How Long Do Narcotics Stay in Your System?

Narcotics, also known as opiates, opioids, narcotic analgesics, and opioid analgesics, are a type of medication used to treat mild, moderate, and severe acute pain. Narcotics have a high risk for substance abuse and they have been widely overprescribed and used in the United States, causing more than two million cases of substance use disorder. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that narcotics misuse cost the U.S. an estimated $78.5 billion in healthcare-related costs, which included rehabilitation programs and much more. Criminal justice spending contributes to this number as well. Commonly prescribed narcotics include Hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Narcotics Prescription Facts

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided some shocking facts about narcotics:

  • More than 42,000 U.S. citizens died in 2016 from narcotics -which is roughly 115 deaths per day.
  • Around 30 percent of patients who have chronic pain misuse or abuse their narcotics prescription.
  • More than 10 percent of those patients develop a substance use disorder.
  • Between 75 percent to 80 percent of people who have struggled with heroin use disorder reported that before heroin, they used and abused prescription narcotics.
  • Between July 2016 and September 2017, overdoses from narcotics increased by 30 percent in 45 states.

Narcotics Regulations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated that they are trying to reduce the previously mentioned numbers. As of today, forty-nine states have initiated programs to monitor prescription drugs in order to reduce the number of prescribed narcotics.
In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act passed, providing funding for the NIH, the FDA and the HHS to research narcotics and to provide people with better treatment, prevention and recovery programs. The HHS is also researching better ways to manage pain without the use of narcotics.

Most Commonly Abused Drugs Containing Narcotics

There are many types of prescription narcotics, although some tend to be misused more frequently than others. The most commonly used and abused narcotic drug in the U.S. is Hydrocodone (Vicodin), which has a recorded number of more than 6 billion prescriptions in 2016. Oxycodone (OxyContin or Percocet) is the second most commonly misused narcotic.

Other commonly abused narcotics are:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine

How Narcotics Affect the Brain and Body

When a person takes a narcotic, it causes the body to release endorphins and bind to nerve receptors, blocking pain signals and giving the patient a euphoric feeling. These nerve receptors are mostly present in the brain and spinal cord, but can also be found across other major body parts like the heart and stomach.

Over time, the body builds up a tolerance to narcotics. Once this occurs, a person will take a higher dosage or take the narcotic in a way that is not recommended, such as injecting it or snorting it.

Half-Life of Narcotics

The most commonly reported half-life for narcotics is between 3 to 5 hours; however, it is hard to determine this information since there are so many contributing factors. The way someone takes a narcotic is one major factor that affects the drug’s half-life. If someone administers a narcotic in a way that intensifies and quickens the effect, like injecting it, the drug will have a much shorter half-life. Normally, withdrawal symptoms begin once a narcotic is at its half-life stage.

Factors That Influence How Long Narcotics Stay in Your System

Several factors contribute to the life and half-life of a narcotic.

Some factors that affect the duration of the half-life include:

  • Age of the individual
  • How frequent a narcotic is taken
  • Individual’s rate of metabolism
  • The weight and body mass of the individual

Another factor is the potency and administration method of a narcotic. For instance, if codeine is taken orally, one may begin feeling the effects within the first hour and it could last in the system anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. However, when someone injects fentanyl the effects are felt almost instantly and fade away within the first hour.

Related Topic: How long do opioids stay in your system

How Long Do Narcotics Stay in Your Urine, Hair, and Blood?

The length of time that narcotics remain in urine, hair, or the blood varies depending on the potency of the drug, among other factors.

Hair follicles can show traces of narcotics for up to 90 days. For urine, it is normally between 1 to 4 days. Traces of codeine may be found in urine within 24 hours, while methadone and morphine are present for 2 to 4 days. The amount of time for blood tests to show traces of narcotics can be anywhere from 6 to 72 hours. Ultimately, it depends on the type of narcotic. For example, a blood test for codeine would need to be performed within 12 hours after taking a tablet while morphine traces can disappear within 6 short hours.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, don’t delay. Go online to or call 24/7 to our toll-free hotline at 855-548-9825 to learn more about the road to recovery. We can help you overcome your addiction today.

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.