Opioids are used mainly to reduce pain. They are also used as anesthetic drugs, mainly due to their numbing effects. Opioids work by establishing a link with receptors (proteins) in your spinal cord and brain. But, do you know how long opioids get to stay in your system? This knowledge is essential prior to using such drugs. Also, it becomes necessary to understand the right dosage and side effects these drugs can trigger. Since opioids can be habit-forming, you also need to know how to keep such risks at bay.

Opioids belong to a family of drugs used for offering relief from pains. It includes both legally prescribed and administered drugs (such as morphine) as well as illegally procured and used drugs like heroin, etc. Invariably, all these drugs work on the brain’s receptors; their key function is to numb your pain and instead, promote happiness by stimulating such nerve receptors in your brain. In general, opioids are taken to get relief from pains – these pains can range from tolerable pains to very acute levels of pains. These drugs are often used as the last resort in the management of pains. Conventional drugs taken for managing pain include ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. Opioids are recommended only when your pain fails to subside after taking dosages of conventional pain killing drugs. Instances where opioids are typically used include 1. Management of cancer related pains, 2. pain experienced after surgery and 3. other discomforts.

The blissful feelings these drugs can trigger run inherent risks of forming a habit. Consumers of opioids may naturally yearn for continued dosages of these drugs. Frequent consumption of opioids can make you addicted to them. Under medical supervision, it is common to prescribe only a very low dose of opioids. The dangers begin only when opioids are consumed in larger quantities without needful medical help or attention.

Hydrocodone and its uses

Hydrocodone belongs to a category of medications called pain-relieving drugs. Though it is widely used of its efficacy, it is also dangerous because its continued usage can lead to formation of a habit. Before understanding hydrocodone further, you need to know this drug is a powerful narcotic-based pain reliever. Your spinal cord and brain has chemicals or substances called receptors. Opioid drugs get linked to them as they work to numb your pain. This linkage in turn exerts an effective control over your brain’s ability to perceive pain. As pain is suppressed, these drugs amplify a feeling of joy instead. As a result, people end up associating the usage of hydrocodone to merriment.

People to whom hydrocodone has been administered for medical reasons may start consuming this drug to promote a feeling of happiness or wellbeing in them. So, a drug initially administered to relieve pain slowly turns into a strong habit. Medical administration of hydrocodone will always ensure a very short-term use of the drug. It is in fact extremely dangerous to consume this drug beyond the prescribed period and also in doses stronger than what are prescribed to you.

As mentioned, this drug is a habit-forming medication. This becomes a habit over its prolonged use. The reason for this turning into a habit is because a continued usage of hydrocodone makes your body to develop a higher level of resistance (or tolerance) to a normal dose. Hence, to get the usual level of pleasures (or numbing of pain) you may end up taking higher dosages of hydrocodone. This is when it starts to become a habit.

Side effects of hydrocodone

Though hydrocodone reduces pains, it can also lead a few side effects. Some of these adverse effects include pain in bladder, headache, fever, etc. In case of an overdose, the side effects include confusion, formation of a blue tinge on your fingernails, pain in chest, etc. You may need to remember not all of these side effects will need medical help. Many of these effects may cease to show up as your body gets used to recurring dosages administered as per treatment plan. You are however advised to openly discuss about side effects which are persisting; your doctor may advise how to manage and minimize such persistent effects.

Signs of addiction to hydrocodone and how to avoid

There are multiple signs to tell if you are addicted to hydrocodone. The common ones include nausea, vomiting, mood swings, blurring of eyesight, slowing down of your heartbeat, feeling sleepy most of the time, weakening of your muscles, headache, confusion, etc.

The only known way to keep away from getting addicted to it is to strictly adhere to your doctor’s dosage levels as well to the timeline of doses. Your doctor may advise you to maintain a journal to note down the progress you are making. Upon sensing a reduction of pain, you need to inform your treating doctor about such a drop in pain. Your physician may take a decision of either stopping the dose or reducing the intensity of the dose in accordance to the altered medical condition.

More importantly, you need to note if you are controlling an urge to take more of these drugs. Such urges may occur during times of minimal or nil pain. If you frequently sense such urges, you need to immediately tell your treating doctor about them. People who have reported to their physicians about such spells on a timely manner have been able to avoid possible risks of addiction to opioid drugs.

