Oxycodone is a prescription opioid medication that’s used to treat moderate to severe pain. It’s often prescribed to people after injuries or surgeries. It’s common to get a prescription for more than you need, and the rest may sit in medicine cabinets or given to friends. Sharing prescriptions is illegal, but it’s a common way that people gain access to recreational drugs. Oxycodone is a serious psychoactive substance.
Taking the drug too often or in high doses can be dangerous. Plus, the drug is illegal to take without a prescription, and it can be detected in a variety of drug tests.
How long is the drug active in your system, and how long can it be detected in a drug test? Learn more about how oxycodone works in your body and how long it takes for it to leave your system.
Oxycodone comes in a variety of forms and under several different brand names including Percocet and OxyContin. The drug can be prescribed in a standard form and an extended-release form that delivers a higher dose over time.
Oxycodone has a half-life of about three to five and a half hours. This means, after that time, the drug will be reduced to half of its original concentration in your blood. At this point, it will start to lose its effects, even though the drug will still be in your system for much longer. In its standard form, it’s active for about four hours, and after six hours it’s safe to take your next dose. The extended-release version will release a second dose after seven hours. Typically it’s safe to take another dose after 12 hours.
When you take oxycodone, it will take about 30 minutes to be absorbed into your system. Then it makes its way to your brain where it becomes active. Oxycodone binds to opioid receptors that are all over the body. It works as an agonist, which means that it activates opioid receptors. This causes its pain relief effects. It blocks pain signals from being sent or received by your nerve cells. The end result is effective pain relief, but it can also cause sedation, itchiness, constipation, and a euphoric high.
High doses and long-term use of the drug can cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Tolerance and dependence are caused by your brain getting used to the drug in your system and adapting to its presence.
If you stop using after developing a dependence, you will begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. Addiction is caused when your brain’s reward center starts to respond to the rewarding effects of the drug. At this point, your brain will start to cause compulsions to use as if the drug was a life-sustaining activity like eating or drinking.
The amount of time it takes to remove the drug from your system may depend on some specific factors, like the speed of your metabolism.
Your metabolism is your body’s process of burning calories and processing chemicals in your body. You also eliminate toxins and unneeded material through metabolic functions. Your body breaks down food and converts it to energy through this process. But it’s also how you break down medications like oxycodone.
When a chemical is broken down, it can turn into other chemicals called metabolites. Oxycodone breaks into noroxycodone, oxymorphone, and noroxymorphone in the liver. They are then excreted through sweat and urine. For that reason, drug tests often involve looking for metabolites in urine.
If you take a urine test and they find something like noroxycodone, the test may come back positive for oxycodone use.
It can take several hours before the drug is reduced to the point where it is no longer effective. It takes even longer before the drug is removed from your system. Even then, traces of it can still be found at different places on your body. How long it takes for your metabolism to process the drug out of your system will depend on several factors, including your age, genetics, weight, and other biological variables.
The amount of time oxycodone will show up in a drug test will also depend on the type of drug test you go through. As a chemical is processed, it may be found in different places throughout your body.
Drug tests are ideally designed to detect current drug use accurately and without being too invasive. Drug tests are typically required by a prospective or current employer, doctors, or law enforcement. They are also designed to be as accurate as possible, but some legal substances can cause false positives like ibuprofen, cold remedies, and poppy seeds.
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U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, June 17). Oxycodone: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682132.html
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, April 15). Drug Testing: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/drug-testing/