How Long Does Lortab Stay in Your System?
By The Recovery Village Ridgefield
Editor Megan Hull | Medically Reviewed By Maureen McNulty
Last Updated: May 26, 2023
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
Lortab, a drug used to treat pain and severe coughing, contains both acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Opioid medications like hydrocodone can cause negative side effects and lead to misuse, so knowing how long Lortab stays in your system can help you take it safely with less risk to your health.
Duration of Effects of Lortab
Many studies have been done to try to determine how long Lortab stays in someone’s system. Lortab starts being processed very quickly, and it can be detected in a person’s blood and saliva within 15–30 minutes of ingestion. Lortab levels peak within a person’s blood plasma in approximately 1.3 hours. If a person has become dependent on hydrocodone, they might start experiencing withdrawal symptoms 6–12 hours after using.
Half-Life or Lortab
A drug’s half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for 50% of the drug to leave the body. Lortab’s half-life can be measured either by the half-life of hydrocodone (3.8 hours) or that of acetaminophen (1.25–3 hours). These numbers are only averages measured in one study, however. An individual’s genetics and history of Lortab use may increase or decrease Lortab’s concentration in their body. A drug’s half-life may also be affected by how it’s measured. For example, the Lortab half-life in urine may be longer — one study found that hydrocodone was more easily detectable in urine than in saliva.
How Long Can Lortab be Detected in a Drug Screen?
How long Lortab can be detected depends on how it is measured. Lortab disappears from plasma within a couple of days, so drug screens that use bodily fluids won’t detect Lortab if someone hasn’t used it recently. Lortab use is detectable in the hair follicles for much longer periods, however.
How long does Lortab stay in your urine? In one study, 85% of the Lortab in urine was gone within 24 hours. Other studies indicate that Lortab is detectable in urine for 2–4 days following last use.
Lortab doesn’t stay in your blood for long periods. Hydrocodone is typically cleared from the blood within 24 hours of using it.
Lortab can be detected in someone’s saliva for up to 48 hours. It may be easier to detect hydrocodone in saliva than in blood.
Drugs tend to stay in your hair follicles for long periods. Drug screening may be able to identify opioid medications up to 90 days after a person has stopped using them.
Factors that Affect How Long Lortab Stays In Your System
Not everyone’s bodies are the same when it comes to how fast they’re able to metabolize a particular drug. Some factors that may change Lortab’s half-life include:
- Frequency and Amount Used: If someone has taken Lortab for a long period or they take a high dose, it will take longer for the drug to be completely flushed from their system.
- Age: People who are older may not be able to metabolize opioids as quickly as people who are younger.
- Polysubstance Abuse: Some drugs may have adverse reactions when they’re combined. Having multiple substances in a person’s system at one time may compromise their ability to metabolize each drug. This includes other prescription drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, and possibly even some over-the-counter medications.
- Overall Health: A person who experiences co-occurring mental or physical disorders may have a diminished ability to clear Lortab from their system.
False Positives for Lortab Use
Codeine and morphine are derived from the poppy plant. As a result, people who have recently eaten poppy seeds may get a false positive when they are being screened for opioid use. Additionally, people with diabetes or liver disease may be at risk for lactic acidosis. This is a process where the body produces too much lactic acid that may also result in a false positive for hydrocodone. Some medications may incorrectly be detected as opioids, including certain types of antibiotics and diphenhydramine, a type of antihistamine medication.
How Lortab Is Broken Down in the Body
The process of a drug being broken down in the body is referred to as its metabolism. Opioid metabolism begins in the liver, where liver enzymes begin to break it down into simpler components. Lortab then gets circulated throughout the body, where it can reach various tissues and organs and is eventually excreted through the urine.
If you or someone you know is worried about Lortab misuse, help is available. Lortab can be very addictive, and it is easy to become dependent on it. If you are struggling to stop using Lortab, call The Recovery Village Ridgefield to learn more about how to become healthier today.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
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Keary, Christopher J., et al. “Toxocologic Testing for Opiates: Understanding False-Positive and False-Negative Test Results.” The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, July 26, 2012. Accessed August 8, 2019.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Oxycodone and Hydrocodone: Detection in Urine, Oral Fluid, and Blood.” June 10, 2014. Accessed August 9, 2019.
Valtier, Sandra, et al. “Excretion Profile of Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone and Norhydrocodone in Urine Following Single Dose Administration of Hydrocodone to Healthy Volunteers.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, September 2012. Accessed August 9, 2019.