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Percocet vs Vicodin

percocet and Vicodin

Vicodin and Percocet are both opioid medications that contain acetaminophen. While Vicodin contains the opioid hydrocodone, Percocet contains the opioid oxycodone. 

Vicodin and Percocet are brand names of different drugs. Percocet is available as both a brand name and a generic form. Vicodin is only available as a generic form, which some people may refer to as Vicodin in conversation.

The two drugs work similarlyTrusted Source, with comparable side effects and a high risk of addiction with long-term use.

Both Vicodin and Percocet have black box warningsTrusted Source. A black box warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be severe.

Below, we outline the differences between Vicodin and Percocet. We also describe directions for use, dosage information, and the possible side effects of each drug. 

What are Percocet and Vicodin? 

A person holding a packet of Vicodin or Percocet.
Ziga Plahutar/Getty Images

Percocet and Vicodin are both opioidTrusted Source pain relief medications. They help ease moderate to severe pain, such as pain caused by surgery or a car accident. They also help alleviate some forms of chronic pain. 

The key difference between the two drugs is that Percocet contains the opioid oxycodone, while Vicodin contains the opioid hydrocodone. 

Both also contain acetaminophen. The amount of acetaminophen in Percocet or Vicodin varies, depending on the formula.

Percocet is available in formulas containing 325 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen, while Vicodin may contain 300 or 325 mg of acetaminophen. 

These doses of acetaminophen are similar to that of extra-strength Tylenol, which comes in 500-mg caplets. An adult may safely take a maximum of two of these caplets every 6 hours. People should be sure to read the instructions that come with the product, as different products have different instructions.


To use Vicodin or Percocet safely, follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. It is also crucial to: 

  • Take the lowest effective dosage: Take as little as needed to relieve the pain, and never exceed the maximum dosage.
  • Use the drug for its intended purpose: A doctor prescribes Vicodin or Percocet to help treat specific symptoms. Only take the drug for this purpose. Do not reuse it later or lend it to a friend.
  • Follow the instructions on packaging exactly: A person should not:
    • cut the pills in half
    • take the pills early
    • increase the dosage
  • Let the doctor know about any other medications or supplements: Vicodin and Percocet can interact with other substances. Before receiving a prescription for either, a person should tell their doctor if they are taking or using:
    • other medications
    • vitamin or herbal supplements
    • any recreational drugs, including alcohol
  • Be aware of possible interactions: Never combine Vicodin and Percocet or take either with anything else containing acetaminophen. Doing so can cause severe and potentially fatal liver damage.
  • Take steps to avoid constipation: Opioids can causeTrusted Source constipation. To help prevent this: 
    • drink plenty of water
    • eat high-fiber foods
    • exercise regularly
    • consider taking a stool softener
  • Seek prompt treatment for symptoms of addiction or overdose: If a person may be becoming addicted to an opioid or may be experiencing an overdose, it is vital that they receive immediate medical care.

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The right dosage of Vicodin or Percocet depends on the formula the doctor selects. Generally, doctors recommend taking opioids only as needed, rather than continually. 

Maximum daily dosage

People typically take Percocet and Vicodin every 4–6 hours, or less frequently if there is less need.

While taking either drug, avoid any other products that contain acetaminophen. According to the FDA, the current maximum adult dosage of acetaminophen is 4,000 mgTrusted Source per day.

To help avoid taking too much acetaminophen, the makers of extra-strength Tylenol have lowered their maximum daily dose to six pills, which works out as 3,000 mg per day.

Overdose risk

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of fatal opioid overdoses. In 2018, 67,367 peopleTrusted Source died of drug overdoses, and around 9.9% of these deaths involved a synthetic opioid other than methadone. 

Both Vicodin and Percocet can be highly addictive and very dangerous at high doses. The acetaminophen in these drugs makes them even more dangerous — taking more than the maximum daily dosage of 3,000–4,000 mg of acetaminophen can cause fatal liver damage. 

Do they interact with other medications? 

Both Percocet and Vicodin may interact with any drug that slows down activity in the central nervous system, including:

Do not take Percocet or Vicodin with any other drug containing acetaminophen. It is also important to note that birth control pillsbeta-blockers, and some other drugs may intensify the effects of acetaminophen. 

In addition, acetaminophen may reduce the effectiveness of loop diuretics, drugs that people typically take to treat high blood pressure or edema.

Also, both Vicodin and Percocet may interact with an enzyme in the body called cytochrome P450 3A4. This interaction can either increase or decrease how fast the body breaks down the drug. The result may be an increased risk of side effects.

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