New Choices Treatment Center Logo

Hydrocodone vs Oxycodone Withdrawal and Recovery


Prescription drug abuse is a serious health crisis in the United States. In 2017, a reported 18 million Americans misused prescription drugs at least one time. Hydrocodone and oxycodone are two of the biggest contributors to the problem.

Hydrocodone and oxycodone are opioids typically prescribed to provide long-term pain relief to patients.

However, while these drugs are effective, they are also highly addictive substances. Whether you become addicted to hydrocodone or oxycodone, withdrawal and recovery will take time, patience, and expert care. If you or a loved one have become dependent on one of these drugs and are looking to quit, here is what you can expect in terms of side effects, detox, and treatment.

Oxycodone vs Hydrocodone: What is the Difference?

Both oxycodone and hydrocodone are opiates, and both are defined as Schedule II drugs—meaning they are considered addictive substances, and thus, are controlled by the DEA.

Both drugs amplify the effects of other medications that slow brain function, making it dangerous to combine them with alcohol, barbiturates, or muscle relaxants. They both also produce feelings of euphoria, to induce a response in the reward system of the brain. As this happens again and again, the brain changes its wiring to crave more of the substance responsible for the feelings of pleasure, creating dependency.

However, in terms of hydrocodone vs oxycodone, they differ in precisely how they affect the body—particularly in the potential side effects that each can incur:

Hydrocodone Side Effects Oxycodone Side Effects
  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremor
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chills
  • Skin rash
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of energy
  • Weakness
  • Twitching
  • Itching
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Seizures
Both can also result in: anxiety, dry mouth, gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, headache or muscle pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, swelling, and trouble breathing or swallowing. Stomach pain and constipation are more likely with hydrocodone than oxycodone.

Both are available in immediate-release or time-release forms, where hydrocodone is most commonly prescribed as a mixture with acetaminophen in an instant-release form.

While oxycodone tends to be slightly stronger than hydrocodone in terms of its effect, both harbor a high potential for addiction.

The Addictive Potential of Opioids

Even when hydrocodone and oxycodone are taken as prescribed, dependence can occur. As such, doctors generally prescribe these two drugs only as a last resort when other drugs cannot effectively keep pain under control. It is vital that patients keep an open dialogue with their doctor while they are taking these drugs so that signs of a developing dependence can be identified and addressed as early as possible.

Dependence occurs when your body reaches a point where it cannot function normally without a drug. Dependence can quickly lead to addiction, which is when you begin to sacrifice your well-being—and potentially the wellbeing of others—in order to satisfy cravings for a drug. Many people, upon finding themselves unable to obtain more of their initial prescription, turn to heroin to find similar relief to that which hydrocodone or oxycodone once provided.

Whether or not you are convinced that you or a loved one is dependent on, or addicted to, one of these drugs, you should never suddenly stop taking hydrocodone or oxycodone. Doing so can incur severe withdrawal symptoms which you may not be equipped to handle safely on your own.

Hydrocodone vs Oxycodone Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

In terms of withdrawal symptoms, hydrocodone vs oxycodone are fairly similar. The symptoms most commonly experienced when quitting one or the other include:

  • Mood changes, including anxiety or depression
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Chills, sweating
  • Runny nose, coughing
  • Insomnia, restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting, diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle aches or headache
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Tachycardia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide

Many people wonder if it is harder to detox from hydrocodone than oxycodone, or vice-versa. In truth, both are opiates and tend to follow standard opiate withdrawal timelines. Initial withdrawal symptoms usually manifest within six to 12 hours after the last dose, and often last around a week or two.

However, as with any addictive substance, this timeline can be significantly impacted by factors such as how long you have been taking the drug, how much of the drug you have been taking, and how frequently you have been using it. In more severe cases, post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) may set in, lasting much longer than initial symptoms—up to two years for some. PAWS typically includes more emotion-based symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, and depression, as well as difficulty sleeping and fatigue.

Because of the potential severity of both initial symptoms and longer-term PAWS, it is vital that you do not attempt to detox from these drugs at home. For your own safety and wellbeing (or that of your loved one), opt to seek expert medical help at a specialized detox facility instead. Such facilities offer round-the-clock medical support and supervision to ensure the greatest level of comfort and safety throughout the detox process.

Fostering Long-Term Recovery from Opiate Addiction

While detox is an important first step in moving past hydrocodone or oxycodone withdrawal symptoms toward recovery, it is only the beginning of the journey for most. PAWS alone would be reason enough to seek long-term recovery help, but even those who do not experience these lingering symptoms benefit greatly from the support and structure of a personalized addiction treatment program. In some cases, medically-assisted treatment (MAT) programming may even be incorporated for a time to help combat the more severe consequences of opiate abuse and support overall healing.

Addiction recovery isn’t just about overcoming physical dependence. It’s about exploring what drove you to addiction in the first place and finding new, healthier approaches to solving or coping with those factors. Most of all, it is about creating a sustainable path forward that you can continue to follow even when initial treatment has come to an end.

In other words, the right addiction treatment program won’t just help you to safely quit hydrocodone or oxycodone. It will also give you the tools you need to avoid falling back into the trap of addiction in the years to come.

Whether you’re taking hydrocodone or oxycodone, withdrawal and recovery isn’t easy—but it’s far less difficult with the right team in your corner. New Choices Treatment Centers offers superior detox and long-term treatment programming in a safe, judgment-free environment located right in the heart of San Antonio, TX. For more information, call us today at (726) 888-7003 or get in touch with us online.