How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your System?

Are you curious about the question “How long do opioids stay in your system?”. In the realm of pain relief and management, opioids stand as a powerful class of drugs with both benefits and risks. Knowing the duration of opioids in your system is vital for several reasons. It can help you understand how long the effects of the medication may last, guide safe dosage adjustments, and also shed light on drug screening results.

In this post, we will delve into how long opioids stay in the body, discussing the factors that influence their detection and clearance. We will also explore the different types of opioids and their varying half-lives.

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Opioids, a class of powerful pain-relieving drugs, have become both a medical blessing and a societal challenge. Derived from the opium poppy or synthesized in laboratories, opioids are prescribed for managing pain after surgery, injury, or for chronic conditions like cancer.

However, their potential for abuse and addiction has led to a significant public health crisis. Opioids have been reported to contribute to the high overdose deaths in the United States. In fact, more than 80,000 people died from opioid overdose, according to studies.

Common opioids include both prescription medications and illicit drugs. Here is a list of some well-known prescription opioids:

Meanwhile, some common illicit opioids include heroin, illicitly manufactured fentanyl, and carfentanyl.

How Do Opioids Work?

Opioids bind to specific receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body known as opioid receptors. By doing so, they alter the perception of pain and induce a sense of euphoria. This interaction also affects areas responsible for controlling breathing and other vital functions.

Opioids can produce various side effects, ranging from mild to severe. It’s important for individuals taking opioid medications to be aware of these potential side effects. Recognizing these side effects is important for both healthcare providers and patients to avoid any complications.

Common Side Effects of Opioids

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icon depicting nausea and vomiting

Nausea and Vomiting

icon drowsiness or sedation


drug abuse results to allergic reaction

Itching or Skin Rashes

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Dry Mouth

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Difficulty Urinating

icon breathing difficulties

Respiratory Depression

Long-Term Effects of Opioids


With prolonged use, the body may develop tolerance to opioids, requiring higher doses to achieve the same pain-relieving effects. This can contribute to an increased risk of overdose.

tolerance results to taking more drug

Opioids have the potential to cause physical or psychological dependence, as the body adapts to the drug’s presence.

medical staff monitoring the progress of patient

Opioid Use Disorder is a clinical diagnosis characterized by impaired control over opioid use, continued use despite harm, and craving. It is a serious medical condition that may require comprehensive treatment.

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Opioids can affect cognitive function, leading to issues with memory, attention, and decision-making, especially with long-term use.

person experiencing anxiety and depression-a symptom of withdrawal

Opioids can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

couple in bed experiencing sexual issue

Opioids can disrupt the normal function of the endocrine system, which is the system of glands that produce hormones. This can lead to a number of problems, including hormone imbalances, sexual dysfunction, and infertility.

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The duration opioids stay in the system varies based on factors such as:

  • Type of opioid
  • Dosage
  • Frequency of use
  • Metabolism
  • Liver function
  • Overall health

Generally, opioids are detected in urine, blood, saliva, and hair drug tests, providing insights into their presence over different time frames.

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Urine?

As mentioned earlier, the length of time opioids stay in urine depends on several factors. In general, opioids can typically be detected in urine for the following approximate time frames:

  • Short-Acting Opioids (ex. Heroin): 1-3 days
  • Intermediate-Acting Opioids (ex.Oxycodone): 1-4 days
  • Long-Acting Opioids (ex. Methadone): 2-7 days or longer

Standard urine drug tests often screen for specific opioid metabolites rather than the opioids themselves. Common metabolites include morphine (from heroin and codeine), oxymorphone (from oxycodone), and hydromorphone (from hydrocodone).

Other Drug Detection Window for Opioids

blood testing

  • Short-Acting Opioids: 6-12 hours
  • Intermediate-Acting Opioids: 1-3 days
  • Long-Acting Opioids: Up to 7 days or longer
saliva testing

  • Short-Acting Opioids: Up to 3 days
  • Intermediate-Acting Opioids: Up to 4 days
  • Long-Acting Opioids: Up to 7 days or longer
Hair Testing

Hair follicle tests can detect drug use over a more extended period, typically up to 90 days. However, the detection window may vary based on the length of the hair sample and the rate of hair growth.

Understanding the concept of half-life is essential when gauging the duration of opioid presence in the body. Half-life refers to the time it takes for the concentration of a drug in the body to decrease by half. Every opioid has its unique half-life, depending on its type.


Short-acting form: 1.5 to 4.5 hours; Extended-release form: 8 to 19 hours.


Immediate-release form: 3 to 4.5 hours; Extended-release form: 4.5 to 5.5 hours


8 to 22 minutes (as heroin is quickly converted to morphine in the body)

Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

Oral: up to 42 hours; Injectable: up to 60 hours; Transdermal: up to 26 hours


Short-acting forms: 6 hours; Long-acting forms: 11 hours


Oral: up to 13.5 hours; Nasal sprays: up to 25 hours; Transdermal: up to 27 hours

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Understanding the duration opioids stay in the system is closely tied to the withdrawal process. Withdrawal symptoms can manifest as early as a few hours after the last dose and may include restlessness, muscle aches, insomnia, nausea, and irritability.

The timeline for opioid withdrawal varies but typically peaks within 72 hours and may persist for up to a week or more.

Individual factors, including the type and duration of opioid use, can influence the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms. Seeking medical guidance during this challenging period is advisable to ensure a safer and more comfortable withdrawal process.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is often employed in an addiction treatment plan to treat OUD and help manage withdrawal symptoms. Some examples of approved medications include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

How long does opioid withdrawal last?

As a general guideline, opioid withdrawal symptoms often begin within a few hours to a day after the last use, peak within 1 to 3 days, and gradually improve throughout 5 to 10 days. However, certain symptoms, particularly psychological symptoms like cravings and mood disturbances, may persist for an extended period.

Opioid overdose remains a grave concern, particularly with the rise of illicitly manufactured opioids, such as fentanyl. An overdose can lead to respiratory failure, unconsciousness, and, in severe cases, death. Recognizing the signs of a drug overdose, including slow or erratic breathing, pinpoint pupils, and confusion, is vital for prompt intervention.

Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, can reverse the effects of an overdose if administered promptly. Having naloxone readily available and knowing how to use it can be a lifesaving measure in emergencies.

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For those grappling with opioid dependency, seeking professional help for detoxification is a crucial step towards recovery. Opioid detox programs, offered in various healthcare settings, aim to manage withdrawal symptoms and provide emotional support during this challenging period.

Our addiction treatment centers located in Scottsdale, Arizona have medical detoxification integrated into comprehensive treatment programs for opioid addiction. In addition, our team of compassionate staff can help clients transition into rehab safely.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it’s not too late to seek help. Reach out to us today and start your journey to recovery.