Substance Use

What Is the Difference Between Codeine and Percocet?

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Prescription painkillers are common in the U.S. The most commonly prescribed examples are codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxymorphone. With such an epidemic of opioid use and abuse, the most recent estimates from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) put the number of deaths at one million. (1)

Codeine and Percocet are both low-dose opioids that are intended for short-term use. Even though they are strictly regulated, they are still frequently prescribed and are also used without a prescription. 

While you might think that these two substances are pretty much the same, you’ll experience different results when you take each one of them.

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What are Codeine and Percocet? What Are Their Uses?

Codeine and Percocet are pain-relieving medications designed to address different levels of discomfort. (2) Codeine, an opioid, is commonly used to alleviate mild to moderate pain, often prescribed after dental procedures or surgeries, and is also found in some cough medicines. (3

Percocet, on the other hand, is a more potent combination medication, featuring oxycodone, a strong opioid, along with acetaminophen. This duo is prescribed for moderate to severe pain, making it especially effective post-surgery or in cases of significant injuries.

However, let’s break these two prescription drugs down more, in the sections below.

Codeine: Codeine is a type of pain medicine that falls under the broader category of opioids. It’s often used to help manage pain, like when you’ve had dental work or surgery. (3) Think of it as a tool in the toolbox for doctors to alleviate discomfort.

What makes codeine special is that it’s not as potent as some other opioids, making it suitable for mild to moderate pain. You might find it in prescription cough medicines too, helping to ease that persistent cough. (3)

Percocet: Percocet is another pain-relieving medicine, but it’s a bit more robust than codeine. It combines two essential ingredients: oxycodone, which is a potent opioid, and acetaminophen, a common pain reliever. (4) This combo packs a stronger punch and is often used for more intense pain situations, like after surgery or for severe injuries.

Doctors might prescribe Percocet when they need something more powerful to manage pain effectively.

Both codeine and Percocet have a primary job: helping people cope with pain. They’re like the superheroes of the medicine cabinet when it comes to discomfort. Here’s a breakdown of their uses:

  1. Codeine Uses:
    • Mild to Moderate Pain: Codeine is like the friendly neighborhood superhero for everyday pain, handling mild to moderate discomfort with ease. (3)
    • Cough Relief: In some cases, it steps up as the sidekick in cough medicines, calming down persistent coughing fits. (3)
  2. Percocet Uses:
    • Moderate to Severe Pain: Percocet takes on the heavy-duty pain challenges, stepping in when the pain reaches a more intense level. (4)
    • Post-Surgery Relief: After surgeries or significant injuries, Percocet provides the necessary strength to manage pain during the recovery process. (4)

Codeine and Percocet are a great pair in the pain-relief world. Codeine handles the everyday battles against mild to moderate pain and lends a hand in calming stubborn coughs. Percocet, with its powerful combo, steps in when the pain is more intense, especially after surgeries or significant injuries. 

They’re both valuable tools that pharmacists prescribe, ensuring that people can navigate through discomfort and get back to feeling their best.

Codeine and Percocet – How Are They Different?

What is the difference between codeine and Percocet? Codeine and Percocet have different formulations, so they are different opioids.

As a brand name, Percocet is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that combines acetaminophen and oxycodone. It is a Schedule II narcotic, which mandates strict regulation. (5) Beyond its formulation, Percocet is a pill that’s used to treat moderate to severe pain from an accident or surgery.

Compared to Percocet, codeine is a generic drug that is less potent. Codeine is often available as a capsule, liquid, or pill. While codeine is most often used in cough syrup to suppress coughs, your doctor may also prescribe it to you for pain relief.

As a Schedule III narcotic, it is not quite as tightly regulated as Percocet, but it is still a controlled substance. (6)  So, the formulation is different, and the degree of regulation is different for codeine and Percocet.

The formulation also contributes to another troubling reality when you compare the two. Percocet contains acetaminophen, which means that its misuse and abuse can lead to possible liver damage or failure, a side effect that is typically only found with acetaminophen overuse and abuse.

If you’re looking at the bottom line for comparative differences, you might look at the cost variable. Percocet is more expensive, but it’s generally more effective.

Codeine is generic, so it’s cheaper, but there’s the trade-off in potency. Your doctor will likely consider all these factors before prescribing the one that will best meet your needs.

How Are Codeine and Percocet Similar?

While there may be a few differences, the fact remains that both codeine and Percocet are opioid drugs. Like so many of their class of drugs, they can be effective at treating pain and discomfort, but they can also have intense side effects, with mounting risks of addiction and dependency.

