How long hydrocodone stays in the body is of interest to many and for various reasons. Some have been addicted and want to know when they will have completed detox. Some are still abusing hydrocodone and want to successfully pass an upcoming drug screen. Still others need to know if it is safe to switch to another similar medication.

Whatever brings you to this question, the answers are telling in many ways. How the body responds to hydrocodone speaks deeply about its profound effects upon anyone who uses it. Of course, the duration of your use and how heavily you have used a medication with hydrocodone in it is important. The body acclimates to an addictive substance like hydrocodone. And, many bodily systems are affected.

The Risks of Hydrocodone Use

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. This means it is derived from the opium poppy plant which produces heroin but undergoes further processing before being distributed as a pharmaceutical pain-reliever. It’s shared origin with heroin is important and greatly informs us of its potential effects.

While medically quite beneficial in the treatment of pain and induction of sedation, in hydrocodone abuse one can develop compulsive use, addiction and many of the bodily damages, and psychological consequences of any addiction to any other powerful narcotic. Consequently, hydrocodone bears a high risk of abuse and addiction for anyone who uses it—whether the drug is medically prescribed or obtained in illegal ways.

Use of hydrocodone can result in a medical condition known as a Hydrocodone Use Disorder. This is a medical term for what we commonly call abuse of or addiction to hydrocodone. Such a disorder can be mild, moderate or severe and is diagnosed when certain symptoms are present in a 12-month period of use. The symptoms include:

  • Cravings
  • Using more or longer than intended
  • Developing a tolerance for the drug that leads to increasing dosages over time
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when the usual dose is stopped or lowered
  • Foregoing usual activities and responsibilities in home, school, work, family or social realms
  • Continuing to use despite wanting not to or knowing physical or psychological harm is being done by use

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Factors Affecting How Long Hydrocodone Stays in the Body

Drugs like hydrocodone have what are known as short half-lives. This means they act quickly and are typically metabolized out of the body quickly—typically within a few hours. The method of use ‘starts the clock’ of metabolizing hydrocodone at different intervals. For example, a pill must be absorbed through the digestive system, not releasing hydrocodone into the system as quickly as intravenous use (injection). The short half-life of hydrocodone leaves one vulnerable to abuse and addiction. One simply wants more frequently if there is a physical and/or psychological gain from its use.

There are also individual differences that affect how hydrocodone is processed in the body. These include an individual’s body size, amount of body fat, organ health, and overall metabolism rate. Other factors determining how quickly hydrocodone is processed involve the frequency of use, the body’s level of hydration, and the usual dosing.

Individual differences also affect how long hydrocodone use can be detected by lab screens. However, there are general guidelines. An oral fluid (saliva) test and a blood for hydrocodone can detect the drug within 15-30 minutes of ingestion. This means that hydrocodone is quickly absorbed. In urine sample testing, hydrocodone is typically detected within 2 hours of use, indicating it leaves the body quickly as well. (1,2).

However, evidence of hydrocodone use continues for some time after last use when lab tests are used. For example, saliva tests may detect hydrocodone up to 3-4 days after use and urine specimens can reveal use for roughly 48 hours. Hair follicle tests can detect use for a longer period, sometimes up to 90 days. (1,2).

If You or a Loved One Needs Help

Recovery is possible with the right help. If you or a loved one needs help to overcome a Hydrocodone Use Disorder, we can help you find effective Hydrocodone addiction treatment. We offer free consultations in which we identify your individual needs, preferences and insurance coverage. We then make recommendations for treatment programs that are most appropriate for you or your loved one. Give us a call today. A hydrocodone-free life is waiting.

1.       Rebecka Coles, Mark M. Kushnir, Gordon J. Nelson, Gwendolyn A. McMillin, Francis M. Urry; Simultaneous Determination of Codeine, Morphine, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Oxycodone, and 6-Acetylmorphine in Urine, Serum, Plasma, Whole Blood, and Meconium by LC-MS-MS, Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 31, Issue 1, 1 January 2007, Pages 1–14,

2.       Megan Grabenauer, Katherine N Moore, Nichole D Bynum, Robert M White, John M Mitchell, Eugene D Hayes, Ronald Flegel; Development of a Quantitative LC–MS-MS Assay for Codeine, Morphine, 6-Acetylmorphine, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Oxycodone and Oxymorphone in Neat Oral Fluid, Journal of Analytical Toxicology,

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