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How Long Does OxyContin Stay in Your System?

OxyContin (oxycodone hydrochloride) is a long-acting opiate prescribed for moderate to severe pain when pain relief is needed for an extended time. There is a risk of drug interactions, overdose, and dependency when taking this medication. By understanding how long it stays in your system you may be able to prevent these reactions.

How OxyContin Works in Your System

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 in about seven hours. When you first start taking the prescription you should reach steady levels of the drug in your bloodstream after 24 to 36 hours. The elimination half-life of oxycodone from this formulation is 4.5 hours, which is longer than the 3.2 hours for immediate-release formulations. This means the drug’s action is effectively eliminated from the blood in 22.5 hours.

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For unknown reasons, women have higher plasma levels when taking oxycodone. 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. Then it is excreted by the kidneys into the urine. It is detectable in the bloodstream for up to 24 hours, in the urine for three to four days, in saliva for one to four days, and in the hair follicle for up to 90 days.

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Avoiding an Overdose Is Critical

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 an overdose, you must always take the pill whole and never cut, crush, chew, or inject the tablet. To do so would be potentially fatal. You also need to stick with the dosing schedule to avoid taking too many pills. 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 color of skin, fingernails, lips
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

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If you suspect someone has taken an overdose of oxycontin, call 9-1-1 immediately. First responders should be able to revive the victim with Narcan, but only if they are notified soon enough. It’s helpful if you can tell them the time the drug was taken, how much, prescription formulation, and the victim’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 can cause overdose and death.

Taking OxyContin with other medications can also life-threatening breathing problems. If a health care provider tries to administer or prescribe OxyContin to you, let them know you are taking medication for 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

Drug Testing

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

Article Sources 

  • Drug Abuse Testing. American Association for Clinical Chemistry.
  • Oxycodone. MedlinePlus.
  • Oxycontin. Blenheim Pharmacal, Inc.