How Long Oxycodone Stays in Your System

Oxycodone is an opiate prescribed for moderate to severe pain when pain relief is needed for an extended time. Using it carries a risk of drug interactions, overdose, and dependency. As a result, taking it safely requires knowing how long it stays in your system. Oxycodone is active in your system for about a day. The drug can, however, still be detected in drug screenings for as many as three months after use. 

How Oxycodone Works

Oxycodone comes in a variety of forms including a liquid solution, tablet, and capsule. Extended-release versions exist as well. Common brands include Percodan, Percocet, Tylox, OxyContin, Roxicodone, Roxicet, and Endocet. As an illicit street drug, it's commonly known 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 depresses the central nervous system, so your breathing, heart rate, and other essential functions are affected.

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 wear off, but before the drug is out of your system, you increase your risk of an overdose. You will also risk an overdose if you crush, cut, or chew an extended-release capsule or tablet before consuming it, as this will release the entire dose immediately rather than allowing for a timed delivery.

Even when you take the recommended dose of oxycodone, you may experience side effects such as confusion, drowsiness, constipation, and nausea. If you take too much oxycodone, these 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. With a home testing kit, someone who has taken oxycodone will start to test positive for the drug within one to three hours, and the result will continue to be positive for one to two days, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which oxycodone can be detected by various testing methods:

  • Urine: Detectable in a urine test for three to four days
  • Blood: Detectable in a blood test for up to 24 hours
  • Saliva: Detectable in a saliva test from one to four days
  • Hair: Detectable in 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, more often, or 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 should inform your healthcare provider and make sure you only use oxycodone as directed.

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Article Sources

  1. Purdue Pharma L.P. OxyContin (Oxycodone HCl Controlled-Release) Tablets [package insert]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Revised 2007.

  2. Ordóñez gallego A, González barón M, Espinosa arranz E. Oxycodone: a pharmacological and clinical review. Clin Transl Oncol. 2007;9(5):298-307.


  3. Webster LR, Webster RM. Predicting aberrant behaviors in opioid-treated patients: preliminary validation of the Opioid Risk Tool. Pain Med. 2005;6(6):432-42.


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