How Long Does It Take for Oxycodone to Work and Take Effect?

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The time it takes for oxycodone to work and have an effect varies depending on the administration method. When ingested orally, oxycodone typically takes 10 to 60 minutes to have a noticeable effect. (1) However, the onset of pain relief varies depending on factors such as the person’s metabolic rate, pain severity, and the drug’s dosage.

Oxycodone is a powerful painkiller and should only be used when prescribed by a doctor and as directed. It can have serious side effects, including respiratory depression, addiction, and overdose. If you are struggling with oxycodone use, you are urged to seek comprehensive addiction treatment to help you overcome substance misuse and foster long-lasting sobriety. Contact Guardian Recovery today to learn more about our individualized treatment plans and evidence-based therapies and services.

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Rapid Acting vs Slow Acting Oxycodone Formulas: Onset and Duration of Effects

Oxycodone, an opioid and potent painkiller, comes in both fast-acting (immediate-release) and slow-acting (extended-release) formulas. (2) Immediate-release (IR) oxycodone tablets, capsules, and oral solutions take effect quickly, usually within 10-30 minutes after ingestion. Peak effects typically occur within 1-2 hours and pain relief usually lasts between 3-6 hours. (3)

Conversely, extended-release (ER) oxycodone tablets, capsules, and oral solutions are slow-acting and used to manage chronic pain around-the-clock and provide prolonged relief. Effects begin after approximately one hour and are released into the bloodstream gradually over time and their effects can last 12 hours or longer.

Half-Life of Oxycodone in the Body

A drug’s half-life is the amount of time needed for half of a dose to be cleared from the body. (4) Oxycodone’s half-life can vary depending on individual factors and the dose, formula, and administration method. Oxycodone has a half-life of approximately 3-6 hours, and stable plasma levels are achieved within 24-36 hours. (5)

Both types of oxycodone have a high potential for dependence and addiction, and should only be taken under a health provider’s direction. Additionally, oxycodone misuse can lead to severe health problems, including overdose and death.

Intravenous Administration

Oxycodone can be administered intravenously, but this is typically reserved for clinical settings, and should only be done by trained healthcare professionals. Intravenous (IV) administration of oxycodone can provide rapid and potent pain relief, but it also comes with a higher risk of side effects, including respiratory depression and overdose.

Injecting oxycodone outside of a clinical setting is extremely dangerous and can lead to substantial health complications, including overdose and death.

Misused Oxycodone Can React Much More Quickly

Oxycodone misuse can lead to a faster onset of effects, which can be more intense than when the drug is taken as directed. Misuse of oxycodone can involve breaking or crushing the medication, which can release the entire dose at once instead of allowing it to release gradually over time. When oxycodone is altered, taken in excessive amounts or more frequently than prescribed, it can rapidly accumulate in the bloodstream and increase the risk of overdose.

Factors That Affect How Long Oxycodone Takes to Work

For both IR and ER formulations of oxycodone, numerous factors affect how long it takes for the medication to work.

Factors That Affect Oxycodone’s Onset of Action Include:

  • Administration Method—The route by which oxycodone is administered can affect how rapidly it begins to be effective.
  • Individual Factors—Individual factors such as body weight, metabolism, and overall health status can affect the rate at which oxycodone is absorbed and how long it takes to start working.
  • Presence of Food—Taking oxycodone with food can inhibit its absorption, delaying the length of time needed to take effect.

Dosage—The dosage can affect how rapidly it takes effect. Higher doses often take longer to absorb, but they can also provide more pain relief.

Immediate-Release vs Extended-Release Oxycodone

In addition to the onset and duration of effects, IR and ER formulas have other significant differences, such as the following:

  • Dosing Frequency—Because IR oxycodone provides short-term pain relief, it is often used multiple times a day to manage acute pain. Conversely, ER is taken once or twice a day for chronic pain.
  • Strengths—IR and ER oxycodone formulations can be found in a variety of strengths. IR oxycodone comes in strengths varying from 5 mg to 30 mg dosages, while ER oxycodone comes in strengths ranging from 10 mg to 80 mg. Oral solution is available in 5 mg/5 ml strength. (6)

Misuse Potential—IR oxycodone has a higher potential for abuse and addiction than ER oxycodone, as the immediate effects can be more intense and euphoric. However, if the extended-release version is altered, such as by crushing, this formula may have a similar potential for further misuse.

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Oxycodone Side Effects & Signs of Overdose

Along with pain relief, oxycodone comes with a wide range of potential side effects. Signs of an overdose typically can resemble some of these, although they are more severe, life-threatening, and require emergency medical intervention. (7)

Oxycodone Side Effects Include: 

  • Drowsiness and sedation.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Light-colored or black, tarry stools.
  • Dark urine.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Fever, sweating, and chills.
  • Headache.
  • Rash and itchiness.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Confusion.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Reduced libido.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Seizures.

Signs & Symptoms of Oxycodone Overdose Include:

  • Severe respiratory depression and difficulty breathing.
  • Extreme drowsiness.
  • Cold, clammy skin.
  • Blue or purple lips and fingernails.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Muscle weakness and limpness.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Hypotension.
  • Confusion or disorientation.
  • Unresponsiveness or loss of consciousness.
  • Coma.
  • Seizures.

How Long Does It Take To Overdose on Oxycodone?

The time it takes to overdose on opioids can vary depending on several factors. These include the drug’s potency, administration method, the person’s tolerance to opioids, and the existence of underlying health conditions. It is possible to overdose on opioids within minutes of administering a high dose, especially if the drug is injected or snorted. This is because these methods allow the drug to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain rapidly. However, it can also take several hours for an opioid overdose to occur, particularly if the drug is ingested orally.

If you suspect that someone has taken too much oxycodone or is experiencing an overdose, call emergency services immediately. Treatment for an oxycodone overdose typically involves providing respiratory support, such as assisted breathing, and administration of naloxone to reverse the drug’s life-threatening effects.

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(1)(3)(5)(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482226/ (2) https://www.goodrx.com/healthcare-access/medication-education/meaning-medication-suffixes-er-sr (4) https://www.drugs.com/medical-answers/what-do-you-mean-by-the-half-life-of-a-drug-458946/ (7) https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/oxycodone-and-acetaminophen-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20074000

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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