Percocet Vs. Norco, Vicodin and Oxycodone Comparison & Natural Alternatives

Last Updated: January 28, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

People who are just getting into pain medications or do not know much about it are confused when it comes to Percocet vs. Norco, Vicodin vs. Percocet, or Oxycodone vs. Percocet difference.

All of them are opioid drugs used to relieve moderate to severe pain. They are also commonly prescribed to relieve chronic pain caused by many diseases, such as arthritis and pain due to cancer. Although these drugs have more similarities than differences, some of them are made up of different active ingredients and may have different side effects and onset of action.

When it comes to prescription drugs, it is important to know all the information about medications a patient is taking because the consequences in some cases can be deadly.

Difference Between the Painkillers Mechanism Of Pain Relief

There is no difference between their mechanism of pain relief. All opioid painkiller drugs act on the central nervous system to affect the usual mechanism for transmitting pain signals to the brain. As a result, the brain perceives pain differently. Relief is delivered, but as reported by users, pain relief also comes with a feeling of euphoria, which is one of the main reasons that make these drugs highly addictive.

These drugs should be sufficient in relieving moderate to severe pain. Before using any painkiller, make sure to schedule a consultation with a physician.

The withdrawal and detox can result in multiple side effects. Successfully staying off of these drugs will require professional guidance and supervision.

Percocet Vs. Norco

Percocet is a combination drug of two active ingredients, namely Acetaminophen and a semi-synthetic opiate called Oxycodone. There are different strengths available for this prescription medication, which could be prescribed to people who are experiencing moderate, severe, and chronic pain. After an intake, this drug stays in the body system for about 48 hours in urine and for up to three months in hair samples.

Doctor holding in hands norco and percocet Pills.

Norco is also a combination drug, which consists of Acetaminophen and an opiate called Hydrocodone. It is used to treat moderate to severe pain.

Similarities Between The Two

When it comes to Norco vs. Percocet comparison, it is vital to look at the similarities between these drugs before we could distinguish them.

Addiction and Abuse Potential

Over 200 million prescriptions were written only for opioid drugs in 2013. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the United States is the biggest consumer of Percocet with 81% of the market in the same number of prescriptions. Apart from these numbers, millions of individuals illegally buy these painkillers to feed their addiction. Both prescription medications have been highly abused because of their opiate ingredients. They are both classified as schedule II controlled substances by the DEA.

A report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2014 published that about 4.5 million American patients are currently abusing prescription painkillers.

Long-Term Use

Both drugs are prescribed just for short-term treatment unless they are administered for chronic cancer pain. Also, withdrawal remedies work for Norco as both are opiate-based drugs.

Difference Between Norco and Percocet

The main difference between Percocet vs. Norco is their components. Both of them have Acetaminophen; however, the opioid component is different in each one. Percocet has Oxycodone, while Norco has Hydrocodone. Other than each containing two different components, the following highlight Percocet vs. Norco key differences:

Dosage

Branded Percocet is available in 5 different dosage forms. On the other hand, Norco is only available in 3 dosage forms, which are 5/325 mg, 7.5/325 mg, and 10/325 mg.

Norco Doses Percocet Doses
2.5/325mg
5/325mg 5/325mg
7.5/325mg 7.5/325mg
10/325mg 10/325mg
10/650mg

Side Effects

Both drugs are associated with the same common side effects. Among the most critical differences in Norco vs. Percocet side effects is that Norco is more likely to cause constipation and other problems related to the stomach and digestion, and difficulty breathing. In contrast, the second is more likely to cause a lack of energy. A headache is also likely, whereas the use of Norco is not associated with a headache. Although constipation frequently occurs in Norco due to the hydrocodone presence. The Acetaminophen in both of them can also lead to liver failure, ulcers, and cardiovascular events. Itching can appear as well. Also, they both affect pregnancy in a similar way.

Strength and Efficacy

In general, combining either Hydrocodone or Oxycodone with another painkiller like acetaminophen produces better results compared to using a pure form of these opioids only. Between Hydrocodone vs. Percocet, the last is stronger. Similarly, when Norco vs. Oxycodone results are compared, the effect of Norco is not as strong.

Based on a study conducted among subjects without any known dependency or addiction to prescription drugs, the researchers found that, at equal doses, the combination of Oxycodone with acetaminophen produced 1.5 times more potency than hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen. Percocet is generally regarded as the stronger drug in comparison to Norco.

Vicodin vs. Percocet

Vicodin is also a combination medication of an opioid substance called hydrocodone and Acetaminophen. It is prescribed for people who also experience severe pain. Doctors could prescribe the two active ingredients in both drugs on their own without Acetaminophen, but it is rarely done.

