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How Long Does Oxycontin Stay in Your System?

OxyContin, which is a brand name for the short-acting opioid oxycodone, will typically affect a person for between 3 to 6 hours.[1] It can be detected in a person’s body for much longer.

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Urine testing can detect its use for up to three days since last use. Hair testing can, in ideal conditions, detect oxycodone use for up to 90 days since the last use. 

OxyContin Effects: How Long Do They Last?

OxyContin is a brand name for the drug oxycodone hydrochloride (usually just called oxycodone). It comes in the form of tablets, which are meant to be taken orally but are sometimes crushed and snorted or dissolved and injected when abused.[1]

OxyContin is a short-acting opioid. This means it tends to act faster and with more intense effects than long-acting opioids like methadone. Short-acting opioids are typically more likely to be abused due to their comparatively more intense effects than long-acting opioids. All types of opioids should only be taken as prescribed due to their high potential for abuse and addiction.

Oxycodone medication will typically take between 10 to 30 minutes to take effect if the immediate-release version is taken. Controlled-release (or extended-release) oxycodone will usually take about an hour to take effect.[2] 

Immediate-release oxycodone will affect a user for about three to six hours. Controlled-release oxycodone will affect a user for about 12 hours and with comparatively less intensity.[2]

OxyContin Detection Timelines

OxyContin is most commonly tested for via urine, blood, saliva, and hair testing. Of these tests, urine testing is the most common.

Different types of drug tests have different detection windows. These detection windows should always be viewed as estimates, as the exact detection window in a given case will depend on the individual being tested. 

Generally, OxyContin and similar types of opioids are detectable on drug tests for these periods:[6,7]

Test TypeTime Frame
Urine1-3 days
Blood12-24 hours
Saliva12-24 hours
Hair90 days

Common Tests Used for OxyContin Detection

The following is a quick summary of what to expect from different types of drug tests:

Urine Testing

Urine testing is generally done in relative privacy (except in particularly rare, strict cases such as with some types of military testing). You will be given a collection container and instructions on how to fill it with a urine sample. 

The collection process is straightforward. You will go into the bathroom and wash your hands and genitals. Then, you will urinate into the collection container. Once done, return the sample to the lab technician. 

In 2018, researchers wrote this in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology: “Providers in office-based opioid treatment settings are strongly advised to use definitive urine drug tests as the primary testing methodology.”[9] In their opinion, urine tests were easy to administer and very adept at detecting substances. They found urine to be the most reliable sample for drug testing.

Blood Testing

Blood testing involves going to a lab and having a phlebotomist (someone trained in drawing blood) draw a sample of blood with a small needle into a tube or vial. It is a short process from the perspective of a patient and, while not painless, usually less painful than those anxious about the process expect. 

Blood testing can be very reliable when administered within a few hours of taking drugs. It’s also much more difficult for people to tamper with. You can’t dilute your blood, but you can add water to a urine sample provided in a private bathroom.

However, blood testing comes with a short detection time frame. Unlike urine testing, which can detect traces of the drug as the kidneys process each dose, blood testing requires active particles in the bloodstream.

Saliva Testing

This type of testing involves going to a healthcare setting and having a healthcare provider insert a swab or pad into your mouth, usually against your cheek. The pad is kept in place for a few minutes to absorb enough saliva and then removed. It should typically be a painless process.[4] 

In 2018, researchers found that saliva tests were accurate about 97% of the time. The tests were given to participants at a music festival who reported the drugs they took. The saliva tests matched those reports. The researchers didn’t identify any opioids in this study, but it does suggest that saliva tests could be an accurate way to detect drugs.[10]

Hair Testing

From a patient’s perspective, hair testing is a quick process. You will go to a healthcare setting and a small lock of your hair will be cut by a healthcare professional for testing. 

Hair testing has a very long detection window, but there are several caveats to note about this type of testing. First, it is generally avoided when possible as it is considered fairly invasive since some of a person’s hair must be cut off for testing. Second, the exact detection window can vary significantly depending on a person’s haircut.

Finally, it takes time for a person’s drug use to be detectable through this hair drug testing. It isn’t a good option for detecting recent drug use.[3]

OxyContin Half-Life

OxyContin has a plasma half-life of three to five hours.[2] This is the time it takes for about half of a drug currently in the system to be eliminated. You can expect most of a drug to be eliminated from your system after about four to five half-lives (12 to 25 hours). 

Note that trace amounts can be detected for longer, hence the testing detection windows discussed earlier.

Factors That Affect How Long OxyContin Stays in Your Body

Several factors can impact how long OxyContin, or any drug, is in your system, including these:[5]

  • Dose: The most obvious factor that impacts how long it takes for a drug to leave a person’s system is the dose taken. The body can only process so much of a drug at a time. Taking more can cause the metabolization process to take longer.
  • Frequency of use: Similar to how much of a drug a person takes, the frequency at which they take a drug can also potentially extend how long a drug is detectable in their system. Frequent use of a drug makes it more likely that trace amounts will be detectable in the body even if it has been long enough that drug use would normally be difficult or impossible to detect.
  • Age: As we age, metabolization tends to slow down, with the body becoming less effective at processing drugs. This can extend how long a drug is detectable in the body.
  • Weight: A person’s weight has the potential to affect how a drug affects them and how long it is detectable within the body. Its most obvious effect is usually in how it can cause a heavier person to need more of the same drug to achieve the same effect compared to a lighter person.
  • Health conditions: Certain health conditions can affect how fast drugs are metabolized in the body, usually causing them to be metabolized slower than normal. Conditions affecting the heart and liver are some of the most common to cause metabolic changes.

Contesting a Test Result

What happens if you fail an OxyContin drug test and you know you haven’t used the drug? The answer to this crucial question depends on who administered the test and what it’s for.

If you’re enrolled in an addiction treatment program, your team may use drug tests to ensure you’re complying with their care plan. A failed test indicates that their treatment program isn’t right for you. It’s possible to ask for a recheck, but your team may like to proceed as though you relapsed and need more help.

If you’ve taken an OxyContin test for a current or future job, your options depend on your company’s policies. Some companies have strong policies that discourage discussion about failed tests. If you don’t pass, you can be removed without demanding a retest.[8]

However, other companies allow employees to explain why they failed a drug test, and some allow for a recheck. Before you submit to a drug test, find out what your employer’s rules are, so you’ll be ready to take action if you fail.

Updated May 7, 2024
  1. OxyContin Fast Facts. National Drug Intelligence Center. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  2. Sadiq NM, Dice TJ, Mead T. Oxycodone. StatPearls. Published August 2022. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  3. Opioid Testing. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  4. Opioid Testing. MedlinePlus. Published December 15, 2020. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  5. Tolerance and resistance to drugs. Merck Manual. Published September 2022. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  6. Appendix B: Urine collection and testing procedures and alternative methods. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed May 1, 2024.
  7. Hair drug testing results and self-reported drug use among primary care patients with moderate-risk illicit drug use. Gryczynski J, Schwartz R, Mitchell S. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2014 Aug 1;141:44-50.
  8. Workplace drug testing: What to do when employees fail. Nagele-Piazza L. Society for Human Resources Management. Published January 21, 2020. Accessed May 1, 2024.
  9. Definitive urine drug testing in office-based opioid treatment: A literature review. Barthwell A, Allagaier J, Egli K. Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 2018;48(10):815-838.
  10. Field detection of drugs of abuse in oral fluid using the Alere DDS2 Mobile Test System with confirmation by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Krotulski A, Mohr A, Friscia M, et al. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 2018;42(3):170-176.
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