Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone: Understanding Opioids & Their Screening Tests

Opioid medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone have been used to treat conditions where patients experience chronic, moderate, and extreme pain either due to injury or persistent conditions. They’re also used to manage post-operative pain and conditions that cause visceral pain such as cancer. Both these medications can be taken either alone or in combination with an additional drug to improve their potency. While there are a few differences between hydrocodone vs. oxycodone, both of these drugs act for short periods, however, there do exist extended-release variations that work for long durations. 

Since both drugs are opioids, they tend to make patients dependent - a commonality when you compare hydrocodone vs. oxycodone and their traits. The risk for abuse of these medications remains high, and doctors will often monitor your dosage carefully in case they prescribe these medicines. There also exist screening tests that can determine hydrocodone & oxycodone levels in urine. Read on as we discuss these drugs, their differences, oxymorphone - a derivative of oxycodone, oxymorphone vs. oxycodone, and the drug screening tests for these medications. 

oxycodone levels in urine

What is Hydrocodone?

  • Classified as an opioid or a narcotic painkiller, hydrocodone is used to manage moderate to severe pain. 
  • It is often prescribed when other painkillers seem to be ineffective. 
  • Hydrocodone is a synthetic opioid that is produced by modifying codeine - a natural opioid derived from poppy seeds
  • Hydrocodone blocks pain transmission by the central nervous system by binding with specialized opioid receptors called the mu receptors
  • Hydrocodone is commonly used to manage postoperative pain, cancer pain, chronic pain from diseases such as severe osteoarthritis, or due to major physical trauma. 
  • The drug is a federally controlled substance and can be prescribed only by a certified medical practitioner. 
  • Combinations of hydrocodone with acetaminophen and ibuprofen are available on the market and are more effective than plain hydrocodone in managing certain pain conditions.
  • The drug’s admixture with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs makes the formulation more effective against inflammatory diseases. 
  • Effects of hydrocodone last for around 4 to 6 hours, as opposed to extended-release forms that can provide up to 12 hours of pain relief. 

What is Oxycodone?

  • When you compare hydrocodone vs. oxycodone, there tend to be many similarities. 
  • Oxycodone too is an opioid drug that is derived from the opium poppy resin that has been synthetically modified. 
  • Oxycodone is just as potent, if not slightly more potent than hydrocodone. 
  • Similar to other opioids, oxycodone works on the opioid receptors in the central nervous system, blocking pain transmission by binding with the mu receptors. 
  • This opioid formulation tends to activate the pleasure centers in the brain and often causes a sense of euphoria when taken. Due to abuse being a very real possibility with oxycodone, it too is a federally controlled substance that is available only when prescribed. 
  • Oxycontin is an extended-release variation of oxycodone under a brand name that works for longer periods, apart from which there are no differences between oxycontin vs. oxycodone. 
  • The only difference between oxycontin vs. oxycodone (pure) is the former working for over 12 hours, while the latter is effective for about 4 to 6 hours. 
  • Oxycodone too can be combined with acetaminophen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to make pain relief more potent. The formula with acetaminophen is 1.5 times more potent than plain oxycodone. 

Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone

  • Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are medications that can cause dependencies. 
  • These medications are primarily targeted at the opioid receptors to ensure the pain does not traverse the pain pathway, making sure the patient can manage the discomfort arising from their condition. 
  • Both drugs should not be stopped abruptly, as the doctor will often advise a tapered dose reduction to help the patients’ bodies deal with the reducing dosage of the opioid painkillers. 
  • Stopping the drugs abruptly will lead to physical symptoms of discomfort experienced by the body - commonly known as withdrawal
  • Due to opioid misuse and addiction, both these drugs are heavily regulated, and the extended-release forms of both these drugs are made in a way where they’re extremely difficult to crush or break apart to prevent drug abuse. 
  • The core differences between hydrocodone vs. oxycodone lie in the side effects caused by these medications. 
  • Both drugs are potent painkillers and are capable of managing both inflammatory and visceral pain effectively. They’re regularly advised for patients that have suffered multiple fractures, for patients suffering from cancer, and even for major traumatic cases such as burn injuries. 

how long does hydrocodone stay in urine

  • Available Forms

    • Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are available as capsules, tablets, and liquid vials for injections. 
    • The extended-release tablets of both hydrocodone and oxycodone are both meant to slowly release the drug over 12 hours and are not effective for treating conditions with short-term and extreme pain. 
  • Dosage

    • Both drugs in their pure form are administered once every six hours when short-term action is desired. 
    • For extended-release effects, these medications are prescribed to be taken once every 12 hours. 
    • The brand name of Hydrocodone in its extended-release form is Zohydro ER, while that of Oxycodone is OxyContin. 
    • Both drugs are available under their generic names as well. 
    • The doctor will also take into account your age, weight, past medical & family history, surgical history, other medications you’re on, the duration for which you will require the drug, and your risk for dependence and drug abuse before they write you a prescription for these medications. 
  • Side Effects of Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone

