What difference between hydrocodone and codeine

Updated July 19, 2017

Hydrocodone and codeine are both narcotic pain relievers, and both widely used as analgesics and cough suppressants. As codeine is used to manufacture hydrocodone, the two produce many similar effects.


Codeine is mainly used as a mild pain reliever. It also used for its qualities as a cough suppressant. It may also be used to curb diarrhoea. It is the main ingredient in hydrocodone and dihydrocodeine.

Hydrocodone is used for moderate to moderately severe pain. It also is used as a cough suppressant.

Methods of use

Codeine is usually taken orally, and can be found in liquid form when used as a cough suppressant. It can be injected subcutaneously (under the skin) for pain relief, but this is not as common as other administrations. It is not used intravenously, as this may cause dangerous side effects, including fluid in the lungs and difficulty breathing.

Hydrocodone is taken orally.


Codeine can be made into tablets as the sole ingredient or with other analgesics, such as aspirin. Common names and brand names include Codate, Tylenol with codeine (Tylenol 3), Codephos and Codamol.

Hydrocodone comes in hundreds of brand name and/or generic forms. It is most commonly known as Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet. It is almost always manufactured in combination with other drugs, acetaminophen being the most common additive. It may be added to liquid solutions, such as phenylephrine.

Side effects

Codeine's most common side effects include, but are not limited to: drowsiness, constipation, difficulty urinating, dry mouth, itching, nausea and vomiting.

Hydrocodone's most common side effects include: constipation, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety, dizziness, drowsiness and trouble sleeping.


Both hydrocodone and codeine have been noted to cause addiction and dependency. These drugs should not be used with alcohol, as this can cause dangerous side effects, including respiratory problems, or even death. These drugs will often cause sedation, so the user is cautioned to avoid activities that require concentration, such as driving.


Hydrocodone and codeine are both regulated drugs.

According to the federal government, hydrocodone is a schedule II drug or a schedule III drug, depending on the dose units. Vicodin is schedule III.

Codeine is schedule III when manufactured in products that contain less than 90 mg of codeine per dosage unit. Tylenol 3, for example, is schedule III.

They are illegal to buy/possess without a license/prescription.

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About the Author

Willow Lawns has been writing and editing for various daily and weekly publications since 2005. Most recently, Lawns was a reporter for the "Longview News-Journal," a Cox-owned daily newspaper with a circulation of about 32,000. She holds a degree in journalism from Virginia Commonwealth University.