Precautions and warnings

A relatively high dose of hydrocodone can lead to a slowdown of your breathing. This is known to occur because high doses can adversely impact your brain’s parts that are controlling respiration. If you are experiencing such respiratory problems, you are advised to seek medical help without any further delay. Care must be taken to keep the drug out of reach of children. If this drug is taken (even if it is only a half of the normal dose) by children, it can bring about near-fatal or fatal outcomes. Hence, it is always recommended to keep it far away from children.

As this drug gets broken down in your liver, a few other drugs – if co-administered – can damage the functioning of liver. It hence becomes essential to tell your treating doctor about the other drugs you are consuming as well as the foods that you take regularly. Also, stay aware that excessive consumption of hydrocodone can impair your liver. Such liver damages have been increasingly observed in people who consume alcohol and in those with a medical history of liver problems.

This drug can trigger symptoms of withdrawal among newly born babies. These symptoms arise if you had been consuming the drug during your pregnancy term. If you had taken the drug for long – i.e., all through your pregnancy – then your baby may even experience near-fatal or fatal outcomes. Hence, if you are planning to become pregnant or already carrying, you need to keep your doctor informed of your condition.

Drug interactions of hydrocodone

It is highly recommended to create a list of all drugs that you are presently consuming. As you are creating such a list of medications, you need to remember to include health supplements such as minerals, vitamins, over the counter (OTC) drugs, non-prescription medications, etc. Inform the treating physician about your lifestyle such as consumption of drinks with caffeine, drinking habits, smoking, etc. and also, if you are consuming any banned or restricted substances. These are essential information needed to make an effective and a safe treatment plan.

Hydrocodone may interact with a few drugs that may trigger dizziness (such as narcotics other than opioids, antipsychotic medications used for the treatment of mental disorders, anti-allergy drugs as well as anxiety-reducing medications), medicines that boost serotonin (such as triptans, SNRIs, SSRIs, a few antibiotics, etc.), drugs that exert control over the functioning of the liver (such as protease inhibiting drugs like ritonavir, erythromycin, etc.), drugs such as phenytoin, carbamazepine and other similar type of anticonvulsant medications.

How long does hydrocodone stay in your system?

The timeline for which this drug stays in your system depends on which part of your body your intend checking for this drug’s residue. In general, the drug is known to last for upto 24 hours from the time of your last dose. However, studies show that in specific parts of your body the drug may be retained for longer than a day.

In your hair, the remnants of this drug may be traced upto even 3 months. In your urine samples, it may be detected for upto three or four days. However, in your saliva the traces are not known to last beyond 35 hours. It gets released off from your blood in the shortest possible time; it is known to stay in your blood stream for only 24 hours or so – i.e., from the time of the last dosage. The most intense traces of this drug in your bloodstream are detected in less than two hours from the time of dose. advised to swallow it.

While using oxycodone, never drink grapefruit’s juices or eat grapefruit. This is because this fruit can increase the side effects of oxycodone. Also, if you are taking other pain killers (especially opioid based or similar drugs), you need to talk to your treating doctor about it. Your physician may very likely advise you to stop taking other analgesics prior to start taking a dose of oxycodone.

Withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone

As discontinuation of oxycodone may cause withdrawal symptoms; tell your physician if you are already experiencing such signs and symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms associated with oxycodone are observed when the drug has been used for a very long time, and then discontinued all of a sudden. Such symptoms are observed even when higher dosages of oxycodone have been administered, but stopped abruptly. The most common withdrawal symptoms linked to stopping the dosage of oxycodone are insomnia, mental disorders (such as depression and shifts in moods), excessive spell of sweating, nausea, muscular pains, etc.

Possible risks of addiction

If you are using oxycodone for a fairly longer time, your body may develop a natural tolerance to it. Hence, you may not get the desired outcomes. If you feel there is no reduction in pain, consult your treating doctor and explain these effects in detail. Long term use of the drug may also lead to addiction. You need to be more careful if you have a history of substance abuse (including excessive consumption of alcohol). In such a history exists, you are more likely to develop an addiction. The best way to avoid getting addicted is to take the medicine as advised and in dosage prescribed to you. Have a frank discussion with your doctor if you find your pains are not getting reduced. In some very rare instances, a few people have reported an increase in their pains after taking pain killers such as oxycodone.

Side effects of oxycodone

Oxycodone is known to trigger a few side effects; most common among them include inability to pass stool, drowsiness, vomiting, nausea, etc. It is most likely that these effects may subside or completely go away after some time. On the other hand, if these adverse effects continue for long, it is time to consult your treating physician.
Foremost of all, always remember that your physician has prescribed this drug as a treatment for your present medical condition. As a part of the treatment plan, your physician may advise you to take more fiber-rich foods. You may also be advised to work out as well as drink more water. All these steps can help pass stools without much difficulty. If constipation is experienced at an acute level, your physician may advise you to take a laxative. Among the various types of laxatives, your doctor may advise one that goes well with your existing medical condition.

