Article at a Glance:
- Depending on the dose and formulation of hydrocodone, the half-life of hydrocodone can vary from 4 to 9 hours.
- There are many factors that control clearance rates of hydrocodone and how long it will stay in a person’s system.
- Short-acting hydrocodone will stay in your system for around 20 hours. Long-acting hydrocodone can take as long as 45 hours to leave your body.
- Detection windows for hydrocodone vary by the various drug testing methods (urine, hair, etc.).
Table of Contents
Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid in the United States. For this reason, it is common to have questions about how long the medication lasts in your body. Each person is different when it comes to eliminating and excreting hydrocodone from their system, so the drug can remain present for varying amounts of time. In order to get a drug out of your body, however, the first step is to stop taking more of it.
Unfortunately, when a person stops taking hydrocodone, it can cause a number of withdrawal symptoms. To avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms and emergencies, it is important to seek medical attention when discontinuing long-term hydrocodone use.
Half-Life of Hydrocodone
Someone who takes short-acting hydrocodone will usually begin feeling the initial effects within about 60 minutes, and the peak effectiveness of the drug is around two hours. The effects are then experienced for around four to six hours. The half-life of short-acting hydrocodone is four hours, meaning it will take your body about four hours to eliminate half of the drug from your system. Because it generally takes around five half-lives to completely eliminate a drug from your body after the last dose, short-acting hydrocodone will stay in your system for around 20 hours.
Long-acting hydrocodone has a much slower onset than the drug’s short-acting form, taking anywhere from five to 30 hours to reach its peak in the body. The half-life of long-acting hydrocodone is also much longer, ranging from seven to nine hours. This means a single dose can take as long as 45 hours to leave your body.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in the Urine, Hair, Saliva and Blood?
The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which hydrocodone can be detected by various drug testing methods:
- Urine: Hydrocodone can be detected in the urine for one to three days.
- Hair: Hydrocodone, like many other drugs, can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days.
- Blood: A blood test can identify Hydrocodone for up to a day.
- Saliva: A saliva test can find hydrocodone for up to two days.
Factors That Influence How Long Hydrocodone Stays in Your System
There are many factors that control clearance rates of hydrocodone and how long it will stay in a person’s system. It varies from person to person, but the most important factors to consider include:
- Age: Age affects body functions, organs and metabolism, so younger systems typically work better than older ones at clearing the drug.
- Genetics: Genetics play a role in how a person processes, reacts and metabolizes hydrocodone in the body. Genetic makeup is also a factor for predisposition to addiction.
- The function of the kidney and liver: The liver and kidneys are key organs for processing and eliminating hydrocodone from the body. If the liver or kidneys are damaged, the elimination process will take longer.
- Frequency of use: A person who has been using hydrocodone for months or years is understandably going to take longer to eliminate a drug from their body as opposed to a person who has only taken a single dose.
What To Know About a Hydrocodone Drug Test
All drugs have a certain window of detection time, and hydrocodone is still detectable even after you’ve stopped feeling the effects. When someone takes a drug test, it shows whether there is a certain amount of a drug breakdown product in the system. The cutoff level for detection can depend on the specific test and lab that the screener uses.
Hydrocodone Urine Test
The most common form of detection is a hydrocodone urine test. However, a hydrocodone urine test can usually only determine whether someone used the drug within the past few days.
Most of the hydrocodone in a person’s system is eliminated through their urine. Further, hydrocodone’s breakdown products, including one called norhydrocodone, can be detected for up to three days after use in the urine.
Hydrocodone Hair Test
Hair tests for hydrocodone may be used in some cases. For example, a screener may conduct a hair test if they are looking to see if a person has taken hydrocodone over the longer term. A half-inch hair sample can detect the presence of hydrocodone for up to 90 days after the last dose.
Know the Risks
If you are concerned about the presence of hydrocodone in your system, it could be a sign that you are struggling with hydrocodone. As a Schedule II controlled substance, hydrocodone can put you at a high risk of abuse, dependence and addiction.
If you or a loved one struggles with hydrocodone addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and recovery programs that can work well for your needs.
Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, October 6, 2020. Accessed January 17, 2021.
ClinCalc. “The Top 200 Drugs of 2021.” Accessed January 17, 2021.
ClinCalc. “Acetaminophen/Hydrocodone Bitartrate.” Accessed January 17, 2021.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Final Rule: Rescheduling of Hydrocodone Combination Products From Schedule III to Schedule II.” Federal Register, August 22, 2014. Accessed January 17, 2021.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Controlled Substances.” December 21, 2020. Accessed January 17, 2021.
O’Shea, Timothy. “New Jersey Enacts Strict Opioid Prescribing Law.” Pharmacy Times, February 21, 2017. Accessed January 17, 2021.
Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. “Narcotics.” April 2020. Accessed January 17, 2021.
Drugs.com. “Hydrocodone.” August 1, 2020. Accessed January 17, 2021.
University of Iowa Health Care. “Adult Opioid Reference Guide.” June 2012. Accessed January 17, 2021.
Gryczynski, Jan; Schwartz, Robert P.; Mitchell, Shannon D.; et al. “Hair Drug Testing Results and Self-reported Drug Use among Primary Care Patients with Moderate-risk Illicit Drug Use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, May 17, 2014. Accessed January 17, 2021.
ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” January 2019. Accessed January 17, 2021.
Cansford Laboratories. “Oral Fluid (Saliva) Testing.” Accessed January 17, 2021.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.