicodin controls cough
Vicodin controls cough

Vicodin is prescribed for moderate to severe pain as well as suppressing the cough reflex. Hydrocodone is incorporated in cough syrups with antihistamines and other symptom relief aides. Vicodin tablets are prescribed by mouth, and throat pain in addition to accompanying coughs. This opiad analgesic is intended to provide relief from pain and can cause euphoria. Percocet, the narcotic analgesic is prescribed for severe pain and is considered highly addictive due to the mood-altering effect of the medication. Oxycodone is similar to codeine but more potent; it is more effective for injury to other exposed parts of the body.

Side Effects

Opium ready for processing
Opium ready for processing

The side effects of Vicodine and its generic hydrocodone cause irregular breathing patterns. This medication may interfere with antidepressant medications. Percocet and its generic oxycodone can cause constipation due to muscle relaxation and may interact with tranquilizers and sleeping pills. This interaction can cause impaired motor control, muscle strength and lethargy.

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