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How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

Hydrocodone is a type of opioid, like heroin, but doctors can legally prescribe it for moderate-to-severe pain. Since it is classified as an opioid, there is the potential for dependence, abuse, and addiction to this drug. This can happen whether it is legally or illegally obtained.

Like any drug, hydrocodone has to be processed out of the body. How long it stays in a person’s system varies according to a range of factors.

What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is a prescription medication that people sometimes abuse. Because it is an opiate, it can produce a sense of euphoria that people seek when they use the medication to get high.
When people take this medication, it is possible to experience side effects that may include the following:

Hydrocodone Side Effects

  • A body part shaking uncontrollably
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Changes in urination
  • Headache or back pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Leg, ankle, or foot swelling
  • Tightening of muscles
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Feeling tired
  • Dry mouth

The half-life of hydrocodone is about four hours, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The half-life is how long it takes the body to remove half of the dosage. For example, if someone takes 10 mg (milligrams) of hydrocodone, after four hours, about 5 mg of the drug has been removed from the body.  When someone takes a dose of hydrocodone orally, they typically start to experience the effects within 30 minutes.

Detox Timeline

As an opioid, hydrocodone results in physical dependence if taken for a sustained period. This dependence can form relatively quickly, often in a matter of weeks. Once dependence has taken hold, withdrawal symptoms will appear as the drug begins to leave the body. Since these symptoms are uncomfortable, they often motivate continued use to keep them at bay.
It is possible to start experiencing withdrawal symptoms within eight hours to 24 hours after someone stops taking hydrocodone, according to Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. Once withdrawal starts, people often experience the effects for up to 10 days.

The following may be experienced:

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Sleep problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Restlessness or anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Increased pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever or sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hallucinations

Because of the challenges of the withdrawal process, it is recommended that people undergo withdrawal at a detox facility. A medically supervised detox program can help people to be more comfortable as they get the hydrocodone out of their system. This increases the likelihood that they will complete withdrawal and avoid overdose or relapse. Medications are often used in medical detox programs.

How Long Does It Take the Body to Process Hydrocodone?

The exact length of time this drug stays in someone’s system ultimately depends on several factors. Among them are:

Factors Affecting How Long Hydrocodone Is In The Body

  • How much body fat a person has and their overall weight
  • Their age
  • How much of the drug they consumed
  • Whether the person consumed other drugs or alcohol
  • What else was in the stomach at the time of consumption
  • Their metabolic rate
  • How they took the drug, such as oral ingestion or snorting it
  • The person’s overall liver or kidney function

Generally, the pain relief effects of hydrocodone can be felt for four to six hours. The drug and its metabolites remain in the body even after the effects have worn off, however.

How Long Can It Be Detected on a Drug Test?

Different types of drug tests can detect hydrocodone for varying amounts of time.

Hydrocodone tends to stay in a person’s hair the longest. On average, hair testing can detect the presence of hydrocodone for about 90 days, according to information presented by Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The other ways to test for hydrocodone usually cannot detect this drug for as long because it has a short half-life. For example, if someone submits to saliva testing, this test can only detect the presence of hydrocodone for about 12 hours to 36 hours.

Hydrocodone may stay in the urine for two to four days, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In most cases, when a test is done for hydrocodone, it is urine that is used to look for the presence of this drug.

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Blood tests are generally not used to look for hydrocodone in the body. This is because they are largely unreliable since the drug’s half-life is so short.

People who plan to go to a treatment facility for hydrocodone abuse or addiction will usually take a drug test when they start the intake process. It is common for additional testing to be administered throughout the program to ensure the person is staying sober.

There isn’t much people can do to speed up the processing of hydrocodone. While various detox kits are sold online, their effectiveness is doubtful.

When a Dose Is Too Large

Again, hydrocodone affects different people differently, so the amount of time it stays in a person’s system will vary. Likewise, the dosage that will trigger an overdose will vary from person to person.
If someone mixes hydrocodone with another substance of abuse, there is a higher chance that they will experience an overdose. In particular, using hydrocodone with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other opiates further increases the risk of overdose since all of these substances can result in respiratory depression. As a result, it is possible for someone to stop breathing during an overdose.

When the brain does not get enough oxygen, it can result in severe injury. In mild cases, people can experience cognitive function issues and motor coordination problems. In severe cases in which a person’s brain went without oxygen for a longer time, seizures, coma, and brain death may result, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Other overdose symptoms include:

Overdose Symptoms

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Intestinal or stomach spasms
  • Vomiting
  • Weak pulse
  • Drowsiness
  • Coma
  • Low blood pressure
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Bluish nails and lips

The dose needed to overdose on hydrocodone depends on several factors, such as how often the person uses opioids and their metabolism. The research into the dose that can cause overdose has not discovered a single number. However, one study discovered that 0.47 mg/L (milligrams per liter) as the average hydrocodone concentration resulted in death, according to research published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.

Any person who thinks they might have developed an addiction to hydrocodone should seek help from a treatment facility. In recovery, you won’t have to worry about possibly failing drug tests. You can enjoy a safe, balanced life of sobriety.