How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

hydrocodone pills spilling out of a prescription bottle

Hydrocodone is an opioid medication used to treat pain. It is completely metabolized in the body after 20 hours, but can be detected in a drug test for longer periods of time, depending on the type of test.

The three most common brand names that contain a hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination are:

Recently, two extended-release hydrocodone products have become available. They are:

  • Hysingla ER
  • Zohydro ER

Duration of Effects of Hydrocodone

The effects of hydrocodone peak after about one hour and continue for between 4-6 hours for immediate-release hydrocodone products.

Extended-release hydrocodone products can last either 12 hours (Zohydro ER) or 24 hours (Hysingla ER).

Hydrocodone Half-Life

A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes the body to metabolize half of the original amount of the drug. Half of the original drug remains after one half-life, one-quarter remains after two half-lives, and the body has completely removed the drug after five half-lives.

Hydrocodone half-life is four hours, so the drug is completely metabolized in 20 hours.

How Long will Hydrocodone Show in Drug Test?

Hydrocodone can show up in a drug test between one and 90 days, depending on the test type. The data about how long hydrocodone is detectable is based on information about hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination products.

Newer extended-release forms may be detectable for longer than the times listed below, but we do not yet have enough information to know exactly how long those may be detected.

Urine

Hydrocodone can show up in a urine test for 1-3 days. A urine test usually only detects it for 24 hours but can sometimes be detected for up to 72 hours in heavy users.

Blood

Hydrocodone is metabolized quickly from the blood. Therefore, a hydrocodone blood test can detect it for less than a day (20 hours).

Saliva

Saliva, or oral fluid tests, are very uncommon for hydrocodone. These tests must be ordered specifically for hydrocodone and can detect usage within the last 1-2 days. 

Hair

Hydrocodone may be detected in hair for up to 90 days. During drug use, the drug is deposited into growing hair and remains “locked” into that hair until cut out. Hydrocodone can be detected about one week after use and for three months afterward. However, detection times can be longer for people with slow-growing hair. For a hair test, the last 1.5 inches of hair is tested.

Factors Affecting How Long Hydrocodone Stays in Your System

The single biggest factor that determines the detectability of hydrocodone is how much and how often the drug is used. Heavy users can expect the drug to stay in their system longer than people who use it less regularly and in smaller amounts.

Extended-release formulations of hydrocodone will be detectable longer than immediate-release formulations, but we do not yet have data on exact numbers.

Other factors that can impact the detection window of hydrocodone include:

  • Amount used
  • Frequency of use
  • Method of use
  • Age
  • Overall health

How Hydrocodone is Broken Down in the Body

Hydrocodone is broken down mostly by the liver. People with impaired liver function may break it down more slowly and therefore detection might be longer in people with liver issues. The only way to get hydrocodone out of the system is time. There is no technique or formula that can speed up its metabolism to remove it from the system faster. A typical hydrocodone detox can last up to three days.

Key Points: How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

  • Hydrocodone is fully metabolized in the body in about 20 hours.
  • Hydrocodone can be detected in a drug test for 1-90 days, depending on the type of drug test (urine, saliva, blood or hair).
  • Hydrocodone’s half-life is about four hours for immediate-release products.
  • The only way to remove the drug from the body is time; nothing can speed up the metabolism.

The only sure way to pass a drug test is to stop taking the drug. If you or someone you know needs help with an addiction to hydrocodone, call The Recovery Village Ridgefield. Our addiction professionals can help guide you or a loved one to the program that fits you best.

Cone, E. J, and M. a Huestis.Interpretation of Oral Fluid Tests for Drugs of Abuse.” 1 Mar. 2007. Accessed July 30, 2019.

DailyMed. “Hydrocodone Bitartrate and Acetaminophen Tablet – Package Insert.” 2018. Accessed July 30, 2019.

Psychemedics.Hair Drug Testing Facts.” 2015. Accessed July 30, 2019.

Redwood Toxicology Laboratory. “Laboratory Testing Reference Guide.” 2014. Accessed July 30, 2019.