Vicodin and Percocet are opioids. Although they’re more alike than they are different, a few factors may influence which medication your healthcare professional prescribes.

Vicodin and Percocet are two brand-name prescription analgesics. Analgesics are pain-relieving medications. Vicodin contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Percocet contains oxycodone and acetaminophen.

Hydrocodone and oxycodone are semi-synthetic opioids, meaning they were created in a lab using naturally occurring compounds from opium poppies (Papaver somniferum).

Opioids are “controlled” or regulated by the federal government. Controlled substances are classified into different “schedules” or categories based on the potential for misuse or dependency.

Schedule 1 drugs have the highest potential for misuse, as well as the potential to create severe psychological or physical dependence. Schedule 5 drugs have the lowest.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies opioids as Schedule 2 drugs.

Take note

Brand-name Vicodin is no longer in production.

However, hydrocodone/acetaminophen is still known by this name.

This article refers to hydrocodone/acetaminophen as Vicodin to minimize confusion.

Percocet may help treat acute or short-term pain caused by an injury or surgery. A doctor may prescribe Vicodin to help treat chronic or long-term pain caused by an underlying condition like cancer.

Opioid analgesics work by interfering with the way pain signals move through your central nervous system to your brain. This reduces the pain you feel and makes movement and everyday activities easier.

Acetaminophen is a simple, non-opioid analgesic. It stops the production of certain chemicals in your brain, which can help relieve pain.

Generic hydrocodone/acetaminophen is available as an immediate-release (IR) oral tablet and liquid solution.

Remember, brand-name Vicodin is no longer in production. Lortab elixir, which is a syrup-like liquid, is the only brand-name version of hydrocodone/acetaminophen available.

Percocet is an IR oral tablet. Generic oxycodone/acetaminophen is available as an IR oral tablet and liquid solution.


  • Generic tablets: 300 milligrams (mg) or 325 mg of acetaminophen with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg of hydrocodone
  • Generic liquid solution: 325 mg of acetaminophen with 7.5 mg of hydrocodone per 15 milliliters (mL)
  • Lortab elixir: 300 mg of acetaminophen with 10 mg of hydrocodone per 15 mL


  • Percocet tablets: 325 mg of acetaminophen with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg of oxycodone
  • Generic tablets: 325 mg of acetaminophen with 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg of oxycodone
  • Generic liquid solution: 325 mg of acetaminophen with 5 mg of oxycodone per 5 mL

The typical schedule for these medications is every 4–6 hours as needed for pain.

Take precautions

If you take opioids — of any kind, legal or not — it’s a good idea to have nasal naloxone (Narcan) or injectable naloxone (Zimhi) on hand.

Ensure a trusted person knows where to find your naloxone and how to administer it properly. Administering naloxone can save your life in the event of an unintentional opioid overdose.

Naloxone is available without a prescription in all states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. If you have insurance coverage, you may be able to get the medication at no cost.

Many harm reduction programs offer free naloxone. Check out the National Community-Based Naloxone Finder Map to find one near you.

In a 2015 study comparing the drugs, researchers found that they both worked equally well for short-term pain management. An older 2005 study showed that they work equally well in treating acute pain caused by fractures.

However, a 2009 study found that oxycodone, the opioid analgesic in Percocet, was 1.5 times more potent than hydrocodone — the opioid analgesic in Vicodin — when prescribed and taken at equal doses.

Generic versions of drugs generally cost less than the brand-name versions.

At this time, generic Vicodin was somewhat cheaper than generic Percocet. Brand-name Percocet was significantly more expensive than any other option.

Prescription drugs may cost less out-of-pocket if you have health insurance. Check your plan’s covered medications (formulary) list to learn more. You can also contact your insurer with any questions you may have.

Oftentimes, insurance companies will not cover a brand-name medication if a generic version is available. Your prescribing physician may be able to file an appeal to demonstrate medical necessity.

If you’re underinsured — in other words, you have insurance, but it isn’t enough — or without insurance, there are still ways to bring down the cost of your medications.

Many drug manufacturers offer financial assistance programs or vouchers, and some pharmacies work with manufacturers to offer discounted drugs. Your prescribing physician may be able to make a referral.

As Vicodin and Percocet are both opioid drugs, they share similar side effects. Common side effects can include:

Other side effects of Vicodin include:

  • brain fog
  • fatigue

Other side effects of Percocet include:

  • sweating
  • heartburn
  • bloating
  • changes in taste
  • muscle pain
Medical emergency

Call 911 or your local emergency services if you experience any of the following:

  • confusion
  • inability to urinate or painful urination
  • rapid heartbeat
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • swelling of your tongue or throat

Your healthcare professional will work with you to determine the best medication for your needs and advise you on any side effects or risks associated with use.

Tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal

If you use Vicodin or Percocet for an extended period, your body may develop a tolerance to the medication. In other words, you may need a higher dosage to experience the same pain-relieving effect.

Consult your prescribing physician if you suspect you’ve developed a tolerance. They can assess your care plan and determine whether it’s appropriate to increase your use or begin to taper off the medication.

Over time, your body may depend on the medication to function. If you stop taking the medication, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. It’s best to work with your prescribing physician to taper off the medication slowly.

Drug interactions

Opioids can be dangerous when used in combination with certain drugs. Opioids commonly interact with:

  • alcohol
  • antiseizure medications
  • benzodiazepines
  • certain antibiotics and antifungal medications
  • certain antidepressants
  • certain HIV medications
  • muscle relaxants
  • sleep medications

What may be safe to use with one opioid may be dangerous when used with another, so it’s important to share your full medication list with your healthcare professional. This includes:

  • over-the-counter medications
  • vitamins
  • supplements
  • other substances, including nonprescription drugs

Drug-condition interactions

Your healthcare professional will consider your medical history before prescribing any medication, so tell them about any symptoms, diagnoses, or other changes that aren’t in your chart.

Vicodin or Percocet may worsen the effects of certain underlying conditions, including:

Doctors prescribe Vicodin and Percocet to help treat moderate to severe pain.

Both drugs contain acetaminophen, which is a simple, non-opioid analgesic alongside an opioid. Vicodin contains hydrocodone, and Percocet contains oxycodone.

Your healthcare professional will review the potential benefits, side effects, and risks of each medication before you begin treatment. Follow their instructions to minimize the risk of adverse effects.