How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?
Hydrocodone is a generic opioid drug that is used to alleviate moderate to severe pain. It is often combined with acetaminophen or ibuprofen and sold under the brand names Vicodin, Lorcet, Norco, and Lortab. In addition to treating pain, hydrocodone is sometimes found in cough syrups to help relieve coughing.
As an opioid, hydrocodone can be highly addictive. Even if you take the medication as directed by your doctor, you could develop a physical dependence on it and experience some withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. Understanding how long hydrocodone stays in your system can help you understand when you can expect withdrawal symptoms to begin as well as how long the medication may show up on a drug test.
While each person is different, hydrocodone typically stays in your urine for up to four days but is clear from your blood in under 24 hours. Some advanced hair follicle drug tests, however, can detect hydrocodone in the hair follicle for several months.
How Long Do The Effects of Hydrocodone Last?
Hydrocodone is taken by mouth. It is a fast-acting opioid that produces effects in as little as 20-30 minutes. Peak effects usually occur between 30 to 60 minutes. In total, the effects of hydrocodone last approximately 4-6 hours. However, some extended-release formulations can last for up to 12 hours.
How is Hydrocodone Metabolized?
Hydrocodone, like other opioids, is metabolized in the liver and eliminated from your body through your urine. The liver metabolizes hydrocodone into three different substances:
These are the different metabolites that can be detected on a drug test and lead to a positive result for opioids.
The rate at which hydrocodone is metabolized in your body depends on the half-life of the drug as well as individual health factors. The elimination half-life of a substance refers to how long it takes the body to eliminate half of the dose of the drug. Hydrocodone has a half-life of approximately 4 hours and it takes 4-5 half-lives for a substance to leave your body. As a result, it can be said that hydrocodone leaves your body after 12-24 hours. However, traces of the above-listed metabolites may remain in the body longer and be detectable by drug tests.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?
How long the opioid is detected in your system depends mainly on the type of drug test used to detect it.
Urine tests are the most widely used type of drug screening because they are cheap, accurate, and non-invasive. Hydrocodone can typically be detected in your urine for 2-4 days after your last dose.
Blood tests are usually only used in hospital settings. Hydrocodone clears the blood of a healthy individual in 24 hours or less.
Saliva tests are rarely used due to their short detection window. However, hydrocodone can be detected in your saliva for up to 36 hours after your last dose.
Hair follicle testing is becoming more common due to the long detection window and accuracy. Hydrocodone may be detected in your hair follicle for up to 3 months after your last dose.
Factors That Affect How Long Hydrocodone Can Be Detected in Your System
In addition to the type of drug test used, there are various individual health factors that influence how long hydrocodone stays in your system. These include:
- Regular dosage – Hydrocodone comes in various different strengths, and the higher the dose you consume, the longer it will stay in your system.
- Liver health – If you have a liver disease of any stage, your liver will metabolize hydrocodone at a slower rate, leaving traces of it in your body for an extended amount of time.
- Metabolism – Factors like age, weight, activity level, and current medications can all impact your metabolism and the rate at which opioids leave your system.
- Polydrug use – Mixing hydrocodone with other drugs or alcohol can make it stay in your system longer.
- Frequency of use – The more often you consume hydrocodone or other opioids, the longer it will take for it to be eliminated from your system.
- Type of hydrocodone taken – Some medications that contain hydrocodone have extended-release formulations that can produce effects for three times longer than regular hydrocodone. If you have been taking an extended-release formulation, it could take much longer for your body to metabolize and fully eliminate it.
There is nothing you can do to speed up the process of getting the drug out of your system. The best thing you can do is to stop taking hydrocodone and seek professional help if you begin experiencing symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Detox and Treatment for Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction
If you abruptly stop taking hydrocodone after taking it for one week or more, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal. These can make stopping the medication incredibly difficult. Symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, body aches, sweating, and goosebumps indicate that you may need professional help from a medical detox and treatment center.
Between 21-29% of people who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain abuse them, and between 8-12% develop an opioid use disorder. If you have found yourself dependent on hydrocodone, you are not alone, and there are treatment programs out there that can help.
Here at New Jersey Addiction Interventions, our team is dedicated to helping you find the right opioid treatment program based on your unique needs. Call today for a risk-free and confidential consultation.
Medically Reviewed: December 10, 2021
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.