How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?

The amount of time opioids stay in your body varies based on certain factors and the type of opioid you consume.

Opioids stay in your system for anywhere between 1 hour to several days. The amount of time opioids stay in your body varies based on certain factors and the type of opioid you consume.

Drug testing can detect opioid use for days or even months after opioids are fully metabolized by the body.

Historically, opioids have seen high usage as a pain reliever. Their usage remains high today, and they are a common target of substance abuse. Drug testing for opioids may be recommended by an employer, legal team, or treatment provider if they suspect a person is abusing opioids.

Half-Life Of Common Opioids

Half-life refers to the amount of time a drug takes to reach half its maximum concentration after it is ingested. Half-life can be useful for determining how long substances stay in the body. After five half-life cycles, most drugs are almost completely eliminated from the body.

The average half-life of common opioids is as follows:

  • codeine: 3 hours
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone): 3.8 hours
  • heroin: 15 minutes
  • morphine: 1-6 hours
  • fentanyl: 3-12 hours
  • buprenorphine: 26-40 hours
  • methadone: 24-55 hours

Factors that can affect an opioid’s half-life include the type of opioid taken, levels of drug tolerance, body fat, and dosage. How long opioids stay in the body, also known as their absorption rate, can also be affected by these factors.

The short half-lives of opioids like heroin and codeine mean their effects wear off quickly. This can contribute to the high abuse potential of some opioids because their effects of sedation and pain relief are desirable. Conversely, opioid antagonists like buprenorphine and methadone have lower abuse potentials on average.

Drug Tests & Opioid Use Detection Times

Drug testing can detect opioid metabolites. Metabolites are unique substances that remain in the body after opioids are digested and metabolized. Common metabolites that opioid tests detect include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and heroin.

Many prescription opioids are derived from natural opiates, such as heroin and morphine. An opioid drug test may test for one or many metabolites.

Testing positive for opioids in the workplace or under legal circumstances may cause you to be referred to a treatment center. Chronic drug use can be a sign of a substance use disorder, a mental health problem that can be treated with professional help.

Urine Test

Urine tests can detect opioid metabolites for up to 14 days after the last use. For fast-acting opioids such as oxycodone and heroin, the detection window may only be up to 3 days.

Urine tests are non-invasive and take a short length of time to complete. They are a common drug testing method for medical centers, opioid abuse treatment programs, detox programs, and other institutions.

Saliva Test

Saliva tests can detect opioid metabolites up to several days after the last use. For fast-acting opioids, metabolites may only be detected for up to 1 day.

Saliva tests are non-invasive, similar to urine tests. However, the detection window tends to be shorter than urine tests.

Blood Test

Blood tests can detect opioid metabolites for up to several days after the last use. For fast-acting opioids, the detection window may only be up to 1 day. Blood test detection times are often similar to saliva test detection times.

Blood tests can accurately detect opioid metabolites. However, they are invasive, and some patients can have difficulty giving blood. This testing method is not used as often as more convenient testing methods in medical settings.

Hair Test

Hair tests can detect opioid metabolites in hair follicles for up to 90 days after the last use. Hair testing has a long detection window compared to other methods because metabolites remain in hair follicles as the hair grows out.

Opioid Testing & Treatment Options

Opioid testing is often a part of opioid abuse and addiction treatment programs. Medical professionals may want to ensure you are practicing safe drug use, are avoiding relapse, or that your dosage is not causing additional health problems.

Opioid testing may also be performed during detox. Higher doses of opioids in your system can affect the severity of certain side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

Contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center to find out if our opioid use treatment program works for you or your loved one.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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