If you experience excessive drowsiness, you may be advised to slow down your movements. It is equally important not to engage in activities that require a high level of physical energy and mental agility; for example, operating heavy machinery or driving.
A few side effects of oxycodone are termed as serious. These effects are experienced rarely though. These include acute pain in your abdomen, seizures, slowing down of breathing cycles, etc. If these are experienced, you are advised to contact a local poison center or talk to your doctor without any delay. It is extremely important to remember that the above mentioned are not a complete list of side effects.

Warnings and precautions

Oxycodone may interact with opioid medications and pain relieving drugs. It is also known to be interacting with cough medicines, muscle relaxing drugs, antihistamines, sleep inducing drugs (like zolpidem and lorazepam), cannabis, etc. You need to inform your treating physician if you are already taking any of these above mentioned drugs. Oxycodone may also alter lab results – especially tests done to establish lipase or amylase level.

Not stopping with these drugs, a few drugs may adverse impact the exit of oxycodone from your system. These drugs include HIV drugs, anticonvulsants (such as phenytoin or carbamazepine) and antifungals (belonging to the azole class – including ketoconazole), etc.

Oxycodone is also not to be taken along with other opioid analgesics. Also, if you have any known hypersensitivity or allergies to this drug, you must not take it. People who already have a few of the below-given medical conditions are not advised to take oxycodone. Such conditions include respiratory disorders, epilepsy, mental disorders (depression or mood shifts / swings, etc.), medical history of abuse or overuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs, etc. Among aged people, drowsiness caused by oxycodone may not go well with them. Hence, elderly patients need to be cautious and inform their doctor if they have a history of dizziness or nausea.

As this medication can pass through breastmilk, you need to tell your doctor if you are nursing a baby. The risks of this drug reaching your baby are fairly high. Hence, nursing or breastfeeding mothers are not advised to consume oxycodone. Your doctor may pursue another treatment plan to avoid these risks.

How long does oxycodone stay in your system?

Duration for which oxycodone can be traced back in your system depends on the type of release of the drug amid other factors. In case of an extended release form of oxycodone, the drug can traced for upto 11 to 12 hours. However, an immediate release variant of oxycodone may take only five to six hours to get eliminated. Since an overdose of oxycodone can lead to a near-fatal or fatal incident, you are not advised to take a frequent dose. A minimum gap of at least 12 hours is to be provided between two successive doses. Oxycodone may see its highest level of concentration in your blood in about 2 hours from the time of your dose (taken orally).

Half-life of oxycodone is nearly 6 hours; however this depends on the dosage level. Also, intake of excessive water, your metabolism rate and age play important roles in determining how long oxycodone stays back in your system. In blood samples, over a 24-hour window – it is unlikely to trace any remnant of oxycodone in your system. But, in your urine samples, the drug may get retained for upto 30 hours – i.e., from the time of your last dose. In your hair, oxycodone may remain for several months. In some instances, the drug has been found to remain for a few years in hair samples (especially at the ends).

In your breast milk, the drug may stay back for upto 36 hours. In a medical study done on breast milk, the concentration of oxycodone is seen to reduce over 12-hour, 24-hour and 36-hour time windows. You are hence advised to consult your treating physician about intake of oxycodone while you are nursing your baby.

Withdrawal of oxycodone

Withdrawal symptoms of oxycodone depend on whether this drug is stopped suddenly or if its use is tapered down over a few days. The physical effects of withdrawing oxycodone are found to be more psychological than physical. Medical studies conducted on people who have taken oxycodone for a long time sensed no withdrawal symptoms for more than a week since discontinuation of this drug.

In sum, oxycodone is an opioid based analgesic drug. It is taken to alleviate pains – both moderate as well as severe pains. It works on the receptors in your spinal cord and brain to numb pains. Oxycodone is used over continued dosages and not for sudden spikes or breakthrough of pains. You are advised not to eat grapefruit or drink its juice while taking this drug. It is also not a good practice to take this medication while consuming other opioid based analgesics.

Oxycodone can stay back in your body for upto 11 to 12 hours (in case of extended release) and for six hours (if it is an immediate release). An interval of at least 12 hours is needed between two dosages of the drug. The half-life of oxycodone is about 6 hours. In blood samples, traces can stay back for upto 24-hours. In urine it gets retained upto 30 hours, but in hair it can rest for months (and in some instances, even for years). As it can stay back in your breast milk for 36 hours, you need to consult your doctor about consuming oxycodone while nursing an infant.

