Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone (an opioid painkiller) and acetaminophen. The average dose of Vicodin in oral tablet form contains 500 mg of acetaminophen and 5 mg of hydrocodone. This drug has been the most prescribed medication in the United States since 2007, per Forbes, and more than 135 million prescriptions were filled for it in 2012 alone.
The Drug Enforcement Administration reports Vicodin was moved from Schedule III to Schedule II in 2014. Interestingly, while Vicodin was originally classed as a Schedule III drug, hydrocodone alone was always Schedule II.
Much like Vicodin, Percocet contains an opioid pain reliever (oxycodone) and acetaminophen. The oral administration form of this drug is composed of 325 mg of acetaminophen and 2.5 mg of oxycodone. This drug is often used to treat pain for chronic conditions, such as pain experienced by cancer patients going through chemotherapy.
How These Opioids Differ
The biggest difference between the opioid ingredients in these two drugs, hydrocodone and oxycodone, is strength. Oxycodone is considered to be more potent than hydrocodone. Thus, Percocet is stronger than Vicodin.
Both of these drugs have restrictions on them. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in early 2016 urging physicians to scale back their prescribing practices when it comes to narcotic pain relievers like Vicodin and Percocet for patients with complaints of chronic pain. Another change to prescribing practices back in 2014 limited physicians’ abilities to authorize refills for prescriptions containing hydrocodone.
The Drug Enforcement Administration states Vicodin and other prescription combinations containing hydrocodone were prescribed 136 million times in 2013 alone. Per the DEA, oxycodone-based prescriptions were filled 58.8 million times the following year. While prescription rates for all opioid pain relievers appear to be on the rise, hydrocodone-based drugs are recommended by physicians far more often than their oxycodone-based competitors.
Who Uses These Drugs?
These drugs have both been widely abused and trafficking throughout the country for many years. In many cases, individuals who abuse opioid pain relievers do so with a legal prescription in hand. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes 18.1 percent of people who abused drugs like Vicodin and Percocet in 2014 did so with a prescription for them from a doctor.
The abuse of prescription opioids like Vicodin and Percocet has grown in popularity across all demographics. As a result, people from all walks of life and all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds are suffering from the side effects of opioid abuse. According to The New York Times, these drugs claim the lives of roughly 44 people every day in America due to overdose.
Geography seems to matter most when it comes to the abuse of Vicodin and Percocet. Americans consume 99 percent of the global supply of hydrocodone and 80 percent of the world’s oxycodone supply, per Drug Watch. Despite that, the United States only houses 4.4 percent of the world’s population, according to the Washington Post.
What Are the Risks of Vicodin and Percocet Abuse?
The risks associated with abuse of both of these drugs are similar. Neither is necessarily worse than the other. However, overdose is more common when stronger drugs are being abused, so it may be more likely to occur in cases of Percocet abuse. That being said, overdose is a real concern with both Percocet and Vicodin. There was a 14 percent increase in the number of opioid-related drug overdoses between 2013 and 2014, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition, acetaminophen brings with it serious risks. Contrary to popular belief, this purportedly safe over-the-counter medication is responsible for more than 150 deaths each year, Mercola reports. Complications that can stem from the abuse of acetaminophen include:
- Liver failure
- Depletion of glutathione that is needed to protect the body from assault
- Ulcers in the stomach lining
- Cardiovascular events
While there are differences between Percocet and Vicodin, abuse of either of these drugs can result in long-term health and life consequences. It’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible if you suspect you are addicted to either drug. Medical detox is needed to safely go through opioid withdrawal, and detox should be followed with comprehensive addiction treatment to ensure the best chances of a complete recovery and a healthy future.