OxyContin is a prescription drug that’s frequently given to patients to manage pain ranging from moderate to severe. People often wonder what OxyContin is, whether or not OxyContin is an opiate and what the effects of the drug are.

The following provides an overview of OxyContin, and also answers specifics like, “Is OxyContin an opiate?”

What Are Opiates?

Before looking at whether or not OxyContin is an opiate, what are opiates?

The term opiate refers to drugs that are derived from opium found in the poppy plant. In the past, the term opiate was used to describe only naturally derived substances from this class, but in more recent years, the terms opiate and opioid have started to be used interchangeably with one another.

For the most part, the term opioid is a blanket term that refers to all opiates, including those that are natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic. In strictest of terms, however, opioid would refer to synthetic opiates which were manufactured to replicate the action of opiates.

Opiates or opioids are substances that bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract, and whether they’re synthetic, semi-synthetic, or naturally-derived, they act on the brain and body in the same ways.

When opioids attach to receptors in the central nervous system, they block pain, they slow the activity of the central nervous system including respiration, and they can create a sense of euphoria or a high, particularly at large doses. Opioids also make people feel relaxed and drowsy.

The respiratory depression that opioids create can be one of the biggest risks of using these drugs because breathing can slow to the point that a person dies. Other significant risks of opiates and opioids are physical dependence and addiction. Physical dependence means that your body becomes used to the presence of opiates or opioids, and if you stop using them, suddenly you go through withdrawal.

Some opioids include prescription painkillers, as well as buprenorphine and the illegal drug heroin.

Is OxyContin an Opiate?

So, now with an overview of opioids and opiates, is OxyContin an opiate? Yes, however, it’s considered a semi-synthetic opiate. More commonly, OxyContin is classified using the term opioid, although these terms are often used in place of one another and interchangeably.

OxyContin is a prescription drug that’s considered a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This fact means that it does have a high potential for abuse and addiction. OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone and it’s an extended-release version of the drug, meaning that it can be used to treat around-the-clock pain, rather than used as an as-needed pain treatment.

With OxyContin, people often abuse it and try to get the full effects of this time-release drug all at once. This can occur by taking it in ways other than how it’s prescribed, such as crushing it and snorting it, or dissolving it in a liquid and injecting it. This creates a euphoric high, and thus the reason for common abuse of OxyContin.

So, is OxyContin an opiate or opioid? We can say both, but in if we’re following the strictest definition of this terminology, Oxycontin is a semi-synthetic opiate.

Since OxyContin is an opiate/opioid, it has all the risks of these drugs including the potential for respiratory depression, addiction and physical dependence.

Will OxyContin Test Positive for Opiates?

For someone who has an upcoming drug test, they may be wondering, “Will OxyContin test positive for opiates?”

While OxyContin is considered an opiate, the structure is different to an extent, so it isn’t detected by a standard opiate test unless it’s taken in very high doses. A standard opiate test strip would show drugs like morphine and codeine at much lower doses, and oxycodone only at an extremely high level. Low levels of OxyContin usually aren’t going to be detected in a urine test, but they may be picked up in hair testing.

However, other specific drug tests may be positive for oxycodone use. For example, there are differences in drug tests that classify them as 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, 10- and 12-panel. A basic 5-panel test can determine drugs like cocaine and opiates, but a 12-panel test specifically includes screening for oxycodone. Unless you’re given that 12-panel test, you may not test positive for opiates if you’re just using OxyContin. Again, this isn’t always true.

If someone takes OxyContin, they would test positive for the substance on a 5-panel test, and a confirmatory GC-MS test would not confuse the substance for morphine.

Drug testing can come up with varied results. If you’re asking, “Will OxyContin test positive for opiates?” consider the following example. A test for opiates is likely to come back as false negative if someone is actually positive for oxycodone. This result is because oxycodone is less likely to trigger a genuine positive unless the test is specifically for oxycodone.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.