Hydrocodone versus oxycodone

The most common fact about these drugs is both are pain killers. They work on the receptors in your brain and spinal cord to alter the way your body takes pain. The receptors that receive and send signals of pain stand numbed, and instead a sense of painless wellbeing takes over. Both these drugs suppress the signals associated with pain effectively.

Pain can be of multiple types. On a broader scale, pains can either be a chronic type or a short term suffering. Long and chronic spells of pains are associated with autoimmune conditions like arthritis, cancer, etc. On the other hand, short term pains may be due to a fracture, toothache, post-surgical pains, etc.

Both hydrocodone and oxycodone may be used for treating short term pains. However, if you take them for a few weeks, you run the risk of becoming addicted to these drugs. Also, you will find their efficacy dropping down over time. In other words, your body may not respond to the drug and your pain may not subside after a dose. This occurs when your body has developed an inherent tolerance to withstand the effects of this drug. As an extension of tolerance, some people complain about their pains getting aggravated soon after hydrocodone or oxycodone.

Types and forms of these drugs

Both these drugs can be habit-forming. In order to take them without getting into habits, talk to your doctor about safe intake of such drugs. With your physician’s guidance, you can avert likely risks of this drug becoming an undying habit.

Also, both these drugs come in the form of immediate as well as extended release versions. Each is available in capsule or tablet forms. Extended release versions are used mainly to treat chronic or long term pains and not for sudden or a short term bout of pain. They come in multiple forms of dosage. Always check with your physician about the form and dosages that suit you best. Your physician may decide on dosage levels based on nature of your pain, other medical conditions – if any (presence of ailments such as renal disorders, liver malfunction or cardiac problems) and the duration of the dosage required. Other factors such as history of substance abuse as well as other drugs that you may be currently consuming are also taken into consideration.

Storage and dosages

You need to ensure to store these drugs at a place that does not have excessive moisture. It is highly recommended to keep them in the packing itself; i.e., the packs in which they were sold. Take needful inputs from your pharmacist about disposing the drugs post-expiry. It is very important to keep hydrocodone and oxycodone (within expiry date as well as post-expiry) out of reach of children and young adults.

Your doctor may start administering these drugs at a low dosage level at first. The aftereffects of each dose are studied. If your pain fails to subside, a moderately higher dose is given. You need to strictly follow the timeline as well as dosage levels. In case of any gaps in understanding, always check with your prescribing doctor for needful clarifications.

No two successive doses of hydrocodone (extended release version) are taken within a 12-hour time window. It is hence recommended to take hydrocodone once a day and not more. On the other hand, oxycodone (immediate release) can be taken once per 6 hours, depending on the intensity of your pain. However, extended release version of oxycodone needs to be restricted to once per day.

If you had been taking these medicines based on a medication plan, never discontinue their intake suddenly. Always remember to inform your doctor if you are stopping these drugs. This is because these drugs are known to trigger withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly. The typical signs of withdrawal include irritation, nervousness, confusion, irritation, etc.

So, are these two drugs similar in nature?

No. There are a few differences, and such dissimilarities rest in the nature of side effects, interactions with drugs, etc. In case of oxycodone, you may experience dizziness, headaches and a feeling of bliss. On the other hand, hydrocodone may cause pain in your lower abdomen. Inability to pass stools (constipation) is another distinctive side effect. Common side effects experienced by intake of either of these drugs are headache, itching, etc. In case of an overdose, you may observe adverse effects like convulsions, respiratory problems, slowing down of your heartbeat, etc.

They also differ in the type of drugs they are combined with to kill pain. Hydrocodone is usually added with antihistamines to reduce reflexes triggering coughs. The combination helps prevent coughing as well as reduce pains that may result due to coughing. On the other hand, oxycodone is blended with other pain killing drugs such as acetaminophen. This blend is known to relax your mind, and can also provide needful time for the pain killing properties to kick-in. Medical studies reveal that the blending of acetaminophen and oxycodone is more powerful. It has been inferred after comparing the effects of combining of acetaminophen with hydrocodone.

Both these drugs may trigger adverse interactions with a host of drugs. The interacting drugs include anticonvulsants, antifungal medicines, other similar opioid medications (especially those belonging to the class of pain killers) and sleep-inducing medicines or sedatives such as benzodiazepine, etc.

