OxyContin is a brand name drug that contains the generic medication oxycodone in a timed-release formula. Oxycodone belongs to a class of drugs called opioid analgesics or narcotic analgesics.
If you’re taking oxycodone, you may be wondering how long the effects will last and how long the medication will show up on a drug test. Today, we’re answering the question, how long does OxyContin stay in your system?
OxyContin mechanism of action
Oxycodone is obtained from the poppy plant. It acts by binding to specific opioid receptors in the central nervous system and blocking the feelings of pain. Because these receptors are present in the pleasure centers of the brain, oxycodone has a high potential for abuse and addiction and can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. For this reason, it is classified as a Schedule II substance by the DEA.
OxyContin dosage and use
OxyContin is available in various dosage forms and strengths, such as 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, and 120 mg extended-release tablets. Doctors usually start patients on a low dose and increase the dose slowly until the pain is well controlled. For example, your doctor may start you on OxyContin 10 mg every 12 hours. Patients who have previously been treated with opioid medications may need a higher dose to obtain pain relief.
You should always take OxyContin exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do NOT crush, chew, or dissolve OxyContin tablets. This is important because OxyContin is a prolonged-release formulation. Crushing, chewing, or dissolving the tablet can lead to the entire 12-hour dose being rapidly absorbed into the system, causing serious complications, including a fatal overdose. If you forgot to take a dose of OxyContin and you are within 4 hours of your dosage time, then take your tablet, but if you are more than 4 hours late, call your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
How soon do you get pain relief with OxyContin?
When you take oxycodone by mouth (you should take it with food), you will start to feel the effects of the medication within 20-30 minutes. The drug reaches peak concentration in the blood roughly 1-2 hours after you take a dose. However, extended-release formulations of oxycodone such as OxyContin can take 3-4 hours to reach peak blood concentration. Tolerance to oxycodone develops over time, meaning you might take longer to feel the effects of the medicine, and the pain relief may not be as strong. If this happens, you should not adjust the dose of the medicine yourself. Talk to your doctor and they will advise you what to do. They will either increase the dose of OxyContin or switch you to another pain medication. Taking larger doses or more frequent doses of OxyContin without speaking to a doctor can have serious health consequences.
When do OxyContin effects wear off?
Doctors use something called half-life to measure how long a drug lasts in the system. Half-life is the time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body or for the blood concentration to reach half of the peak concentration. Immediate-release preparations of oxycodone have a shorter half-life of around 3 hours, meaning the average person eliminates half the drug in this time. Controlled-release formulations of oxycodone like OxyContin have a longer half-life of around 5.5 hours. This means the effect of OxyContin lasts longer.
How long does OxyContin stay in the body?
It takes several half-lives for oxycodone to be completely eliminated from the body. Since the half-life of OxyContin is around 5.5 hours, roughly five and a half hours after you take a dose, half the drug has been eliminated from the body. After another 5.5 hours, half of the remaining OxyContin is eliminated, meaning you’re left with one-fourth of the original dose. After an additional 5.5 hours, you’re left with one-eighth of the original amount of OxyContin in your system, and so on. Your pain relief from OxyContin will likely stop before the drug is completely cleared from your system.
How long OxyContin stays in the system varies from person to person since everyone has a different metabolism. In the average person, oxycodone is completely cleared from the blood in about 24 hours. However, it can be detected in urine, saliva, and hair for longer periods, and may, therefore, show up on a drug test. Oxycodone can be detected in saliva for 1-4 days after your last dose, in urine for 3-4 days after your last dose, and in hair up to 90 days after the last dose.
Factors affecting OxyContin clearance
How long it takes for your body to clear OxyContin depends on several factors, including:
Age: Older people above the age of 65 take longer to clear oxycodone from the body compared to younger people. Blood concentrations of oxycodone can be up to 15% higher in elderly people. Doctors dose the drug accordingly when prescribing it to those above the age of 65.
Gender: The OxyContin package insert states that for unclear reasons the blood concentration of oxycodone can be up to 25% higher in women compared to men.
Liver and kidney function: Oxycodone is eliminated from the body by the liver and kidneys. In people with liver and kidney dysfunction, the elimination of the drug can be slowed by 1-2 hours, meaning it takes such individuals longer to clear oxycodone from their system.
Tolerance: People who have been taking oxycodone for some duration may take longer than new users to clear the drug from their system. This is because oxycodone tends to accumulate in the fatty tissues over time and takes longer to be completely cleared.
Alcohol consumption: Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant like opioids. Therefore, people who consume alcohol along with oxycodone may take longer to clear both substances from the body. It is worth remembering that consuming alcohol and opioids together can lead to dangerous side effects, including a potentially lethal overdose.
Drug interactions: The body clears oxycodone through a pathway called the cytochrome P450 3A. Certain other drugs like antibiotics (erythromycin) and antifungals (ketoconazole) can interfere with this pathway and make it more difficult for the body to break down oxycodone, resulting in dangerous side effects like respiratory depression. Some other drugs like rifampin can have the opposite effect and may decrease the effectiveness of oxycodone.
If you or someone you know is using OxyContin, always follow the prescribing physician’s instructions and take the medication as directed. Increasing the dose or frequency can lead to dependency. Stopping OxyContin abruptly can lead to withdrawal symptoms. The pain relief you get from OxyContin will wear off in a few hours, but the drug can stay in your system for up to four days in saliva and urine and up to 90 days in hair.