In light of the increasing opioid epidemic, scientists are interested in why people favor one drug over the other. The results of a recent study were published in Pain and found the oxycodone and hydrocodone are the drugs of choice for 75% of opioid addicts.

The study was done in cooperation with the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and the Center for Applied Research on Substance Abuse and Health @ Nova Southeastern University in Miami, Florida. The found that oxycodone was favored by 44.7% while hydrocodone was favored by 29.4% of those surveyed. A large number said they chose oxycodone because it produces a more quality high, but more than half also listed management as a reason, showing that their pain is not being adequately managed.

“The data show that hydrocodone is popular because it is relatively inexpensive, easily accessible through physicians, friends, and families, and is perceived as relatively safe to use, particularly by risk-averse users. This group includes generally risk-averse women, elderly people, non-injectors, and those who prefer safer modes of acquisition than dealers, such as doctors, friends, or family members,” says Theodore J. Cicero, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. “In contrast, we found that oxycodone is much more attractive to risk-tolerant young male users who prefer to inject or snort their drugs to get high and are willing to use riskier forms of diversion despite paying twice as much for oxycodone than hydrocodone.

“It is clear that not all drug abusers share the same characteristics,” he continues. “The decision to use one drug over another is a complex one, largely attributable to individual differences such as personality, gender, age, and other factors. Prevention and treatment approaches should benefit from this because it may help prescribing physicians determine which drug to prescribe and monitor for abuse.”