What Many Are Asking: How Long Do Opiates Stay in Your System?

By The Fix staff 12/03/18

Anyone worried about passing a drug test or considering entering opiate detox may be interested in learning how long opiates stay in the system.

Woman holding pill in fingers, looking confused, thinking about opiate detox

The opioid crisis has been a huge problem in America for many years now, with thousands of people abusing these drugs in record numbers. It’s such a prevalent issue that according to the stats on CDC.gov, three out of five drug-related deaths are directly due to opioids. With this uptick in usage and deaths from opiate prescriptions, heroin and the synthetic opioid, Fentanyl, it has rightfully been declared an epidemic in this country. That declaration led to the surgeon general releasing the first national advisory in over a decade, stating that Americans should begin to carry the drug Naloxone, which has been proven to reverse an overdose as it is in progress.

Facing the Prospect of Withdrawal

However, even with the staggering number of opioid related deaths, there are still a large amount of people using the drugs in some form or another on a daily basis, which is leading to life threatening addictions. Many of these users might encounter the possibility of taking a drug test, for myriad reasons—to procure employment, to be approved as a caregiver of some kind, or simply because the person has a history that’s created problematic behavior, and someone suspects that he or she is using again. Whatever the scenario, anyone worried about passing a drug test or considering entering detox may be interested in learning how long opiates stay in the system, as well as the detection times for common opiates.

Drugabuse.gov states that, “Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” So breaking it down by category, let’s analyze the amount of time it takes for the body to rid itself of these drugs, and garner a realistic understanding of what it looks like to undergo a drug detox from opiates in a rehab setting.

Prescription Painkiller Detox

Prescription opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin and Codeine all have half lives of about four to four and a half hours, meaning that within four hours or so of the last dose, the drug is half as potent. Usually within about 24 hours of taking that last dose, a person starts to exhibit withdrawal symptoms, and depending how long the person (regardless of whether they consider themselves an addict or not) has been using the drug, this process can last anywhere from three days to two weeks. Withdrawal has often been compared to having a terrible flu, and is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweats, fever and a runny nose—and that’s just a short list of potential symptoms. So people often opt for a medically managed drug detox program to help with the inevitable pain and discomfort.

Heroin and Fentanyl Detox

Heroin and fentanyl have similar withdrawal symptoms to their prescription counterparts, with the worst part being at around the three to five day mark. Typically heroin lasts in the system for about a week, and fentanyl may linger for up to two weeks.

The Psychological Factor

Though the physical experience of going through withdrawal is horrible, it's the psychological aspect that is really the most challenging element of any detox. In fact, The Mayo Clinic reports that opioids cling to the neurotransmitters that release endorphins. After someone takes the opiate for a certain amount of time, the body stops being able to produce endorphins at the same rate, resulting in powerful cravings that push the body to want more and more of those drugs. It’s a very vicious cycle that can get out of hand easily, which explains the devastating death rate associated with opiates.

This is why the need for comprehensive drug rehab is often the only solution to helping people break the ever compelling cycle of addiction and drug abuse, and eventually learn how to live again without the crutch of opioids, or any other harmful substance.

Learn more about Lighthouse Treatment Center on their website or reach them by phone at (877) 959-5909. Find Lighthouse Treatment Center on Facebook and Instagram.

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