Depending on the drug taken, opioids can stay in a person’s system for a few hours or a few days, long after the effects wear off. Common forms of drug testing, like urine screenings, can detect opioid use for longer, typically up to three to four days, and some tests can detect opioid use as long as three months.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids and opiates are two similar narcotic forms that are made differently. Opiates are natural opioid chemicals from the opium poppy plant. “Opioids” is an all-encompassing term referring to natural opiates and semi-synthetic and synthetic opioids:

Three primary types of opioids are:

  • Natural opioids come from the opium poppy plant. Natural opioids include morphine and codeine and are also called opiates.
  • Semi-synthetic opioids are created in labs and derived from natural opioids. Semi-synthetic opioids include hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and heroin.
  • Synthetic opioids are created in labs and are entirely human-made. Synthetic opioids include fentanyl, methadone and tramadol.

An opioid is any chemical that interacts with mu opioid receptors in the central nervous system, helping relieve pain and sometimes cough. Opioids are typically prescribed to help people with severe or chronic pain control their pain levels, but opioid use can also create pleasure and euphoria. Because of these pleasurable side effects, opioids carry the risk of misuse and addiction.

Common opioids include:

Opioid Half-life

A drug’s half-life refers to the time it takes the body to metabolize and remove 50% of the drug. The drug will be mostly undetectable in the system after five half-lives. The half-life of opiates and opioids differs from minutes to hours.

The most common opioids have the following half-lives:

  • Codeine has a half-life of around three hours.
  • Morphine has a half-life of 1.5–23.9 hours.
  • Heroin has a half-life of about eight minutes, but it metabolizes into morphine.
  • Hydrocodone has a half-life of up to 4.5 hours for short-acting dosage forms of the drug and up to nine hours for long-acting dosage forms. 
  • Oxycodone has a half-life of up to five hours.
  • Fentanyl has a half-life ranging from 13.5 hours for oral dosage forms to 27 hours for the skin patch.

How Are Opioids Metabolized?

The body breaks down opioids similarly. Many opioids first break down into other substances before exerting their pain-relieving effects on the body. These include codeine, which is first broken down into morphine, the active substance in the body. Similarly, heroin breaks down into the active products 6-acetylmorphine, morphine, morphine-3-glucuronide and morphine-6-glucuronide.

The liver and kidneys break down most opioids, which are eliminated through the urine. If you have kidney problems, your doctor may carefully choose an opioid that is safe for you to take and does not accumulate in your body despite your kidney problems. Some examples of opioids that are safe in people with kidney problems include methadone, fentanyl and buprenorphine.

Drug Testing for Opioids

People may be tested for opioids for different reasons, including court-ordered and employer-ordered drug tests. Doctors may also require drug tests to ensure you comply with therapy or rule out that you take drugs other than those prescribed.

One of the most common drug tests is urine, but hair, blood and saliva tests are also used.

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your Urine?

Urine testing is one of the most common forms of drug testing as it is widely available and noninvasive. Codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl can be detected in urine for up to three days, while heroin is often detectable for less than a day. 

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your Blood?

Blood testing is not often used to detect drugs due to its invasive nature and short detection window. When screening for opioids, a blood test can detect opiates’ presence for the following time:

  • Codeine can be detected for up to 3.9 hours.
  • Morphine can be detected for up to 6.7 hours.
  • Heroin can be detected for about 15 minutes.
  • Hydrocodone can be detected for up to 8.8 hours.
  • Oxycodone can be detected for up to six hours.
  • Fentanyl can be detected for up to 12 hours.

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your Saliva?

Saliva tests can detect drugs almost immediately after use. Opioids can be detected in saliva for up to two days after use.

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your Hair?

Hair testing is uncommon compared to other testing options but can detect drug use much longer. The test can typically detect opioids and most drugs for up to 90 days after the last use using a 1.5-inch hair sample.

How Long Specific Opioids Stay in the Body

Factors That Influence How Long Opioids Stay In Your System

Opioids can stay in your system for different lengths depending on many factors, which include:

  • Opioid dose: A higher opioid dose may remain in your system longer than a lower dose.
  • How often you take the opioid: Opioids can build up in your system, meaning if you take the drug regularly, it may take longer to clear than if you take it sporadically.
  • Your age: Opioids may leave the system more slowly in older people than in younger people.
  • Body composition and sex: Some opioids may leave the system more slowly if you have more body fat or depending on gender.
  • Medical history: Some medical problems, like poor kidneys, may make an opioid stay in your system longer than expected.
  • Other medications: If you take other medications, some drugs may make the opioid clear more quickly or slowly than expected.
  • Hydration and nutrition: Someone with poor hydration and a poor nutritional status may not clear an opioid as quickly as someone well-hydrated with a good nutritional status.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Orlando, FL

Opioid abuse treatment usually begins with medical detox. Orlando Recovery Center offers medical detox programs, professional rehab treatment and resources for those with opioid addiction. If you or a loved one misuses opioids, we’re here to provide the support you need for a life of health and sobriety. Contact us to begin your path toward recovery.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
Jessica-Pyhtila
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 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.