Similarities Between The Two

Except both of the drugs are opioids, which are recognized as the most potent pain relievers, both containing acetaminophen, Vicodin vs. Percocet, share the key characteristics.

They Are: 

  • Both drugs are considered powerful painkillers and are available only with a prescription.
  • Both are brand names that have generic counterparts.
  • Both are used as painkillers for the relief of short-term pain usually associated with post-surgery and managing pain due to chronic conditions.
  • Percocet vs. Vicodin are both considered opioid drugs.
  • Both painkillers are classified as Schedule II drugs, a drug category associated with a high risk for drug misuse and addiction.
  • Both drugs may cause similar side effects, including itching, sluggishness, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, and motor skills impairment.
  • Their pregnancy category is C. It means that both drugs generally lack a sufficient dearth of studies to demonstrate the intake safety during pregnancy.
  • Drinking alcohol on both can cause extreme dizziness and vomiting. It can also cause heart rate and breathing to become severely slow, leading to coma or even death. Combining these drugs with alcohol can lead to liver damage.

Differences Between Vicodin vs. Percocet

When looking at the differences between Vicodin vs. Percocet, they are in the ingredients. Vicodin active ingredient is hydrocodone, just like in Norco. However, they both contain paracetamol or generically known as Acetaminophen, which improves the pain-relieving process in both drugs.

Other differences in Vicodin vs. Percocet comparison can be grouped using certain characteristics. They are:

Dosage Forms

Dosage forms of each drug are different. Vicodin comes in 3 different tablet forms, while Percocet dosages come in 5 different variations.

Vicodin Doses Percocet Doses
2.5/325mg
Vicodin (5/300mg) 5/325mg
Vicodin ES (7.5/300mg) 7.5/325mg
Vicodin HP (10/300mg) 10/325mg
10/650mg

Strength and Efficacy

One of the primary differences between these two drugs is the strength. When it comes to comparison, Percocet is stronger and therefore has better pain-relieving capabilities. Vicodin is less potent. In the long run, most differences between them are similar to the comparison with Norco.

Oxycodone vs. Percocet

Oxycodone is a medication that is available only with a prescription from a medical doctor. It is used for pain relief, while it has high chances of abuse. Oxycodone is an opioid substance and an active ingredient in Percocet.

Similarities Between The Two

When comparing Oxycodone vs. Percocet, one has to note the similarities between both drugs before distinguishing them. Below, are there are some similarities between them:

Side Effects

When it comes to Oxycodone vs. Percocet adverse effects, they are quite similar. Both drugs decrease in efficacy if used over a long period.

Common Adverse Reactions Both Drugs Produce Are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Swelling of the body parts
  • Difficulty in respiration
  • Slow or fast heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Postural hypotension
  • In rare cases, coma

Sometimes both can be used during breastfeeding, but such decisions can be risky to a baby. Apart from the effects of difficulty breathing or feeding, nursing mothers can pass down dependency on newbies.

Addiction and Abuse Potential

Both drugs are considered Schedule II drugs by the DEA. It means they have the potential for addiction and abuse. Breaking the addiction to these drugs can become challenging due to withdrawal symptoms, one may appear when tapering off or undergoing drug detoxification. There is a strong proneness for an overdose in both medications. When one uses these painkillers, it is really hard to know how much Percocet is too much, and so is the case with Oxycodone.

Differences Between Oxycodone vs. Percocet

When looking at the differences between these two powerful painkillers, it is necessary to look at their active ingredients. Oxycodone is an active ingredient on its own, and it is also present as an active ingredient in Percocet, which also contains an active ingredient called acetaminophen or paracetamol.

Oxycodone and Percocet pills in hands.

Other differences between Oxycodone vs. Percocet are listed below:

Dosage Forms

Existing dosage forms of the painkillers are completely different. They both come in various dosage forms, from liquid to extended-release to oral tablets. Below is a comparison of the oral tablet doses.

Percocet (Acetaminophen/Oxycodone) Oxycodone
2.5 (2.5/325mg)
5 (5/325mg) 5mg
7.5 (7.5/325mg)
10 (10/325mg) 10mg
10 (10/650mg)
15mg
20mg
30mg

Onset Of Action

The first starts working from 20-30 mins of intake and lasts for 2-4 hours, while Oxycodone starts working from 30-60 mins of intake and lasts for 2-4 hours.

