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How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your Body?

Opioid addiction has become a part of daily life for many individuals across the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics showing that more than 191 million people were dispensed opioid prescriptions in 2019. Between eight and 12 percent of those who abuse prescription opioids will develop a substance use disorder. It’s important to understand how they affect your body and how long the drugs remain in your system.

Whether you use opioid medications as prescribed, or you are abusing illicit drugs, you must know how long they remain in your system. If you are struggling with an opioid use disorder, it can be helpful to know this information. If you plan on taking a substance, how long will you feel its effects? If you continually use opioids, when is it safe to take your next dose? By knowing these facts, it can save you from overdosing. 

Half-Life and Duration of Action

The half-life of a drug means how long it will take to be reduced to half of its original concentration in your bloodstream. In many cases, the duration of action (or how long you feel its effects) is similar to the drug’s half-life. The one exception to this rule, however, is drugs that break down into psychoactive metabolites. 

Some opioids will be broken down into different opioids that will last longer and continue affecting your body and brain. Understanding the half-life and duration of action will let you know how long before a drug will lose its strength. Here are the time periods for common opioids below:

  • Hydrocodone has a half-life that lasts up to four hours. At the six-hour point, the drug will be eliminated from your blood. You can feel hydrocodone for up to eight hours before it wears off. 
  • Morphine produces its effects between 30 and 60 minutes after oral consumption but will produce those effects much faster after injection. The half-life is two to four hours, and the effects can last from four to six hours unless you used the extended-release version. 
  • Oxycodone has a half-life of three hours, but extended-release versions can last up to five hours. Oxycodone may be eliminated from your blood in 22 hours, and the effects will last from three to four hours. 
  • Hydromorphone has a short half-life of two to three hours and will take effect in 15 to 30 minutes. It will last two to three hours after oral consumption. 
  • Heroin has the shortest half-life of two to six minutes. The effects can last anywhere up to five hours after use because the body converts it to morphine, which has a long half-life. 

Drug Testing

Hydrocodone: May be detected in your urine for up to three days

Morphine: May be found in your urine for up to three days

Hydromorphone: Will be detected in your urine for two to three days

Oxycodone: May be detected in your urine for three to four days

Heroin: Can be detected in your urine for up to a weekFentanyl: Will show up on a urine test between one and two days.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association. (2018, November). Opioid Use Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/opioid-use-disorder/opioid-use-disorder

CDC. (2018, October 3). U.S. Opioid Prescribing Rate Maps | Drug Overdose | CDC Injury Center. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/maps/rxrate-maps.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

Purse, M. (2019, September 29). Why the Time It Takes a Drug to Be Eliminated in Your Body Is Important. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/medication-half-life-380031

N.A (N.D) Opioids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids

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