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How Long Do Drugs Stay In Your System and Show Up on Drug Tests?

Drugs Stay In One’s System

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Drugs may stay in one’s system for a varied amount of time, depending on various factors. Drugs have their mechanisms of action, effects, and half-life, which largely determine how fast the substance can be removed from the body. Also, every individual differs in metabolism, and a few fundamental factors influence these body processes. Of course, there is no way to be completely certain that the body is completely free of drugs or alcohol unless a drug test is carried out.

Table of Contents

Half-Life of Drugs

Half-life is a term that refers to the process of eliminating a particular substance from the human body. Every substance has a half-life, and the half-life of a substance can be defined as the length of time it takes for the concentration of a substance to be metabolized and reduced to half its size. What does this really mean?

When a drug is used, it undergoes certain metabolic processes that gradually break down its composition and slowly eliminates it from the system via excretory systems such as urine. The time that it takes for half the amount of the substance used to leave the system is the drug half-life. Understanding the half-life of substances is important because it is useful in determining the excretion rates and, therefore, the efficacy of substances.

The half-life also reveals whether a substance follows the first-order or Zero-order half-life timeline. The pharmacokinetics of any clinically important medication is dependent on factors like the volume of the substance and its clearance rate.

It is important to note that the specific drug half-life is mentioned to assume that there is no additional substance used after the initial dose. There are no interactions, and the individual is physiologically healthy.

Doctor explains the half-life term to a patient.

Factors That Determine How Long Drugs Stay In One’s System

Certain factors can determine the length of time that substances stay in your system. Every individual is different in one way or another, not just in size and disparities such as gender, but also in our metabolic rate. The health status of an individual can greatly affect the half-life timeline of a drug, and the overall time it takes to leave the body.

Many Factors Can Affect how Long Drugs Stay in One’s System. Some of These Factors are:

  • The type of substance that was in use
  • The amount that was in use
  • The frequency of use
  • The person’s age
  • The person’s physical condition, height, weight, percentage of body fat
  • Metabolism rate
  • Chronic illness
  • Level of Hydration
  • Drug tolerance
  • Health status
  • Presence of other substances like drugs and alcohol
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • The half-life of the substance

Age – as people grow older, they begin to increase in weight, body fat, and others. An increase in body fat significantly increases the volume of substance distribution for highly lipophilic drugs; this, in turn, will increase the drug half-life.

Gender – in many cases, women are shown to possess more body fat than males. This means that females may store more lipophilic drugs in their system than men, increasing the amount of time taken to eliminate the drug in women.

Hydration – water deprivation affects the half-life and elimination of drugs in the system. According to a report, the drug’s elimination rate significantly decreases, and overall body clearance becomes slow. This means that hydration supports the elimination of drugs from the system.

Amount of drug in use – when a person uses drugs in a particular amount, the drug’s half-life is directly related to the initial dose taken. Any subsequent use of the substance would alter the half-life timeline.

Ethnicity – A study conducted with individuals of different ethnicity to show the contribution of ethnicity to determine the length of time it takes to eliminate them from the system proved positive. Therefore, ethnicity may alter the half-life and overall clearance of a drug.

Types of Drug Tests

When a user is mandated to take a compulsory test, a very common question is the time for drugs to stay in your system. Substances such as alcohol and cocaine have varied half-life, and mixing both substances may alter their individual half-lives and detection in urine or blood. The drug detection chart below shows various substances and their detection period in urine, blood, saliva, and hair.

How long Do Certain drugs Stay in system?

Currently, Five Different Types of Drug Tests are in Use. These Tests Include:

Each of these tests has the same functions: to detect any substance traces and secondary metabolites of these drugs in the system. Although, each of it has its own differences:

  • A blood test is an invasive test and can be used to detect recent use of illicit drugs or alcohol. It has a relatively short detection window.
  • An urine test is one of the most commonly used for alcohol or drug detection types. It is non-invasive and method and mostly preferred by patients to be checked for substance abuse and addiction.
  • A breath test is a well-established test that is mostly applicable in testing for alcohol intoxication.
  • A saliva swab test is specifically used for same-day use detection.
  • A hair test has the longest detection window of all drug tests.
  • A sweat test is easy to conduct and can detect drugs within 24 hours of use.

How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your Scicemen?

The drug tests are mostly used to discover if an individual has indulged in the use of illicit substances, like cocaine, as well as the time frame within which the drugs were used. Some of the test types are largely used in screening employees and new recruits as a workplace standard.

Drug lab employee in the chemical laboratory.

How Long Do Drugs Stay in the Urine?

Urine drug test detection times may differ from one substance to the other. The urine test detection times may be as wide as 30 days for marijuana and 3 days for opioids. However, a urine test is reported to be one of the most accurate.

How Long Do Drugs Stay in the Saliva?

The saliva test may not be the most reliable of all tests but is often accurate. The detection window may be as wide as 3 days for morphine and 4 days for codeine.

How Long Do Drugs Stay in the Sweat?

A small but sufficient amount of drug is in a person’s sweat. Therefore, by testing one’s sweat, it is possible to detect the presence of most substances, especially if the drug was in use in the last 24 hours.

How Long Do Drugs Stay in the Hair?

Drug metabolites tend to accumulate and remain in a person’s follicles long after the exposure. Therefore, this technique can be used to test a person weeks or months after exposure to any form of substance.

How Long Do Drugs Stay in the Blood?

One of the most reliable tests is the blood test. Although it is more invasive than other tests, it can better detect drugs and alcohol and provide in-depth information about the substance. The detection window varies and can last as long as 24 hours for Oxycodone or 3 days for Ativan.

The best way to ensure that your system is completely free of any form of illicit substance before conducting a test is to abstain completely from the use of drugs. Abstinence is always the best way to pass a drug test.

If you or your loved one suffers from an addiction, contact a doctor immediately for treatment or advice on the best recovery facility. Help is not too far away.

Sources
  1. The US Food and Drug Administration. Drugs of Abuse Home Use Test. 2018. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/drugs-abuse-tests/drugs-abuse-home-use-test.
  2. Hadland S. E., Levy S. Objective Testing: Urine and Other Drug Tests. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2016; 25(3):549–565. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2016.02.005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920965/.
  3. Jericho Hallare; Valerie Gerriets, Half-Life, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554498/
  4. H A Elsheikh, A M Osman Intisar, I B Eltayeb, A Salam Abdullah, Effect of dehydration on the pharmacokinetics of oxytetracycline hydrochloride administered intravenously in goats (Capra hircus), 1998,
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9703219/
  5. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment, 2006 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64092/
  6. A Sowunmi, T J Rashid, O O Akinyinka, and A G Renwick, Ethnic differences in nifedipine kinetics: comparisons between Nigerians, Caucasians and South Asians, 1995, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1365197/
Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
PG

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.