Codeine and Percocet are both effective and popular for use because they release serotonin and dopamine to make you feel great while reducing your pain levels. (7) It’s really as simple as that, but the problem arises when you’re so attracted to that intoxicating, relaxing feeling that you become addicted and reliant on the drug for daily functioning.

The use and abuse become something that’s not just nice pain relief but a necessity. The substance abuse problem with codeine or Percocet can quickly become an obsession. (7)

The use of codeine and Percocet becomes further complicated when you take the drug(s) in high enough doses or at a frequency that leads to difficulty with breathing. Higher doses are a temptation, because the prescribed dose may only do so much for the pain before it all comes back.

For those who experience altered or compromised breathing, though, oxygen deprivation can lead to death.

Are Codeine and Percocet Addictive?

As prescription painkillers, the use and abuse of codeine and Percocet can be particularly troubling, with prescriptions commonly being shared by family members and friends. That not only makes it easy to become addicted but also harder to free yourself of that substance abuse problem, since your network of family and friends may be similarly affected by opioid use.

The goal of recovery is to find a support system that will help you lead a clean and sober life, without a dependency on drugs or alcohol.

Statistically, young adults in the 18 to 25 age group are more likely to become addicted to codeine and Percocet, but the demographic can fall much lower, with kids as young as 12 experiencing addiction issues. (8)

There appears to be a gender component to addiction as well, with more women becoming dependent on codeine and Percocet compared to men. The use and abuse of codeine and Percocet can pop up anywhere, and the effects can be negative, long-term, and even deadly when these prescription painkillers are misused.

Immediate Effects of Codeine and Percocet Use

When Codeine and Percocet are used, they induce immediate effects on the body and mind due to their opioid properties. Codeine, a milder opioid, is commonly prescribed for pain relief and cough suppression. 

On the other hand, Percocet, a more potent opioid combining oxycodone and acetaminophen, provides stronger pain relief.

  • Pain Reduction (Both): Codeine and Percocet are opioids renowned for their analgesic properties, providing effective pain relief. The immediate effect of these medications involves a noticeable reduction in pain levels, making them valuable tools in managing various types of pain, from post-surgical discomfort to chronic conditions.
  • Drowsiness (Both): A common side effect shared by Codeine and Percocet is drowsiness. These opioids exert a sedative influence on the central nervous system, resulting in a calming effect that can induce feelings of sleepiness. This can be particularly beneficial for patients dealing with pain-related sleep disturbances.
  • Relaxation (Both): Users often experience a general sense of relaxation after taking Codeine or Percocet. This relaxation contributes to the overall relief from pain and tension, enhancing the individual’s comfort during the recovery process or while managing painful conditions.
  • Euphoria (Percocet): Percocet, due to its combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, possesses a more potent opioid component than Codeine. Consequently, one of the immediate effects of Percocet use can be a heightened sense of euphoria. This intensified feeling of well-being is a result of the powerful analgesic properties of oxycodone.
  • Nausea (Both): Opioids, including Codeine and Percocet, can induce nausea as an immediate side effect. While these medications effectively alleviate pain, nausea can be a common and unpleasant reaction, requiring individuals to manage this side effect appropriately.
  • Dizziness (Both): Users may experience dizziness as an immediate side effect of Codeine and Percocet use. The impact of opioids on the central nervous system can lead to a sensation of lightheadedness or unsteadiness, emphasizing the importance of caution during activities that require focus and coordination.
  • Constipation (Both): Constipation is a well-known side effect associated with opioid use, and both Codeine and Percocet can contribute to this condition. The opioids’ impact on the digestive system slows down bowel movements, necessitating proactive measures to address potential constipation.
  • Mood Changes (Percocet): Percocet, with its stronger opioid component, can induce mood changes. Users may experience fluctuations in mood, ranging from euphoria to periods of emotional numbing. Monitoring these mood changes and discussing them with healthcare providers is crucial for maintaining mental well-being.
  • Coordination Impairment (Both): Both Codeine and Percocet can impair coordination and motor skills. Individuals may experience difficulty maintaining balance or performing tasks that require fine motor skills. This underscores the importance of avoiding activities that demand heightened concentration, such as driving, during the immediate aftermath of taking these medications.
  • Dependence (Both): While not an immediate effect in the typical sense, the potential for developing physical dependence on opioids like Codeine and Percocet exists. Prolonged use can lead to the body adapting to the presence of the drug, necessitating careful management and potential tapering when discontinuing use.