Side effects of hydrocodone include:

    • Nausea
    • Drowsiness
    • Dry mouth 
    • Lack of focus 
    • Light breathing 
    • Tiredness/ lethargy 
    • Itching 
    • Stomach ache 
    • Impaired motor skills & coordination
    • Constipation

The side effects of oxycodone include:

    • Fatigue 
    • Drowsiness 
    • Euphoria 
    • Headaches 
    • Nausea 
    • Lack of focus 

Severe side effects of both drugs include: 

    • Fainting 
    • Palpitations 
    • Discomfort in urination 
    • Convulsions 
    • Confusion

Contraindications & Drug-interactions of Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone

    • Both drugs are avoided in people that suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses. 
    • Individuals with obstructive diseases of the bowel and constipation should not take these medications. 
    • Alcohol should be strictly avoided when you’re on these drugs as it can result in severe drowsiness and hamper liver function. 
    • Both hydrocodone and oxycodone are avoided in people with liver and kidney disease, as these drugs are metabolized and excreted through these organs. 
    • Due to opioids being related to raised risks of birth defects, they’re usually avoided in pregnant women. These drugs are also avoided in breastfeeding mothers as these drugs can be released through human breast milk. 

Oxymorphone vs. Oxycodone

  • Oxymorphone, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, is a potent opioid and narcotic painkiller. 
  • Oxymorphone happens to be a metabolite of oxycodone, however, it is also available in its free form as a medication in tablets, capsules, and vials for injections. 
  • When comparing oxymorphone vs. oxycodone, the two drugs have comparable periods of action, lasting between 4 to 6 hours, and the extended-release varieties with effects extending up to 12 hours. 
  • Oxymorphone, like its other opiate cousins, is used for pain management in conditions where non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other painkillers are found to be ineffective. Much like oxycodone and hydrocodone, it too acts on the mu-opioid receptors to block pain and achieve lasting pain relief.
  • Its side effects and contraindications are similar to those found in oxycodone, and it can be just as prone to drug abuse. 

Screening & Opiate Drug Tests

  • If you’re a patient that has been taking opioid medications it’s natural to wonder about questions like “how long does oxycodone stay in your system?” or “how long does hydrocodone stay in urine?”
  • Screening tests can judge whether an individual has been taking certain medications or drugs by sampling bodily secretions and excretions like urine, sweat, and saliva. 
  • Opiate drug tests are important in both medical applications and in forensic laboratories in government agencies that monitor drug abuse and trafficking. 
  • Oxycodone levels in urine and those of hydrocodone can be done by qualitative analysis of a urine sample. 
  • It’s important to understand the chemical nature of these medications to know for how long they remain in your system and how they’re excreted from the body. 

Oxycodone Levels in Urine & Other Body Secretions

    • Immediate release forms of oxycodone have an average half-life of 3 to 3.2 hours. This means that the body requires about 3-3.2 hours to eliminate half the dose of oxycodone ingested. 
    • However, extended-release formulations of oxycodone have a longer half-life ranging from 4.5 to 5.5 hours. 
    • Half-lives can vary from person to person, as each individual tends to eliminate drug concentrations differently. 
    • How long does oxycodone stay in your system? Oxycodone will undergo several half-life eliminations to be completely removed from the body. Until then, it will still be detectable in the body’s secretions.
    • Oxycodone levels in urine are detectable for up to 4 days following the last dose. 
    • They’re also detectable in the saliva for up to 4 days after the last dose. 
    • Oxycodone is detectable for up to 90 days following the last dose in the hair strands of the individual. 
    • So, how long does OxyContin stay in your system? It would be the same as oxycodone since their active ingredients are the same. 
    • An oxycontin vs. oxycodone drug test can easily reveal these facts from a sample.

hydrocodone vs oxycodone

Hydrocodone levels in Urine & Other Body Secretions

    • Immediate release hydrocodone has a half-life of about 3.8 hours on average, whereas, extended-release forms of the drug have an average half-life between 7 and 9 hours. 
    • Like oxycodone and other drugs, hydrocodone too will undergo multiple half-life eliminations to be completely expelled by the body. 
    • So, for how long does hydrocodone stay in your system? As far as urine levels are considered, hydrocodone remains detectable for up to 4 days after the last dose. 
    • In saliva, the drug remains detectable for up to 36 hours. 
    • Like oxycodone, hydrocodone is detectable in the hair strands for nearly 90 days after the last dose. 
    • A hydrocodone drug test can reveal the amount of the drug in a sample, which can then be used to estimate the last consumed dose by using half-life calculations.  

Hydrocodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone are all strictly regulated medications. Please consult your physician for further information on these medications and do not attempt to self-medicate with opiates.