Price of these pain killing drugs

Both these drugs are categorized as schedule II medications. Drugs brought under this schedule are known to possess a fairly high scope to be abused. The price of these drugs depends on dosage level and their form (capsules or tablets). Type of insurance cover also determines how much these drugs may cost you. As a recent development, a few insurance plans have discontinued the purchase of opioids such as oxycodone. This decision has been taken due to the addictive nature of select opioid drugs.

Before choosing a pharmacy, you may need to search for those selling these drugs at lower costs. There are service providers who compare prices of drugs. Such services may help you buy from a pharmacy with lowest possible prices.

You can also search for price-offs – i.e., discounts – given by manufacturers of these drugs. You may run into a scheme that offers to sell these drugs at a compellingly low offer-price. Always check for the credibility of the pharmacy and choose one who protects your online identity as well as maintains strict confidentiality about your online transactions.

Which is good for you – hydrocodone or oxycodone?

It is a proven fact that both these medicines are known for their ability to reduce pains. The differences between these two drugs are hard to tell, barring however a very few dissimilarities. As it may be difficult to choose between the two, you need to leave this decision to your treating physician. Your doctor may consider a host of factors before zeroing-in the drug. The factors usually considered are age, body weight, presence of other medical conditions, type of pain experienced and your family’s medical history amid others.

On the side effects front, there is no documented evidence about one drug being more adverse than the other. These two drugs bear almost the same types of side effects such as constipation, headache, nausea, vomiting, etc. Owing to vomiting and nausea, you are more likely to get dehydrated while consuming any of these two drugs. Upon mixing these drugs with alcohol, the effects can be near-fatal or even fatal, at times. A few medical studies indicate that the chances of poop running hard and the subsequent inability to pass stools are more likely with hydrocodone.

Both these drugs are to be avoided if you are planning to drive or operate heavy machinery soon after a dose. Hydrocodone and oxycodone are known to interact adversely with herbal medicines and supplements of vitamins. These drugs also do not go well with anxiety reducing pills, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxing medications and sleep inducing or calming drugs. You may need to specifically note that grapefruit, its juice or any other derivatives of the fruit do not get along well with oxycodone. Hence, this fruit needs to be avoided at all costs. You are advised to talk to your treating doctor or the pharmacist to know more on the dangerous side effects of consuming grapefruit. Also, it is highly recommended to avoid all other pain medications while talking any of these drugs.

Both these drugs do not qualify to be used by women who are breastfeeding. This is because babies who are fed with breast milk (of mothers taking any of these two drugs) are found to have withdrawal symptoms soon after birth. However, since oxycodone is labelled as category B drug in US, physicians may administer oxycodone if it benefits pregnant women. It may be noted that category B drugs are considered to carry no risks to the fetus during its development stage. On the other hand, hydrocodone is labelled as category C medicine. Hence, it is not usually administered to women who are already pregnant or planning to get pregnant soon. It may be helpful for you to know that category C drugs are known to have harmful effects on your fetus.

On the habit forming front, oxycodone is very popular among people who have a history of substance abuse. Medical studies show that as high as 1 million Americans may have an addiction to narcotic drugs that are prescribed. This is nearly 20% of the ~5 million people who use narcotics in US. But, as a few medical researches indicate hydrocodone is less potent than oxycodone; your treating physician may hence choose a less powerful drug between these. Your doctor may then detect the way your body responds to the dose, and may enhance it later. Never be disheartened if the first dose of drug fails to alleviate your pain. Have an open discussion with your treating doctor. Based on the factors listed above, your doctor may choose a more appropriate drug among these two, administered at dosages that fit well with your condition.

To sum it up, a minor difference between hydrocodone and oxycodone lies in the nature of side effects. Both the drugs may cause drowsiness, headaches and pain in abdomen. Constipation (inability to pass stools) is another side effect. Medical studies indicate hydrocodone is less intense than oxycodone. Owing to the strength, a few insurance providers have discontinued the purchase of oxycodone as part of their coverage plans.
None of these two drugs qualify to be taken by breastfeeding women. As babies who are fed with breast milk of women who consume opioid drugs develop withdrawal symptoms, doctors do not administer such drugs to women nursing infants. Oxycodone however is put under category B in the US; so, physicians can administer oxycodone if it benefits pregnant women or those to plan to get pregnant. But, hydrocodone is a category C medicine. So, it is never administered onto pregnant women.

Above all, as hydrocodone is considered not as powerful as oxycodone, your doctor may start with it. Once the doctor understands how your body reacts to this medication and changes are made accordingly to your medication plan.

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