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What is the Difference Between Tylenol 3 and Vicodin?

What is the Difference Between Tylenol 3 and Vicodin?

Codeine is the active ingredient in Tylenol 3, while Vicodin is a hydrocodone-based product. Moreover, Vicodin tends to be more effective than Tylenol 3 for treating severe pain. The following Buzzle article does an Tylenol 3 vs. Vicodin comparison in detail.
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Did You Know?
Considering the high risk of liver injury associated with acetaminophen, the U.S FDA, in 2011, has notified all pharmaceutical companies manufacturing prescription painkillers not to exceed acetaminophen doses over 325 mg in every tablet or capsule. 

Tylenol 3 and Vicodin are narcotic painkillers that are often prescribed in the United States to alleviate moderate to severe pain. They are sometimes referred to as multi-ingredient analgesics because they contain a combination of painkillers. The 3 in Tylenol 3 indicates the amount of codeine present in the medicine; it is a more potent form of Tylenol, an OTC medication that contains only acetaminophen.
Contrary to popular belief, Tylenol 3 and Vicodin are not the same drugs. Although both are painkillers, there is a significant difference in their chemical composition as well as efficacy for pain relief. It is discussed below:
Tylenol 3 Vs. Vicodin
Chemical Composition
  • Tylenol 3 is essentially a codeine-based painkiller. Codeine is a naturally occurring opiate. Apart from codeine, it contains acetaminophen, as the second active ingredient.
  • Vicodin is a hydrocodone-based painkiller. Unlike codeine, hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. Apart from hydrocodone, it has acetaminophen as the other active ingredient. However, usually the hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination is prescribed to relieve pain.
  • Tylenol 3 is classified as a Schedule III drug, meaning the drug carries abuse potential, which is more than those in the Schedule I and Schedule II drug category.
  • Vicodin is now classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high probability of drug abuse.
Severity of Pain
  • Codeine-containing products like Tylenol 3 are usually prescribed to relieve mild to moderately severe pain. Codeine may be prescribed when OTC medication fail to provide any relief.
  • Hydrocodone-containing products are usually recommended to relieve moderate to severe pain.
  • Although codeine is similar to hydrocodone, it is far less potent and considered a weak opioid. As a pain reliever, codeine is 6 times weaker than hydrocodone. This means, a 60 mg dose of codeine is equivalent to 10 mg dose of hydrocodone for pain relief. Hence, Tylenol 3 is not as effective as Vicodin in alleviating severe pain. Tylenol 3 may be prescribed for headaches as well as to relieve pain associated with dental problems.
  • Hydrocodone is a strong opiate painkiller, hence Vicodin may be recommended when the pain is unbearable. People who have met with severe accidents, broken bones or injuries, or women suffering from debilitating menstrual pain are often given this medicine to alleviate the pain. It may also be administered while carrying out a major surgery to produce a strong sensation of numbness in the patient's body.
  • A single dose of Tylenol 3 that is usually prescribed contains 30 mg of codeine and 300-325 of acetaminophen. The tablet may be prescribed every 4 to 6 hours or just once a day depending upon the severity of the pain.
  • A single dose of Vicodin that is usually recommended has 5 to 10 mg of hydrocodone, but the acetaminophen strength remains unchanged, which is 300 mg. They may be given every 4 to 6 hours as needed. The dosage is decided depending upon the degree of pain.

Some of the commonly associated side effects with usage of these narcotic painkillers include dizziness, lightheadedness, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. On the whole, though Tylenol 3 and Vicodin are effective pain relievers, they are not recommended for an extended duration of time, as they can be addictive, and moreover, cause withdrawal symptoms. So it is best to use them for short-term pain relief to avoid substance abuse.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.