How Long Does OxyContin (Oxycodone) Stay in Your System?

OxyContin in Your Blood, Urine, Hair, & Saliva

Bottle of OxyContin being poured by pharmacist

Darren McCollester / Staff / Getty Images

In This Article

OxyContin (controlled-release oxycodone hydrochloride) is a long-acting opiate prescribed for moderate to severe pain when pain relief is needed for an extended time. It is the brand name of an extended-release formulation of oxycodone. OxyContin can be detected in blood, urine, saliva, and hair, although detection windows vary depending on the type of test that is used.

A single dose of OxyContin works in your body for about 12 hours, but the drug and its break-down products may be detectable for much longer. OxyContin, like other opiates, is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that it is considered a drug with a high potential for misuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

In addition to its high potential for dependence and addiction, taking OxyContin in high doses or combining it with other substances poses a risk of overdose. By understanding how long it stays in your system, you may be able to prevent these reactions.

How Long Does OxyContin Stay in Your System?

Blood: Up to 24 hours

Urine: Up to four days

Saliva: Up to four days

Hair: Up to 90 days

How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?

The pill is designed to release oxycodone over a period of 12 hours. The initial absorption is in a little over a half-hour and then there is a second release from the pill about seven hours later. When you first start taking the prescription, you should reach steady levels of the drug in your bloodstream after 24 to 36 hours.

The exact mechanism of action is not known, but the drug is believed to impact opioid receptors resulting in changes in the way that the brain responds to pain. It acts as a depressant in the central nervous system, which is why it decreases heart and breathing rates.

OxyContin may also cause side effects that include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

If you experience more serious side effects such as confusion, difficulty urinating, fainting, seizures, severe drowsiness, or very slow breathing, you should contact your doctor or emergency services right away.

How Long Does Oxycontin Last?

The elimination half-life of OxyContin is about 4.5 hours, which is longer than the 3.2 hours for immediate-release formulations of oxycodone. The half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of a substance to be eliminated from the body. This means the drug's action is effectively eliminated from the blood in 22.5 hours.

Taking the medication with food doesn't affect the absorption, but you may have higher plasma levels when you take it with a high-fat meal. Plasma levels may also be higher in the elderly and people with renal or liver impairment.

Your body breaks down oxycodone hydrochloride into noroxycodone, oxymorphone, and noroxymorphone. It is then excreted by the kidneys into the urine.

OxyContin can be detected by screening tests used in employment, forensic, and medical settings. Many home drug testing kits can also detect the presence of the drug. 

Urine

OxyContin can be detected by a urine test for up to four days after the last dose. However, standard drug screenings often do not test for this drug, so additional tests may be used to detect the presence of OxyContin.

Blood

The detection window by blood is much shorter and the test is more costly and invasive. For these reasons, blood tests are not used to screen for the presence of OxyContin as frequently as urine tests. However, these tests can detect the substance in the body for up to 24 hours.

Saliva

OxyContin shows up quickly on saliva screening tests, usually within three hours of taking a dose, and its presence can be detected for up to four days after the last dose.

Hair

As with other substances, OxyContin can be detected by a hair follicle test for a much longer period of time, up to 90 days. 

If you take OxyContin by prescription, it will be detected on typical pre-employment or forensic drug tests. You should disclose that you are taking this drug by prescription when you are required to take such tests.

Factors That Affect Detection Times

There are a number of different factors that can influence how long OxyContin is detectable in your body.

Age

According to OxyContin's prescribing information, studies found that people over the age of 65 had blood concentration levels of the drug that were 15% higher than that of younger adults, suggesting that elderly adults clear the drug at a slower rate. Because older adults metabolize the drug more slowly, it is likely that the drug can be detected in their systems for a longer period of time.

Sex

For unknown reasons, women have higher plasma levels when taking OxyContin. Studies indicate that women had blood concentrations 25% higher than men.

Liver Health & Function

Studies have found that people with mild to moderate liver impairment had peak OxyContin blood concentrations that were 20% to 50% higher than individuals without liver impairment.

