How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay In Your System?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid drug mainly prescribed to relieve intense, around-the-clock pain.

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid drug mainly prescribed to relieve intense, around-the-clock pain.

Besides helping with pain, especially after trauma or surgery, hydrocodone can help suppress coughing. Its effects are similar to morphine, and users may experience euphoria, pinpoint pupils, and constipation. For some, use can lead to physical dependence, and too much can slow or stop breathing, especially during the first 24 to 72 hours of your treatment. As a result, it’s not recommended for as-needed use.

Hydrocodone Drug Tests

If a person is in rehab or recovery and trying to stay drug-free or applying for a job, they may be asked to take a drug test. Testing may be done if a person arrives at the emergency room and doctors want to determine if they’ve taken anything that could be affecting behavior or if a person is acting in a way that could put themselves or others in danger.

That can bring up many questions, including does hydrocodone show up in a drug test, and if so, how long does hydrocodone stay in your system?  One thing to consider is a drug’s half-life.

Withdrawal symptoms

Doctors often start with a low dose and gradually increase it. Because hydrocodone can be habit-forming, stopping cold turkey isn’t advised. If a person has developed a dependence when they quit, they may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Those can include:

  • Agitation, anxiety, or irritability
  • Sweating or chills
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Quickened breathing
  • A runny nose or watery eyes
  • Muscle pain
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heartbeat

Hydrocodone Half-Life

A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes for a drug to reduce by half in a person’s body. If a drug has a half-life of four hours, half will be metabolized out the bloodstream in that time, and in another four hours, that remaining amount will be halved again, and on it goes.

That knowledge can help with safe and effective dosing. A person’s age, weight, and overall health are something to consider, too, as those kinds of factors can also have an effect. The half-life of hydrocodone is approximately 3.8 hours in a healthy adult.

Hydrocodone Drug Test Detection Time

Hydrocodone can be detected in urine, blood, and saliva, especially when coupled with hydrocodone potentiators. Urine is the most common method because it’s more cost-effective and produces quick results. However, depending on the type of test, false positives can be produced, or some may not be able to detect all opioids.

There are two types of urine drug tests:

  • Immunoassays. These are most common, can be performed on-site, and identify many drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, natural opiates, and PCP. Immunoassays can’t always detect semi-synthetic opioids like hydrocodone. There is a risk of false positives when consumed by something like poppy seeds or some over-the-counter medications.
  • Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. These tests are more costly and labor-intensive but more effective. Suppose an immunoassay test produces a positive result. In that case, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry may be done, since they’re more sensitive and more effective at identifying various opioids or metabolic byproducts of opioids. They also are less likely to produce false positives.

Evidence of most opioids will be strongest for the first day, but they are usually detectable in drug tests for two to three days.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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