Strength and Efficacy

Like the difference between Norco and Percocet in strength, there is also a moderate difference in strength when it comes to Percocet vs. Oxycodone. Although oxycodone is moderately strong, Percocet is stronger, having the best pain-relieving capabilities among both drugs. This is because of the acetaminophen in it, which acts together with the oxycodone to increase each other’s effects and handle severe fever better than oxycodone.

Risk of Opioid Use Disorder

When it comes to comparing different opioids, such as Percocet vs. Oxycodone or Percocet vs. Norco and others, one of the similarities is the risk of developing opioid use disorder. An individual who is abusing any of these painkillers while suffering distress, significant impairment, and dysfunction due to this abuse would be identified with this disorder. This is one of many types of a substance use disorder, and it is considered a formal mental disorder.

American Association Of Anesthesiologists Lists the Signs of Opioid Use Disorder As:

  • Having cravings to use these drugs
  • Issues controlling the use of these substances
  • Giving up activities as a result of drug use
  • Failure to responsibilities as a result of the opioid use
  • Developing tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms

OTC Alternatives

Some painkillers can be used as substitution and do not require a physician’s prescription, but these are recommended only to relieve mild to moderate pain. OTC alternatives to Percocet are also used to treat minor inflammation such as fever, colds, cough, and diarrhea.

Woman looking for OTC alternatives to percocet in a pharmacy.

Listed below are the most commonly used types of OTC pain relievers:

Acetaminophen Containing Alternatives

OTC drugs classified under this type are typically recommended for minor aches. They work by improving the body’s tolerance for pain. Its most significant limitation is that most of them cannot relieve inflammation. Some of the most well-known brands of acetaminophen are Tylenol and Panadol. Drug interactions with other pain medications are likely, and alcohol, while the risk for overdose can be managed by following dosage instructions carefully.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

These OTC drugs can be used instead of opioids to help relieve fever and inflammation by decreasing the production of prostaglandins that cause inflammation and pain. Aspirin, Naproxen, and Ibuprofen are classified as NSAIDs. These kinds of alternatives are associated with side effects that include bleeding and developing stomach ulcers. There are varieties like Celecoxib (Celebrex) that have been found to carry lower risks for developing these side effects. People have varied responses to different NSAIDs, so it is essential to identify an NSAID alternative that will cause the least adverse effects.

Muscle Relaxants

For muscle aches, this type of drug is recommended. Only a few of them can be found as OTC because most muscle relaxers act as sedatives by influencing the Central Nervous System. Muscle weakness is a commonly reported side effect. A muscle relaxant, like Flexeril, can lead to a fatal drug overdose.

How Strong and Safe are OTC Alternatives?

Compared to the amount of common Percocet side effects, OTC alternatives are less likely to produce most of them. But usually, they are recommended for the relief of mild to moderate degrees of pain. However, the strongest OTC painkillers are Dextromethorphan and Loperamide, they can be compared with Percocet 5/325 pills, but they both can become addictive and cause an overdose.

Natural Painkillers

The growing concern over drug addiction and misuse, coupled with stricter regulations for dispensing prescription drugs, has resulted in an increased general interest in strong herbal painkillers. What are these precisely, and can natural painkillers become a safer alternative to Percocet?

This group of painkillers consists of all-natural alternatives for relief that includes alternative and complementary medicine.

Some Examples Of Natural Painkillers Are as Follows:

  • Herbs and Spices. Adding turmeric and willow bark to home-cooked recipes or supplementing with these may improve the sensation of pain. Marijuana can also be administered as a pain reliever in some cases, but weed and Percocet should not be taken together. Many herbs and spices contain natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Essential Oils. Either the aroma or topical application of these natural extracts can help to alleviate pain. Extra caution must be practiced to this alternative to prevent allergic reactions.
  • Natural therapies. The Chinese centuries-old practice of acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and massaging can help relieve mild to moderate pain. These can also be safely used in tandem with other drugs, prescription or OTC, that patient is taking.

Which One Is Better?

Most health experts tend to recommend Oxycodone or Vicodin for mild or moderate pain and Percocet for severe and chronic pain. This is because of the difference in the strengths of each painkiller.

When patients decide what to use: Percocet, Norco, Vicodin, or Oxycodone, it is essential to be aware of the risks involved with these drugs. Some patients regularly go out of the prescribed doses, and the results could be deadly. A patient should contact a professional before making use of any of these drugs. Overdose or abuse of opioids happens regularly, and the consequences can be deadly. A patient should visit a professional doctor before they start taking these drugs because of potential side effects and medical conditions alternative to Percocet can be prescribed to the patient.


Page Sources

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Published on: November 1st, 2018

Updated on: January 28th, 2021

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.