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Norco vs Vicodin - How do they compare?

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 26, 2023.

Official answer


Both Norco and Vicodin contain acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The difference between them comes down to the proportion of these two ingredients contained in each formulation.1,2 Vicodin is only available as 5mg hydrocodone and 500mg acetaminophen, whereas Norco has three different strengths (5mg hydrocodone/325mg acetaminophen, 7.5mg hydrocodone/325mg acetaminophen, and 10mg hydrocodone/325mg acetaminophen).1,2

The comparisons between Norco and Vicodin:

  • Because the amount of hydrocodone contained in Norco is higher than Vicodin, hydrocodone -related side effects – such as dizziness, drowsiness, and light-headedness – are more likely with Norco. In addition, even though Norco contains a higher amount of hydrocodone, it contains less acetaminophen per tablet, well below that considered an effective dose. Therefore, it is unlikely acetaminophen is contributing to the pain-relieving effects of Norco.1
  • Vicodin contains more acetaminophen per tablet (500mg); however, a dosage of one-and-a-half to two tablets at one time is needed for an effective dose of acetaminophen, but this may increase the side effects experienced from hydrocodone.2

Both Norco and Vicodin should only be used short-term, unless given for cancer-related pain.3 Norco, Vicodin, and other narcotics should NOT be used long-term for chronic pain relief – the hydrocodone component can cause physical and psychological dependence, and tolerance can develop on repeated administration (tolerance is when the same dosage no longer provides the same level of pain relief).1,2,3 Prescription pain killer abuse is epidemic in the U.S. and in 2016, congress pledged 1.1 billion dollars towards helping to stem this growing problem.4 Non-narcotic pain relievers and nonpharmacological therapy are the preferred options for relief of chronic pain.3

What is in Norco and Vicodin?

Norco is available in the following different combinations:1

  • 7.5mg hydrocodone and 325mg acetaminophen (imprinted Norco 729 on one side)
  • 10mg hydrocodone and 325 mg acetaminophen (imprinted Norco 539 on one side)

Vicodin is only available as one combination:2

  • 5mg hydrocodone and 500mg acetaminophen (imprinted with Vicodin on one side)

The dosage recommended by the manufacturer for Norco is one tablet every four to six hours as needed for pain, with a maximum dosage of 6 tablets in 24 hours.1 While this dosage would give you an adequate amount of hydrocodone, an effective dose of acetaminophen in adults is usually considered to 650mg of acetaminophen every four to six hours (or 1000mg every four hours up to a maximum of 4000mg in 24 hours). Therefore, with the recommended dosing of Norco, it is unlikely that the acetaminophen is actively contributing to your pain relief.

With Vicodin, the dosage recommended by the manufacturer is one or two tablets every four to six hours as needed for pain, with a maximum dosage of 8 tablets.2 One tablet gives you 500mg acetaminophen, which is still not considered an effective dose for adults, whereas two tablets give you 1000mg, which is an effective dose; however, you would only be able to take 4 doses a day (as the maximum dosage is 8 tablets).

See also: Compare Tool - Norco vs Vicodin

  1. Norco Actavis Pharma, Inc. 05/2017
  2. Vicodin Abbott Laboratories Revised 08/2014
  3. Options for Chronic Pain: A Health Care Professional's Guide. Revised 03/2016.
  4. Obama Administration Steps Up Efforts to Beat Painkiller, Heroin Epidemic. 03/2016

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