Last updated: April 6, 2020
Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. Doctors use this drug as a prescription pain medication. Often prescribed after a severe injury or major surgery, it also treats chronic pain. However, that is becoming less common as doctors seek other forms of relief for patients.
However, because this drug works in the pleasure center of the brain, it is also highly addictive and carries a high potential for abuse.
The medical community opened its eyes to the fact that addiction to this drug is running rampant. In 2017, there were 47,600 deaths by overdose that involved an opioid. Things have gotten so out of control in our country, that in January 2018, the DOT added four semi-synthetic opioids to its drug testing panel. Oxycodone was included along with oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone.
Many companies are choosing to test for synthetic opioids on employee drug screens.
All methods of drug testing can include oxycodone.
The DOT requires that employees and potential employees take a urine drug test. The majority of employers that drug test uses the urine drug test as well. This makes it the most popular drug testing method. It’s economical and very reliable.
Oxycodone is detected in urine within two hours of taking the drug. It shows up on tests for three to four days.
The other employee testing methods are:
- Oxycodone hits the bloodstream in about 15 minutes and is detectable in a blood test for around 24 hours after taking the last dose.
- Saliva, or mouth swab, drug test pick up on oxycodone in 15 minutes or so and a high concentration of the drug remains in saliva for 24 hours. The drug metabolites can be detected in the saliva for up to four days after taking the last dose.
- Because it takes about three days for drug metabolites to grow out into the hair shaft, that’s the soonest you will detect oxycodone in a hair follicle drug test. Hair tests detect any type of drug used for a period of 90 days. The long detection window is hard to deny. In fact, the DOT is in the processes of changing its testing method from the urine test to the hair follicle drug test.
Why do detection windows vary?
Other than the hair follicle drug test, there is a varied “up to” window of time that oxycodone is detected in the system. In short, individual metabolism is the reason for that. However, we can take a closer look at some of the things that affect our metabolism.
- Age plays a part in that people over the age of 65 have blood concentrations of oxycodone that are 15% higher than younger adults.
- Women test subjects had a 25% higher oxycodone concentration than men.
- Liver dysfunction causes an average half-life of oxycodone increase of 2.3 hours.
- Kidney problems can increase the average half-life of oxycodone by an hour.
- Oxycodone, like marijuana, collects in the fatty tissues of the body. If someone has taken it for a length of time, it will take longer for the body to eliminate it.
- Alcohol increases the effects of oxycodone. It also causes the drug to remain in your body longer.
You may know that it’s extremely dangerous to use oxycodone with alcohol. Unfortunately, the reality of overdosing on this mixture is proven over and over again.
You may not know, however, that some widely used drugs can be a lethal combination as well. Taking oxycodone with these medications could have serious results, including respiratory depression.
- macrolide antibiotics, such as azithromycin or clarithromycin
- azole antifungal agents, used for treating fungal infections such as ringworm or athlete’s foot
- protease inhibitors
Period of impairment
You take oxycodone by mouth. It ‘s recommended you take it with food. Oxycodone begins to take effect in as little as 20 or 30 minutes. It reaches peak concentrations in the bloodstream between one and two hours after ingestion. Some extended-release forms take three to four hours to reach peak concentration.
Drug abusers also shoot up the drug. They crush it, mix it with water, then, use a needle to inject the drug intravenously. It allows them to experience the “high” almost immediately.
Moreover, our bodies build up a tolerance to oxycodone as time progresses. It takes more of the drug to obtain the same pain relief for the patient. The drug abuser is looking for the same high to which they are accustomed and need larger doses to achieve it.
If your doctor has prescribed the drug for post-surgery pain management, you will likely be off the drug in two weeks or less. Extended use of the drug warrants weaning off of it so you don’t experience withdrawal symptoms.
These can include:
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- inability to sleep
- muscle cramps
- joint aches
- rapid breathing
- increased heart rate
Just because your doctor weans you off the drug, it doesn’t mean that you have developed an addiction to it. Your body, itself, can develop a dependence on the drug. This means that it has grown used to it and withdrawal symptoms are the body’s way of saying, “I miss you.”
Employees that test positive for oxycodone, or any drug for that matter, face many dangers.
Most companies have policies in place that call for immediate termination if an employee tests positive for drugs. More importantly, when we think back to our opening statistic, the odds of overdose are high.
The opiate epidemic in our country is raging out of control. Opiate addiction affects millions of people in some way. It destroys families.
Your employee may not be in the frame of mind to realize the potential danger they are putting themselves in, but we do.
Providing employees who test positive for drugs with information for rehabilitation is a noble gesture. More importantly, though, let them know you want them to succeed. It may be the ray of light that finally breaks through their darkness.