How Long Opioids Stays In The System? Opioids Drug Testing

Last Updated: June 12, 2020

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

More than three prescriptions for opioids were dispensed by each patient who had used these drugs within the United States in the year 2017. Studies show that at least 17% of the adult population in the country had one or more prescription for these medicines filled in the year as well. If one was prescribed with these medicines the right question to ask is how long do opioids stay in the system because opioids drug testing often look for these substances. Find out how long do opioids stay in urine and other samples that may be collected from the body for such a test.

How Are Opioids Metabolized In The Body?

Different types of opioid drugs that can be prescribed to individuals who present with pain symptoms. The same goes for illicit types of them, as heroin would only be one particular example of such drugs. These opioid drugs work differently in the body and, in turn, opioids stay in the system for different amounts of time.
Understanding how different types of opioid analgesics and even the illicit forms of the drugs are metabolized is the first step to take when trying to determine how long the chemicals will remain in a person’s system. The specific way that these chemicals are metabolized also play a role in determining how long opioids stay in urine, compared to other samples that may be requested from the patient.

doctor explain the human body

The chart on opioid metabolism  provides more details on how different medications are metabolized by the human body:

Name Primary Metabolite Minor Metabolite
Codeine Morphine Hydrocodone
Morphine N/a Hydromorphone
Hydromorphone N/a N/a
Hydrocodone Hydromorphone & norhydrocodone Dihydrocodeine
Oxycodone Oxymorphone & noroxymorphone N/a
Naloxone Noroxymorphone N/a
Heroin 6-MAM & morphine N/a

Factors That Influence How Long Opioids Stay In The System

When opioids are used, there are various factors that can have an impact on how long the chemicals found in the drug may remain within a person’s body. This is one particular concerning issue when looking at opioid crisis facts. People with a slower metabolism, for example, maybe more likely to overdose on these drugs.
In these cases, opioid overdose treatment might become a necessity to avoid potentially life-threatening complications.
Opioid legislation also advises on specific amounts of drug levels when action is taken against drug addicts. Individuals with a faster metabolism may find that the chemicals leave their body faster compared to a person with a slow metabolism.

 patient explaining issues to doctor
Apart from the fact that a person’s metabolism may play a role in how long opioids stay in the system, there are other factors that may also have an effect. These include:

  • The weight of the patient, as individuals with a larger body, may take longer to metabolize the chemicals.
  • The amount of medications that were taken, as the body would have to metabolize more chemicals when a higher dose is used.
  • How the drugs were administered also affect how long they will remain active in the body of the person.
  • The individual’s age may also play a role in this particular factor.
  • If there are other drugs present in the person’s system, then these may have an effect on how the body will metabolize them.
  • Certain medical conditions, such as problems with the individual’s kidneys, may also impact how quickly the body can flush the drugs from the system.

Detecting Opioid Use

Various samples of the individual who have potentially used these medications can be used for testing. An opioid drug test can be performed on a urine sample, as well as on saliva and even a hair sample.Blood samples, in some cases, may also be utilized in order to determine if a person has used these medicines within the last few days (or weeks, depending on the sample used).

This is especially important when looking at questions like how long do opioids stay in urine. The chemicals tend to be eliminated from saliva faster, but does remain in urine for a more extended period of time.
Below is an overview of the detection methods that can be used to determine if opioids in urine or other samples are present at any given time, as well as how long the chemicals will be detectable in each sample.

Testing Sample Detection Time
Saliva Sample 24 to 36 hours
Urine Up to 72 hours
Hair Up to 90 days

Flushing Opioids Out

Even though there are certain drugs, such as the use of rapid opiate detox methods, where naltrexone is often utilized, that may assist with reducing the withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using these meds, the chemicals will continue to stay in the system, in urine for example. As previously stated, the opioids in the body system can also be detected in hair samples for a significant period of time.

giving a consultation to a patient
Several factors should be considered, including the context-sensitive half time opioids have in the body. Furthermore, an understanding of the difference between opioids and opiates is also needed. These factors will show a person that it would not be genuinely possible to flush out them faster:

  • Individuals who are unable to stop using opioid drugs might have developed an addiction.
  • When the individual stops the use of the medicines, opioid withdrawal treatments may be needed. In this case, drug abuse treatment would be preferred as this can help to provide the individual access to the right therapeutic services needed to overcome the addictive behavior successfully.

People can opt for substance abuse rehab or an outpatient treatment center, but this will ultimately depend on how severe the addiction is that they have developed.


Page Sources

  1. Carreño JE, Bobes J, Brewer C, Alvarez CE, San Narciso GI, Bascarán MT, Sánchez del Río J, 24-Hour opiate detoxification and antagonist induction at home--the 'Asturian method': a report on 1368 procedures, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12006220
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prescribing Practices: Changes in Opioid Prescribing Practices, https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing/prescribing-practices.html

Published on: September 17th, 2019

Updated on: June 12th, 2020

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.

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