How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?

Opioid addiction has impacted the lives of millions of Americans over the last several years. As new and more powerful opioids such as fentanyl become more popular, the number of those addicted to opioids has risen.

One area of opioid addiction that patients often wonder about is how long these drugs will stay in their system. The length of time that an opioid stays in the system can have an impact on the total detoxification process. It can also impact the onset of withdrawal symptoms during the initial recovery phase.

Below, we’ll explain how long opioids such as hydrocodone or Codeine stay in your system. We’ll also explain how this impacts the detox and recovery process for those dealing with opioid addiction.

Understanding A Drug’s Half-Life

When talking about how long a drug lasts in a person’s system, a common measure is known as the drug’s half-life. In simple terms, the half-life means the time it takes for the amount of the drug in the person’s system to be cut in half. This happens through the body’s ability to break down complex molecules and then eliminate them from the body.

A measurement of half-life is important in pharmaceutical science since it helps to measure the effective period that a medication can last. It also helps to determine how much the drug builds up, which can impact the speed at which the drug is eliminated.

It’s important to know that a half-life of opioids in your system isn’t just half of the time to completely leave the system. It often takes several half-lives for opioids to totally be eliminated. Each half-live represents a halving, so several of these cycles can represent the full elimination of an opioid from the body.

Short-acting benzodiazepines and opioids generally have a short half-life compared to other common drugs that can lead to addiction.

Half-Life of Oxycontin

One of the more commonly abused opioids is known as the name-brand Oxycontin. The generic name for this drug is oxycodone. These tablets are often taken orally. However, when abused they can also be crushed and snorted.

For a 10mg Oxycontin table, the half-life is approximately 6.5 hours. For a 5mg tablet, the half-life is about 4.5 hours. 

Most opioids such as oxycodone are processed by the body and eliminated rather quickly.

How Long Does Oxycontin Last?

Oxycontin and most other opioids can have a lasting effect for up to several hours, depending on the dosage. This is when taken in their original pill form. When taking an oral opioid, the absorption and elimination can take longer than other usable forms.

For example, when other opioids such as heroin are injected or snorted, they take effect much sooner, and they are also eliminated from the body faster.

Although the half-life of oxycodone in the body is approximately 6.5 hours, the drug and its metabolites are still detectable in the urine for up to 4 days.

List Of Opioids And How Long They Last In The System

Different opioids have slightly different half-lives and can vary in how long it takes them to be eliminated from the body. Most opioids last in the system for one to four days.

It’s important to note that due to the short half-life of most opioids, testing via a blood sample is not common.

Below is a list of common opioids along with how long they can be detected.


Fentanyl is detectable in the urine for 24 hours. It is detectable in blood tests for approximately 12 hours after use.


Heroin is present in the urine for about 7 days. Blood tests will show detectable levels for 6 hours.


Hydrocodone is detectable in the urine for between 2-4 days. Blood tests will show the presence of hydrocodone for up to 24 hours.


This opioid can be detected in the urine for up to 4 days. Blood tests can vary due to the short half-life, but can sometimes be detected for up to 6 hours.


Detectable in the urine for up to 2 days. Blood tests can show the presence of codeine for up to 24 hours.


Methadone lasts in the system the longest among common opioids. It is detectable in the urine for up to 2 weeks and in the blood for up to 3 days.

Factors That Affect How Long Opioids Last

Most of the time frames for opioids being eliminated from the system are based on averages. However, many factors can impact these durations to either make them shorter or longer.

Body Type

A user’s weight, body composition such as BMI, and overall build will impact how long an opioid stays in their system.

Overall health

Those with health conditions that impact liver function or kidney function will generally experience a slower elimination of opioids from their system. This also means they will be detectable for longer.

Frequency Of Drug Use

The more often a drug is used will cause it to build up in the system. This will generally require a longer period for it to be totally eliminated.

Amount of water in the body.


It’s not uncommon for those suffering from addiction to be partially dehydrated. Lower amounts of water in the body can increase the time it takes for opioids to be eliminated and leave the system.

Detectable Opioid Levels And Withdrawal

It’s important to note that the time it takes opioids to be eliminated from your system doesn’t equal the length of withdrawal symptoms.

In most detox situations during outpatient opioid treatment, the withdrawals will begin as the drugs are fully eliminated. This will start the acute phase of physical withdrawals.

Withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as 8 hours after the last usage of the drug. From there, physical withdrawal symptoms will peak during the first 3 days and may last as long as 7 days.

Longer-acting opioids can push this time out. For example, fentanyl and oxycodone abuse will cause withdrawal in about 30 hours after the last usage. Total physical withdrawal symptoms can last up to 2 weeks.

Help With Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction can be difficult for both the individual as well as for their friends and their loved ones. If you are someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, we can help.

Emory Recovery Centers offer evidence-based treatment options for those with opioid addiction. Our experienced staff can help manage your detox process and provide you with the support and tools you need to achieve recovery.

Contact Emory Recover Centers to learn more about our treatment plans and how we can help you live a life free from addiction.




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