Understanding these varied immediate effects is necessary for individuals prescribed Codeine or Percocet. Open communication, adherence to prescribed dosages, and a vigilant approach to monitoring potential side effects contribute to a safer and more effective experience with these opioid medications. 

It is essential for individuals to be aware of these immediate effects and to seek prompt medical attention if they experience any concerning symptoms.

Is Tylenol 3 Or Percocet Better For Pain Relief?

When deciding between over-the-counter Tylenol 3 and Percocet for pain relief or chronic pain, it’s essential to understand that both medications aim to alleviate discomfort, but they have different strengths. Tylenol 3 contains codeine, a mild opioid, and acetaminophen, while Percocet combines the stronger opioid oxycodone with acetaminophen. (9)

As a disclaimer, the choice between them depends on the severity of the pain. Tylenol 3 may be suitable for mild to moderate pain, along with ibuprofen, while Percocet, being more robust, is often prescribed for moderate to severe pain, such as post-surgery or significant injuries.

It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to determine which option is better suited for your specific pain relief needs.

Other Types Of Opioids That Negatively Impact Someone

Beyond codeine and Percocet, various other opioids pose a significant risk of addiction, contributing to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Understanding these substances is crucial for fostering awareness and promoting informed decisions regarding their use. (10)

Here are some notable opioids associated with addiction:

  1. Heroin: Heroin, derived from morphine, is a highly potent and illegal opioid. Its use often leads to rapid addiction due to its powerful effects on the brain. (11)
  2. Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, much stronger than other opioids, and is used medically for severe pain. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl poses a severe risk of addiction and is a major contributor to opioid-related overdoses. (12)
  3. Oxycodone: Oxycodone is a prescription opioid commonly prescribed for moderate to severe pain. Its potential for addiction is significant, especially when used outside prescribed parameters.
  4. Hydrocodone: Hydrocodone is often prescribed for pain and cough relief. Like oxycodone, its misuse can lead to addiction, highlighting the importance of responsible use. (13)
  5. Methadone: Methadone is used in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. However, when not used as prescribed, it carries a risk of addiction due to its opioid nature.
  6. Morphine: Morphine is a powerful opioid used in medical settings for pain management. Its potential for addiction necessitates careful monitoring and administration by healthcare professionals.
  7. Tramadol as Prescription Pain Medication: Tramadol is a prescription medication for moderate to moderately severe pain. While considered less potent than some opioids, it still carries a risk of dependence and addiction. (14)
  8. Hydromorphone: Hydromorphone is a highly potent opioid used to manage severe pain. Its strength makes it prone to misuse and the development of addiction.

Opioids Can Lead to Addiction

Opioids, a class of drugs that includes prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, as well as illicit substances like heroin, have the potential to lead to addiction. These substances interact with opioid receptors in the brain and body, producing pain relief and feelings of euphoria.

While opioids can effectively manage pain when used as prescribed by healthcare professionals, their misuse or prolonged use can lead to dependence and, in some cases, addiction. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of opioids, and individuals may develop a tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects.

This increased tolerance, combined with physical and psychological dependence, can contribute to the development of addiction. Opioid addiction is a serious health concern, characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite harmful consequences. (15)

Addressing opioid addiction often requires comprehensive treatment approaches, including medical interventions, behavioral therapy, and support from healthcare professionals and loved ones. Understanding the risks associated with opioid use is crucial in preventing the potential progression to addiction and promoting responsible and informed medication management.

What Are the Symptoms of Opioid Addiction: Codeine and Percocet?

Codeine and Percocet involve recognizing a range of indicators that encompass physical, psychological, and behavioral aspects. As opioid addiction progresses, these signs may intensify, reflecting the impact on both your body and mind. (16)

