How Long Oxycodone Stays in Your System

Whether the Drug Is Active or Detectable Depends on Several Factors

Oxycodone is an opiate prescribed for moderate to severe pain when relief is needed for an extended time. Using it carries a risk of drug interactions, overdose, and dependency, so taking it safely requires knowing that is active in your system for about a day. The drug can, however, still be detected during screening for drugs of abuse for as much as three months after use.

How Oxycodone Works

Oxycodone comes in a variety of forms including liquid solution, tablet, capsule, and extended-release tablets and capsules. It is also known as Percodan, Percocet, Tylox, OxyContin, Roxicodone, Roxicet, Endocet, and, on the street as "oxies," "OC," and "hillbilly heroin."

The regular forms are taken every four to six hours while the extended-release forms are taken every 12 hours with food.

The initial absorption takes around a half hour. For extended-release forms, there's a second release in about seven hours. When you first start taking oxycodone, you should reach steady levels of the drug in your bloodstream after 24 to 36 hours. Plasma levels of oxycodone can be higher in women, the elderly, and people with renal or liver impairment.

Oxycodone works by changing the way your brain and nervous system respond to pain. It also has effects in depressing the central nervous system overall, including breathing, heart rate, and other essential functions. This drug can interact with alcohol and other medications to compound these effects, which is why it's important to avoid these interactions while oxycodone is in your system.

Speed of Metabolism

Your body breaks down oxycodone in the liver into noroxycodone, oxymorphone, and noroxymorphone. These are then excreted by the kidneys into the urine and, to a lesser extent, in sweat.

Oxycodone's action is effectively eliminated from the blood in 22.5 hours.

The half-life of oxycodone, which refers to the amount of time it takes half the drug to be eliminated from your body, is about 3.2 hours; the half-life for the time-released version (OxyContin) is about 4.5 hours. It takes several half-lives to fully eliminate a drug, and everyone metabolizes medication differently depending on factors such as age, weight, genetics, and even specific health issues.

Danger of Overdose

Knowing how long oxycodone remains in your system is important because of the threat of overdose and dangerous interactions with alcohol and other medications. If you take more of the drug to relieve pain after the effects of your last dose wore off, but before the opioid is out of your system, you increase the risk of an overdose. You will also risk an overdose if you crush, cut, or chew an extended-release capsule or tablet, as that will then release the entire dosage rather than allowing for a timed delivery.

Even when you take the recommended dose of oxycodone, you can experience side effects such as confusion, drowsiness, constipation, and nausea. If you take too much oxycodone, the side effects can become very serious.

Here are some possible side effects of an overdose of oxycodone:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Spasms of the stomach or intestinal tract
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Coma
  • Drowsiness
  • Possible seizures
  • Breathing issues: Breathing may become difficult, slow, or shallow, or may cease.
  • Bluish-colored fingernails and lips

If someone overdoses on oxycodone, call 911 or the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).

Drug Detection Tests

Oxycodone will be detected by typical employment, medical, and forensic drugs of abuse screening tests. The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which oxycodone can be detected by various testing methods:

  • Urine: Oxycodone is detectable in a urine test for three to four days.
  • Blood: A blood test will detect oxycodone for up to 24 hours.
  • Saliva: A saliva test will detect oxycodone from one to four days.
  • Hair: Oxycodone, like many other drugs, can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days.

These are only estimates as the metabolism of oxycodone varies. If you're taking oxycodone, you should disclose this to the laboratory so they can interpret your test results accurately.

Risk of Addiction

Oxycodone can be habit-forming, so it's important that you not take more of it, take it more often, or take it in a different manner than prescribed by your healthcare provider. You could be especially at risk for becoming dependent on oxycodone if you have family members with alcohol use disorders, even if they've never used illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs. If you have such a family history, you need to inform your healthcare provider and make sure you only use oxycodone as directed.

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Article Sources

  • Oxycontin. Blenheim Pharmacal, Inc.
  • Drug Abuse Testing. American Association for Clinical Chemistry.
  • Oxycodone. MedlinePlus.