Different doses of hydrocodone stay in the body for varying amounts of time, and individual characteristics like age and genetics can affect drug elimination as well.

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.).

An Overview

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.

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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:

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.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.