  1. Physical Symptoms:
    • Imbalance: A sense of being off-balance may manifest as you navigate daily activities.
    • Agitation: Restlessness and irritability could become noticeable elements of your behavior.
    • Constipation: Opioid use may lead to digestive issues, with constipation being a common concern.
  2. Moderate to Severe Physical Symptoms:
    • Nausea and Vomiting: As addiction deepens, you may experience bouts of nausea and vomiting.
    • Breathing Difficulty: In more severe cases, opioids can affect respiratory function, causing difficulty in breathing.
  3. Codeine-Specific Symptoms:
    • Dry Mouth: Codeine use may result in a dry sensation in the mouth.
    • Digestive Issues: More pronounced digestive problems, including loss of appetite, itchy skin, and extreme apathy, can be associated with codeine use.
  4. Psychological Symptoms:
    • Depression: A worsening emotional state may include feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
    • Moodiness: Unpredictable mood swings and emotional volatility may become apparent.
    • Anxiety: Persistent feelings of worry and unease may be part of the psychological toll.
  5. Focused Attention on Obtaining Opioids:
    • Compulsive Behavior: An increasing focus on obtaining codeine or Percocet may lead to compulsive actions, regardless of the physical, psychological, personal, or professional costs.
  6. Risk of Overdose (In Potent Opioids like Percocet):
    • Potential for Overuse: With more potent opioids like Percocet, there’s an elevated risk of overuse, potentially leading to addiction.
    • Overdose Risk: Any opioid use, whether codeine or Percocet, heightens the risk of overdose, emphasizing the urgency of seeking help. (16)

Recognizing these symptoms is pivotal in understanding the need for assistance. Whether it’s behavioral changes, physical discomfort, or psychological distress, the signs of opioid addiction, particularly with codeine and Percocet, serve as crucial cues to reach out for the necessary support and intervention.

How Treatment Differs Between Opioids: Codeine and Percocet

Effective treatments for opioid addiction—whether it be codeine, Percocet, or any other related substance—often include the use of buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Of these medications, methadone is the most frequently used and prescribed option.

It was first used in 1947, and it has since been instrumental in improving the outcomes of patients recovering from opioid addiction and overdose. (17)

Buprenorphine is another option that was approved in 2002 for use on patients who demonstrate the symptoms of opioid addiction from codeine and Percocet. There’s evidence to suggest that patients experience a higher rate of relapse when taking this drug. (18)

There is some controversy around the findings, though, since patients must take high doses of buprenorphine to get the full efficacy, and some prescribing physicians may prescribe it at a lower dose than what is recommended, leading to relapse.

Naltrexone is another treatment for opioid addiction from codeine and Percocet. It was approved for use by the FDA in 2010, with a daily pill and a monthly injectable formulation, which both appear to be effective. (19)

While it’s not addictive, naltrexone blocks and binds your opioid receptors so you don’t experience the same level of craving. Since you don’t get any kind of euphoria from its use, there’s no chance that you will abuse or become addicted to naltrexone.

Treatment Options You Should Look for Regarding Codeine and Percocet

Understanding how to approach detox and recovery from codeine and Percocet involves considering various treatment options tailored to your unique needs. Opioid addiction is a challenging journey, often marked by a high risk of relapse. Millions of Americans grapple with the effects of opioid abuse, emphasizing the urgency of seeking effective treatment.

Recovery from codeine and Percocet addiction is indeed achievable, especially with the support of health and medical professionals. The first crucial step is acknowledging the need for help and recognizing that overcoming this challenge alone is challenging.

Treatment options often include a combination of:

  1. Medically Supervised Detox: Safely managing withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision to ease the transition into sobriety.
  2. Therapy and Counseling: Engaging in individual and group therapy sessions to address the root causes of addiction, develop coping strategies, and foster emotional well-being.
  3. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Using medications to reduce cravings and support recovery, is particularly beneficial for opioid dependence. (20)
  4. Support Groups: Participating in support groups to connect with others facing similar challenges, providing a sense of community and understanding.
  5. Ongoing Medical Monitoring: Regular check-ups to assess overall health and address any emerging concerns during the recovery process.

In essence, the detailed treatment plan involves a collaborative effort between you and your medical professionals, emphasizing personalized care and a comprehensive approach to overcoming codeine and Percocet addiction.

What Sets Zinnia Health Apart?

At Zinnia Health, we are dedicated to working with you to support your recovery needs, with experience and knowledge that informs how we treat your addiction to codeine or Percocet. While these drugs are both opioids and thus require special consideration, assessment, and planning, we focus our attention on you and your needs.

We offer a range of service options, including early intervention, outpatient services, intensive outpatient/partial hospitalization, and residential/inpatient.

Each level of care is designed to support your substance abuse recovery, specifically addressing your opioid addiction to codeine or Percocet with options that are well-suited for the support you will need from us, your family, and friends.

We know that each patient will be affected by addiction and substance abuse in slightly different ways, so we work to craft a treatment plan that will best meet your needs for recovery while keeping your long-term sobriety in mind. That’s why our treatment options are custom for you.

Call Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 to schedule your assessment today.


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