How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?
Hydrocodone is an opioid medication used to treat pain and is often combined with acetaminophen. It has a high potential for misuse and abuse, making it a Schedule II medication under the Controlled Substances Act. 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 hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination tablets are:
Two extended-release hydrocodone products are also available:
- Zohydro ER – approved in 2013
- Hysingla ER – approved in 2014
Article at a Glance
- 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.
How Long Does It Take Hydrocodone to Kick In?
Hydrocodone or hydrocodone/acetaminophen typically start to work within 30–60 minutes of taking a dose and peaks, or reaches the highest concentration in the blood, within an hour for immediate-release formulations. For extended release formulations, peak concentration is reached after about 14–16 hours. As with other medications, this can be impacted by a variety of factors like other medications taken, age and whether these medications are taken with food.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Last?
The effects of hydrocodone peak after about one hour and continue for between four and six hours for immediate-release hydrocodone products. Extended-release hydrocodone products can last between 12 hours (Zohydro ER) to 24 hours (Hysingla ER). For these products, the time it takes for a consistent concentration to be present in the blood, called steady state, is approximately two days. After this time, hydrocodone is present at consistent and therapeutic levels in the blood as long as the medication is taken.
As with any medication, many factors can influence the amount of time a medication lasts. Age, height, weight, body surface area, gender, smoking, alcohol use and tolerance to any other opioids can all affect how well this medication works for you and how much of it you will need to take.
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.
The liver mostly breaks down hydrocodone, and as a result, people with impaired liver function may metabolize it more slowly. In people with liver dysfunction, drug tests may detect hydrocodone for a longer time than in someone without 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.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?
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.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Urine?
Hydrocodone can be present in the urine for one to three days after use. A routine opiate panel typically detects morphine metabolites and would not test for hydrocodone or its metabolite. To test for hydrocodone, an expanded opiate panel would be needed, which tests for fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, buprenorphine and tramadol, all of which are synthetic or semi-synthetic opiates. Urine drug tests are minimally invasive and can be done without specialized equipment or personnel.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your Blood?
Hydrocodone is metabolized quickly from the blood and is typically present for 3.4–8.8 hours. This may be helpful to see if a person is currently under the influence of hydrocodone, but it may not be helpful to determine history of use in the last few days. In addition, blood tests require specialized medical personnel and a lab to conduct the test, making this method of drug testing more invasive and expensive than others.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your 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 one to two days. Like urine drug tests, saliva testing is not invasive and does not need to be conducted in a medical facility like a laboratory.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your Hair?
Hydrocodone may be detected in hair for up to 90 days. When hydrocodone is taken, the drug is deposited into growing hair and remains “locked” into that hair until it is cut out. Hydrocodone can be detected about one week after use and for three months afterward. Detection times can be longer for people with slow-growing hair or compromised by chemical treatments like hair dye. Hair follicle testing may help to determine exposure to a drug like hydrocodone but cannot show current use. This type of drug test is usually sent to a lab, and results can take days to weeks.
Factors Affecting How Long Hydrocodone Stays in Your System
The biggest factors that determine how long hydrocodone stays in your system are 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 or 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
- Overall health
If an opioid like hydrocodone is taken for a long period of time or at high doses, the brain adjusts to the presence of the medication, leading to physical dependence. When the medication is stopped or reduced too quickly, this can cause symptoms of withdrawal. Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms typically begin between 6–12 hours after the last dose is taken.
There are many symptoms of withdrawal which are classified as early or late symptoms:
Early symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
Late symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
Hydrocodone is a Schedule II medication under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has a high potential for misuse and abuse. It can be challenging to stop on your own, and we are here to help. If you are considering stopping hydrocodone, consult your healthcare provider or call The Recovery Village Ridgefield today.
Our trained medical professionals can help you or a loved one slowly and safely stop taking hydrocodone while managing withdrawal symptoms. In addition to medications, we offer a full continuum of care that includes medical detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient care and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) to best serve you. We also offer online counseling services so we can help make ongoing treatment more accessible.
- Cardia, L, et al. “Preclinical and Clinical Pharmacology of Hydrocodone for Chronic Pain: A Mini Review.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, October 1, 2018. Accessed March 8, 2022.
- Cone, E. J., & Huestis, M. A. “Interpretation of Oral Fluid Tests for Drugs of Abuse.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, March 1, 2007. Accessed July 30, 2019.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Hydrocodone Bitartrate and Acetaminophen Tablet – Package Insert.” DailyMed, 2018. Accessed July 30, 2019.
- Psychemedics. “Hair Drug Testing Facts.” 2015. Accessed July 30, 2019.
- ARUP Laboratories. “Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window.” October 2021. Accessed March 8, 2022.
- American Family Physician. “Urine Drug Screening: A Valuable Office Procedure.” March 2010. Accessed March 8, 2022.
- Stowe, G., et al. “A Retrospective Analysis of Selected Opioids in Hair of Workplace Drug Testing Subjects.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, April 22, 2019. Accessed March 8, 2022.
- Epocrates. “Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen Entire Monograph.” 2022. Accessed March 8, 2022.
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.