What are the Differences Between Codeine and Vicodin?

Codeine and Vicodin are both opiates and are usually prescribed for pain relief or as cough suppressing medication. The US Drug Enforcement Agency recognizes Codeine and Vicodin as having a current medical use.

Natural vs Synthetic

A naturally occurring opiate, Codeine happens to be the narcotic which is most widely used in the world for medical treatment. Vicodin, on the other hand, is a semi synthetic opiate which is comprised of hydrocodone and acetaminophen.


Codeine and Vicodin are both taken orally. Codeine can be in tablet form, capsule form or a liquid, while Vicodin is usually only taken as a tablet. Both medications are prescribed as needed, and generally taken once every 4 to 6 hours.


Both medications are extremely effective when used for acute severe pain relief, but only for the short term. They are moderately effective for the treatment of long term chronic pain, however their effectiveness tends to diminish over time.

Cost Effectiveness

Codeine in its generic form appears to be the better purchase for pain relief. In fact, it is recommended that people choose generic versions of opioids over brand names. A generic form of codeine plus acetaminophen has been suggested by the ratings agency as the best buy for it’s value. Keep in mind, that high doses or extended release versions of the medications can be much more expensive than low dose prescriptions.

Side Effects

Common side effects of Codeine and Vicodin use can be:

  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Agitation
  • Impaired memory
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Irregular menstruation

Furthermore, long term use of opioids has shown effects like:

  • Higher sensitivity to pain
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Declining immune function
  • Impaired sexual function

Abuse Potential

The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies Codeine as a Schedule II narcotic, and Vicodin as a Schedule III narcotic. What this means is that under US law, Codeine has the higher potential for abuse as compared to Vicodin. It is important to remember that the exact risk of addiction to pain relieving pills is not known.

Withdrawal Symptoms

In terms of withdrawal, Codeine withdrawal is worse than Vicodin. People who have experienced both report that withdrawal from Codeine is more severe and painful, while Vicodin withdrawal is quicker and easier.

The Villa supports individuals who struggle with dependence on pain relievers and other medications. Call us to find out how we can help your journey to recovery.