How Long Narcotics Stay In System: Narcotics Half-Life

Last Updated: June 3, 2020

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Narcotics are drugs that are used to relax the brain, relieve pain, and induce sleep. They have an average half-life of about 3 to 5 hours and can remain present in the body for many days for patients with accommodating systems. It is important to note that there are different types of narcotics, some of which are long-acting, which means they are likely to remain in the blood for a longer period of time. Traces of narcotics can be detected in the urine, blood, hair, and saliva within two hours of use. Learn about the half-life of narcotics, how long they last in the body, and how to fully flush them out of the system.

How Long Do Narcotics Stay In The System?

Narcotics react similarly to the body’s receptors; however, the duration of their stay in the system can vary. Depending on individual factors such as age, rate of metabolism, and body mass, narcotics can remain in the system for as long as three days. Long-acting narcotics can remain as long as four days, depending on the dose and the frequency of use. Examples of narcotics that are long-lasting include:

Narcotics On The Drug Test

The detection of narcotics via a drug test depends on how much time has passed since taking the drug, the amount of substance, frequency of use, individual metabolism, and other factors. For prescription narcotics like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, they can be detected within 33-54 hours of use. Schedule 1 narcotics like heroin, can be detected within 15-44 hours after consumption.

Urine Test

It is difficult to determine how long narcotics stay in the urine due to individual factors that play a major role. However, they should remain in the urine between 1 to 4 days. Well-hydrated patients have higher chances of excreting toxins a lot faster than less hydrated individuals. Narcotics like heroin, morphine remain in the urine for 1-2 days, while methadone remains in the urine for 2-3 days.

Blood Test

Just like urine, it is difficult to specify how long narcotics will stay in the blood due to the individual differences. Generally, they should remain in the blood for between 6 to 72 hours. During this period, they can be easily detected by a blood test. For narcotics like methadone, it can be detected in the blood after 30 minutes of use and remains in the blood for 2-3 days. Fentanyl, on the other hand, remains in the blood for around 12 hours.

narcotics blood testing

Hair Test

Narcotics remain in the hair follicle for as long as 90 days. During this period, doctors can easily detect traces of them in the hair. To successfully carry out the test, a patient’s hair must be at least 0.5 to 1.5 inches. A person with shorter hair will need to supply more hair for the sample. Unlike saliva, blood, and urine tests, a hair drug test detects regular and long-term drug use. Fentanyl and methadone can remain in the hair for more than 90 days.

Flushing Narcotics From The System

There are various ways to hasten the elimination of narcotics from the system. Listed below are some of the ways that may speed up the process of elimination these drugs out of the system, however, they won’t take the drugs out of the system completely due to a high potency of these medications.

Cut The Source

For someone trying to flush narcotics from the body, the first step to take is to stop consuming. Cut off any access to them. By so doing, the body begins the process of shedding toxins accumulated during previous use. The sooner the source is cut, the faster the body flushes it out.


Staying hydrated is an effective way to speed up the elimination process. Prolonged use can result in dehydration, which lay host to some significant side effects of narcotics. Hence, patients must consume water regularly. Doing this helps to remove chemicals and toxins from the body through the urine. Herbal teas, fruit juices, and vegetable juices may also help remove toxins from the system faster.

hydration for elimination of narcotics

Eat Healthy Food

Eating healthy food is another effective way to flush narcotics out of the body. Patients might also need to avoid sugary foods and fatty foods in general, so the body works on burning off fats it already has, instead of producing new ones.


The need for constant activities cannot be overemphasized. When someone exercises, the body heats up, causing the body to sweat. Sweating helps to eliminate unhealthy toxins through the skin pores. By engaging in exercises, the body fights narcotics sedating nature, which tries to limit physical activities.


Sauna is another effective way to eliminate these substances from the body. Through sauna bathing, the body excretes massive amounts of perspiration, resulting in the removal of unwanted waste products from the body.

Eliminate Narcotics From The System Safely

It is highly recommended to avoid tapering off these medications without supervision of medical specialist, stopping to take them cold turkey or using any substances that are supposedly designated for self-detoxification, as this may lead to severe consequences.

Their use for a time, longer than prescribed or with exceeded dose may lead to the rapid development of drug tolerance and addiction. For a patient that is already addicted, enrolling for medical treatment in a rehab facility is the way to go. There are numerous rehabilitation centers available to choose from in the U.S.

Page Sources

  1. Cone EJ, Dickerson S, Paul BD, Mitchell JM. Forensic drug testing for opiates. V. Urine testing for heroin, morphine, and codeine with commercial opiate immunoassays. 1993.
  2. Toxicology screen. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2019.
  3. Richard D Lennox, Marie Cecchini-Sternquist. Safety and tolerability of sauna detoxification for the protracted withdrawal symptoms of substance abuse. 2018.

Published on: October 11th, 2019

Updated on: June 3rd, 2020

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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