What is Oxycodone?
Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller, used for moderate to severe pain relief. A medical professional may prescribe oxycodone after a serious injury, post-surgery, or when dealing with cancer. It is also used to treat chronic pain when other drugs – such as aspirin or ibuprofen – are too weak.
Some oxycodone brand names include:
- OxyFast: extended-release formula
- Roxicodone: rapid-release formula
- Targinact: combination with naloxone
- Percocet: combination with acetaminophen
There are also many street names for the substance, such as:
- Hillbilly Heroin
The drug usually comes in a pill form of different strengths, though can also be administered via liquid capsules or solution.
How Does Oxycodone Work?
The substance works by binding to opioid receptors throughout the body, mainly around the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and gastrointestinal tract. Opioid receptors are involved in pain signaling, so when oxycodone attaches to them it prevents the brain from registering these messages and provides pain relief.
In turn, this reduces the number of signals being sent via nerves throughout the body up to the brain. This decreased communication and activity between nerves is why oxycodone is referred to as a central nervous system depressant.
How Long Does Oxycodone Take to Work?
When taken orally, the substance usually works between twenty to forty minutes. After oxycodone has been ingested, the drug reaches its peak concentration in the bloodstream after one to two hours. Controlled- and extended-release versions of the drug take a little longer to reach their peak, at three to four hours.
Snorting the drug speeds up this process and with the effects typically being felt within fifteen minutes. This is because snorting oxycodone allows the bypass of the digestion track and causes the drug to quickly make its way to the brain and central nervous system.
How Long Does Oxycodone Last?
Each individual metabolizes oxycodone at different rates, though the effects of the drug usually wear off after four to six hours of taking a dose. When oxycodone is metabolized, it is broken down into substances called:
One way to measure how long oxycodone stays in your system is by looking at its half-life. This is a measure of the time it takes for half the drug to be processed and eliminated from the body. On average, it takes:
- 3.2 hours to metabolize half a dose of oxycodone
- 4.5 to 5.6 hours to metabolize half a dose of extended- or controlled-release oxycodone
It takes several half-lives for the drug to be fully eliminated and this changes from person to person, though typically oxycodone is eliminated from blood concentrations after twenty-four hours.
What Factors Affect How Long Oxycodone Stays in Your System?
There are a range of factors that impact the length of time oxycodone is present in a person’s system. These include:
- The dosage of oxycodone being taken: taking a large dose of the drug requires more time for the body to metabolize oxycodone.
- The length of time a person has taken oxycodone or other opioids: the bodies of long-term opioid users need a longer period to flush out the substance compared to someone who has only taken it once. This is due to a larger amount of oxycodone metabolites being present in the bloodstream that the body has to work to remove.
- Kidney and liver function and health: these organs combine forces to eliminate toxins and other substances from the body, therefore, individuals with poor kidney and liver health need a longer time to process oxycodone.
- Age: generally speaking, younger adults have a faster metabolism than older adults.
- Sex: studies have shown that blood plasma concentrations of oxycodone can be up to twenty-five percent higher in women than in men from the same dosage. This results in longer processing times in women.
- Weight: being at the extremes of overweight or underweight will cause your body to metabolize oxycodone slower or faster.
- Alcohol: people may combine alcohol with oxycodone to amplify the ‘high’ created by the drug. However, alcohol actually increases the time it takes for oxycodone to clear from the body, alongside increasing the risk for dangerous side effects to come up and cause an overdose.
- Other medications: oxycodone is processed by the body through the cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A) pathway. If a person is taking any medication that inhibits CYP3A – such as erythromycin, ketoconazole, or protease inhibitors – their body will not be able to break down the opioid as efficiently. This can lead to serious side effects, like respiratory depression and heart issues.
The Controlled Substance Act (CSA) recognizes oxycodone as a Schedule II controlled substance. This means it has a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe physical or psychological dependence. The substance can still be prescribed by a doctor though the risk for addiction, dependence, negative interactions, and overdosing is increased. Therefore, it is important to strictly follow recommended medical guidelines when taking the drug.
Due to the euphoric and relaxing feelings oxycodone conjures up, people taking the drug are at risk to become addicted. Even when following professional medical advice. It is also common for the body to build up a tolerance to the painkiller and in turn, the individual needs to take more and more. This also increases the chance of dependence and addiction.
Oxycodone addiction can lead to a number of adverse side effects including:
- Chronic sinus infections
- Severe headache
- Sleep apnea
- Withdrawal symptoms if a dose is not regularly taken, including: muscle cramps, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, increased heart rate, insomnia
- Lung infections
- Problems swallowing
- Liver problems
- Reduced kidney function
How to Test for Oxycodone?
There are a number of ways in which oxycodone consumption can be detected. These drug tests work generally well though there are two things to consider:
- Each person has a different metabolic rate so it is difficult to say how long oxycodone can stay in their system for
- Each method can pick up the substance during different time periods, so a person may be positive using one of the drug tests but negative when testing with another method
Urine tests are the most common method to detect oxycodone. Urinalysis can detect the presence of drug metabolites after a few hours from taking it, up until four days after the last dose.
Blood Test: How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in Your Blood
Blood tests can pick up the presence of oxycodone fifteen to thirty minutes after taking the drug and up to twenty-four hours after last use. This low detection window combined with the invasive and expensive nature of the technique leaves blood tests an uncommon method of detection. However, the results come back in a matter of minutes, allowing for a convenient and rapid conclusion to be made.
Saliva Test: How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in Your Saliva
Saliva tests can rapidly detect oxycodone metabolites fifteen minutes after taking it, up to around four days after the drug was last taken. This drug test is non-invasive, relatively inexpensive, and provides results in a few minutes so is commonly used.
Hair Test: How Long Does Oxycodone Stay in Your Hair
Traces of oxycodone can attach to hair follicles and stay there for up to ninety days, though it takes one week after taking the drug to be detected through a person’s hair. Hair tests are the longest-term detection method so can be useful in certain situations.
Treatment for Oxycodone Addiction
If you or someone you know is concerned about passing a drug test looking for oxycodone, it may be a sign that professional medical intervention is needed.
There are a number of steps on the road to recovery, the first being a medical detox. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable when stopping taking oxycodone, so it is common for people to slowly decrease the amount of opioids they take to reduce these effects. Other medications can also be prescribed to ease this process. A medical professional can guide someone withdrawing through this process in the safest and most comfortable way possible.
Rehabilitation programs are also extremely useful when treating substance use disorders as they provide a holistic approach to overcoming the condition. Here, psychological therapy can help break free of addiction through:
- Understanding the route cause of addiction
- Build coping mechanisms
- Identifying triggers
- Overcoming trauma
Depending on the intensity of an individual’s condition, these programs can also be tailored to be in or outpatient.
Support groups can be essential to help maintain sobriety and heal from the trauma addiction has caused. Support groups offer a safe space in which experiences can be shared, allowing people to feel heard and understood.
At Alina Lodge, we understand that addiction is an extremely difficult challenge to overcome and each individual has different needs. If you or your family member is struggling with oxycodone addiction please contact us today to find out how we can assist you on the road to recovery and help defeat addiction.