How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Image of vicodin pills next to an image of the human body

Vicodin is a combination of two drugs, hydrocodone and acetaminophen used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol and is not a medication that commonly causes any significant disruptive effects or is checked for in drug screens. Hydrocodone, however, is an opioid pain medication that is potent and its use can cause impaired judgment. Hydrocodone is also a controlled substance. It is illegal to take hydrocodone, or medications like Vicodin that contain hydrocodone, without a prescription. Because the hydrocodone in Vicodin can cause impaired judgment, decreased reflexes or lead to legal issues, people often wonder how long Vicodin stays in their system.

Duration of Effects of Vicodin

Those who have taken Vicodin or have been recently prescribed Vicodin are likely curious regarding how long do the effects of Vicodin last. In healthy people who are not taking other medications, Vicodin will typically be cleared from the bloodstream within 24 hours. However, the length of time varies for each person. If you have a question about your unique circumstances you should speak with your doctor who will be able to review your medical history and tell you what to expect in your particular case.

Vicodin Half-Life

The half-life of a drug is a unit of time and describes how long it takes for the body to reduce the initial amount of the drug by half. Two half-lives would leave a quarter of the initial amount, and five half-lives reduces the amount of the drug to 3.2% — an amount that has a negligible effect on the body.

The half-life of Vicodin is about four hours in healthy adults, making the five half-lives time frame 20 hours. This means that someone who is healthy and takes Vicodin can expect that in 20 hours the amount of Vicodin in their bloodstream will be about 3% of what it initially was. At this level, Vicodin will have essentially no effect on the body.

Vicodin Screening Detection Times

There is no specific Vicodin drug test; any testing for Vicodin is actually a test for the presence of opioids. While Vicodin is cleared from the bloodstream relatively quickly, it can still be detectable in urine, saliva or hair for longer periods of time. This detection period is because Vicodin is absorbed into fat tissues and other areas of the body and then slowly released over time, making it detectable in bodily fluids well after it has been cleared from the bloodstream.

Urine

Because urine drug testing is commonly used as a condition of employment or for legal purposes, people are curious about how long does Vicodin stay in urine. It is typically possible to detect the opioid component of Vicodin in a urine drug test for up to four days after the last dose of Vicodin was used.

Blood

Because the half-life of Vicodin is short, Vicodin will typically stay in your bloodstream at detectable levels for up to 24 hours. Vicodin may be detectable longer, depending on if other substances are used and depending upon your general health.

Saliva

A Vicodin saliva drug test tests for the presence of opioids. Saliva tests are less commonly used than urine or blood tests. Saliva tests will test positive for opioids if you took Vicodin within the last 36 hours.

Hair

It would be very unusual for someone to be required to undergo a hair follicle drug test for Vicodin, but in some circumstances, this form of testing may still be used. Vicodin may be detectable in hair for up to 90 days after the last dose of Vicodin.

Factors Affecting How Long Vicodin Stays In Your System

There are several factors that affect how long Vicodin stays in your system. Some of these factors may make Vicodin last longer than what would normally be expected. These factors include:

  • How often Vicodin is used: Getting Vicodin out of your system will take longer if you are a frequent user. If you use Vicodin regularly, the amount of Vicodin in the bloodstream will be higher and it will affect you for longer than if you took it less frequently.
  • Your overall health: If you have any kidney or liver disease, it may take your body longer to process and eliminate Vicodin, making it active for longer in the bloodstream.
  • Amount of Vicodin used: The more Vicodin you use, the longer it will take your body to get rid of it. If you used a large amount of Vicodin for a long period, the acetaminophen in Vicodin can affect the liver, also prolonging the time it takes your body to get rid of Vicodin.
  • Method of Use: Vicodin comes as a tablet or as a solution, but some may choose to administer it in alternative and dangerous ways. Any way that Vicodin is used that gets it into the bloodstream faster, such as snorting or injecting it, will also typically result in it being cleared from the body faster.
  • Age: It is well known that Vicodin side effects in the elderly can be stronger and more severe. This enhanced risk is because as we age, our liver and metabolism slow down. So as people get older and the body takes longer to process Vicodin, it will stay in peoples’ bloodstream for longer.

False Positives for Vicodin Use

While rare, it is possible to obtain a false positive for hydrocodone, the opioid in Vicodin. Some of the medications or substances that are known to be able to create a false positive for opioids include:

  • Dextromethorphan (often found in cough suppressants)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Poppy seeds
  • Rifampin
  • Quinine

Anyone who has taken one of these medications or eaten poppy seeds prior to taking a drug screen should let the tester know beforehand. 

How is Vicodin Metabolized in the Body?

Vicodin metabolism is controlled primarily by the liver and involves a series of complex chemical reactions that break the acetaminophen and hydrocodone into smaller molecules called metabolites. These metabolites are, or quickly become, chemically inactive and are broken into smaller and smaller molecules so that they can be eliminated from the body in urine.

If you or a loved one struggle with Vicodin addiction, help is available. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to learn how professional addiction treatment can address substance use and any co-occurring mental health disorders. Take the first step toward a healthier future, call today.

Medscape. “Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Rx).” 2019. Accessed July 30, 2019.

Buddy, T. “How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?” Verywell Mind, May 4, 2019. Accessed July 30, 2019.

Food and Drug Administration. “Vicodin.” November 2006. Accessed July 30, 2019.

Cotter, James. “Urine Drug Screening.” Partnership HealthPlan of California, 2015. Accessed July 30, 2019.

Smith, Howard S. “Opioid Metabolism.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. July, 2009. Accessed July 30, 2019.