How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?

3 min read · 5 sections

Opioids are a class of drugs that relieve pain.  Opioid is an umbrella term that includes natural opioids, semi-synthetic opioids derived from natural opioids, and synthetic opioids created in a laboratory. Opioid drugs are a group of drugs that includes opiates, which are natural derivatives of the poppy plant. The main difference is that “opiate” refers specifically to the substances derived from the opium (poppy) plant, while “opioids” are all substances that interact with the opioid receptors including those created in the lab.

Several naturally occurring opiate alkaloids—such as morphine, codeine, and thebaine—serve as the chemical building blocks of many semi-synthetic opioid drugs, including heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.

Many opiates are essential in the medical community for their sedative and painkilling properties, though heroin is a morphine derivative that’s exclusively recreational and highly illegal. All of these drugs have a high addiction potential, and even those that are given out legally via prescription are often abused and can be found on black markets. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2012 World Drug Report, 26.4-36 million people across the globe abuse opiates.

Factors That Affect Drug Processing

Opiates tend to have short half-lives, meaning that they leave the system quickly, though effects can last for several hours. How long each opiate can be detected by drug tests varies depending on many factors, including the type of ingestion. Prescription opiates typically come in pill form. Taking a drug orally means that it has to pass through the digestive system first, so it can take around an hour for the effects to begin. On the other hand, substances like heroin are more often injected, smoked, or snorted. These methods create a much faster and more intense high, and they pass out of the body sooner.

Other factors affecting how quickly an opiate leaves the system include:

  • The individual’s metabolism rate
  • Body mass and weight
  • Body fat content
  • Health of the liver and kidneys
  • Age
  • How often and how heavy opiate use is
  • Quality of the drug
  • Amount of water in the body

Of course, the type of opiate also factors into how long it can be detected by drug tests. Commonly prescribed opioids include Vicodin—which was discontinued in the U.S. market—OxyContin, morphine, and codeine.

factors that affect how long opiates stay in the system

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?

The following chart shows how long common opioids stay in your system based on detection time in drug tests:

Opioid Drug Time in System
Heroin Urine: 7 days; Blood: 6 hours; Saliva: 5 hours; Hair: 90 days
Hydrocodone Urine: 2-4 days; Saliva: 12-36 hours; Hair: 90 days
Morphine Urine: 3 days; Blood: 12 hours; Saliva: 4 days; Hair: 90 days
Codeine Urine: 24-48 hours; Blood: 24 hours; Saliva: 4 days; Hair: 90   days
Oxycodone Urine: 4 days; Saliva 2 days; Hair: 90 days
Fentanyl Urine: 24 hours; Blood: 12 hours; Saliva: 4 days; Hair: 90   days
Methadone Urine: 2 weeks; Blood: 3 days; Saliva: 2 days; Hair: 90 days

heroin in system chart

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

Heroin is a particularly fast-acting drug with a very short half-life. A saliva test will only be able to detect heroin for the first 5 hours after the last dose, while blood tests can detect it for about 6 hours after the last use. Urine tests are the most commonly used, and can detect heroin up to 7 days after the last use. Urine tests are the most commonly used, and can detect heroin up to 7 days after the last use. Hair follicle tests, however, can find heroin for up to 90 days.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

hydrocodone in body graphic

Hydrocodone leaves the body even faster, with saliva tests only working for the first 12-36 hours after the last pill was taken. Urine tests can detect hydrocodone for 2-4 days, and hair tests are effective for 90 days.

How Long Does Morphine Stay in Your System?

Morphine takes longer to work than heroin and the effects tend to last longer. Despite this, blood tests can only detect morphine for the first 12 hours after the last dose, and urine tests only work for up to 3 days. However, saliva tests are more effective, being able to detect traces of morphine for up to 4 days. Again, morphine stays in the hair for 90 days.

How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?

Lastly, codeine is one of the fastest of all opiates to leave the system. It can be found in the blood for just 24 hours, and in urine for 24-48 hours. Saliva tests have a wider range, being effective for 1-4 days after the last dose. As with the rest, it can be found in a person’s hair for up to 90 days.

These are all averages. However, due to the fact that opiates will build up in fatty tissues after excessive use, these averages may extend beyond the outer limit if the individual is a heavy, long-term user.

How Long Does Oxycodone (Oxycontin) Stay in Your System?

oxycodone in system

Oxycodone is detectable in the urine for 1-4 days, and a person will test positive for the drug within 1-3 hours after taking it. It is detectable in saliva within minutes after a person takes the drug and can be detected on a test for up to 48 hours. Like the other opioids, it can be detected in the hair for up to 90 days.

Oxycodone is primarily metabolized by the liver. This process produces metabolites, the most common of which is noroxycodone, followed by noroxymorphone. Oxycodone and its metabolites are excreted through the kidneys.

The half-life of oxycodone is 3-5 hours, which means it takes about that much time for half of the dose to be eliminated from the bloodstream.

Other Notable Drugs & The Body

How Long Does Fentanyl Stay in Your System?

  • Blood: Up to 12 Hours
  • Saliva: 1-4 Days
  • Urine: 8-24 Hours
  • Hair: Up to 90 Days

How Long Does Methadone Stay in Your System?

  • Blood: After 30 mins up to 2-3 Days
  • Saliva: After 30 min and Up to 2 Days
  • Urine: After 1 Hour and Up to 2 Weeks
  • Hair: After a Few Days and Up to 90 Days

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How Long Do Poppy Seeds Stay in Your System?

People always wonder if eating a poppy seed muffin or bagel before a drug test will end in a false positive. The answer to that is, yes it can. However, testing guidelines have improved and it’s less likely to be flagged for opiate use after eating poppy seed-containing foods. In the past, poppy seeds have been known to cause testers to fail for up to 16 hours after consumption. Since poppy seeds contain low levels of opiates, many tests now have a higher threshold to avoid false positives.

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