Kidney Health & Function

People with kidney dysfunction also clear the substance more slowly, with peak blood concentrations around 20% to 50% higher than in healthy individuals.

Other factors, such as how long you've been taking your medication, your individual metabolism, alcohol use, and taking other medications, can also play a role in how quickly OxyContin clears from your body.

Prescribed Use vs. Other Methods

The dosage schedule and how the substance is taken can also have an impact on detection times. The normal detection windows for OxyContin assume that the medication is taken as prescribed, in whole-tablet form, and on the recommended dosage schedule. However, when misused, OxyContin tablets may be crushed and snorted or injected.

Research has found that when crushed and snorted, OxyContin can be detected within five minutes of administration. The drug is also more bioavailable when taken intranasally, which may affect peak blood plasma levels and duration of detectability.

The type of OxyContin tablet that is crushed may also play a role in how quickly the drug begins to take effect and how it affects the body. One study found that crushing and snorting the controlled-release tablets was associated with lower and delayed peak blood plasma levels. While blood plasma levels may be lower, the delayed effect may mean that the substance is detectable in the body for a longer period of time.

The misuse of prescription opioids such as OxyContin can also result in significant health consequences. When taken in large doses, these drugs can have serious side effects and can even be fatal.

How to Get OxyContin Out of Your System

There are a few different steps you can take if you want to speed up how quickly OxyContin is eliminated from your body. The most important is to stop taking the drug, but you should always talk to your doctor before taking this step. OxyContin can lead to physical dependence, so suddenly stopping your medication can result in withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may slowly taper you off your medication in order to minimize these symptoms.

Once you have safely stopped taking OxyContin, you may be able to slightly increase the drug's metabolism and elimination by making sure that you stay well-hydrated, following a healthy diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Symptoms of Overdose

OxyContin works by altering the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. But it also has significant effects on depressing breathing and the cough reflex. An overdose can result in death.

To avoid a potentially fatal overdose, you must always take the pill whole and never cut, crush, chew, or inject OxyContin as it's specifically formulated for extended (not immediate) release into the body. You should also stick to your prescribed dosing schedule to avoid taking too much. Never take two pills together because you missed a dose and never take more than one pill in 12 hours.

The following are some of the symptoms of an OxyContin overdose:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Limp or weak muscles
  • Narrowing or widening of the pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Slow or stopped heartbeat
  • Blue skin, fingernails, or lips
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

If you suspect someone has taken too much OxyContin and is showing symptoms of overdose, call 911 immediately.

If unresponsive, first responders may be able to revive the victim with Narcan (naloxone), but only if they are notified soon enough. It's helpful if you can tell them the time the drug was taken, how much, the prescription formulation, and the person's age and weight.

Drug and Alcohol Interactions

Even when using OxyContin as prescribed, it can cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems, especially during the first three days that it is used. Drinking alcohol or taking medications that contain alcohol with OxyContin can cause overdose and death.

Taking OxyContin with other medications can also cause life-threatening breathing problems. If a health care provider tries to administer or prescribe OxyContin to you, let them know if you are taking any of the following:

  • Certain antibiotics
  • Certain antifungal medications
  • Medications for anxiety, mental illness, or nausea
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Certain medications for HIV
  • Other narcotic pain medications
  • Sedatives
  • Sleeping pills
  • Tranquilizers
  • Supplements (especially St. John's wort and tryptophan)

Getting Help

Like other opiates, OxyContin is known to have a high potential for dependence and misuse—even when taking as prescribed. Talk to your doctor if you want to reduce your dose or stop taking OxyContin. Abruptly stopping your medication can result in serious symptoms of withdrawal, including:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting

Your doctor can help you discontinue your medication safely and avoid withdrawal symptoms. This may involve gradually lowering your dose or using medications such as buprenorphine or methadone to manage the symptoms. 

If you need additional help, your doctor may recommend inpatient or outpatient treatment. Such treatments may involve the use of medications to support your recovery as well as psychological approaches including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management (CM), and motivational enhancement therapy (MET).

For help finding treatment options in your area, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-4357 or use their online treatment locator.

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Article Sources

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