How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid misuse, taking time to learn more about opioids—like how long do opioids stay in your system—can help you take the first step toward lasting recovery.
How long opioids stay in your system depends on several factors, including:
- The frequency of use
- The amount being taken
- The duration opioids have been used
- The type of opioid taken
- The gender, age, and overall health of the person
- The person’s metabolism rate
- The person’s weight and body mass
- The amount of body fat
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a general term that is used to describe opiates and opioids. Opiates are naturally made drugs that come from the opium poppy plant and the plant’s seeds. Opioids are synthetic or semi-synthetic drugs manufactured in a laboratory that mimic the effects of opiates.
Some of the more common opiates you may know are codeine, heroin, morphine, and opium. Some examples of opioids you may have heard of include hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, and buprenorphine.
The Dangers of Using Opioids
While opioids can help relieve pain and discomfort, they can be highly addictive. Even when taken as prescribed, there is a risk of becoming dependent on the drug in as little as ten days. The longer you take opioids, the more likely you are to develop an addiction to them.
Effects on the Brain and Body from Using Opioids
Opioids contain compounds that bind to opioid receptors on nerve endings and neurotransmitters found in the brain, central nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract. Opioid receptors affect several functions, such as pain, stress, gastrointestinal functions, respiration rates, pleasure, and mood. Once opioids activate the receptors, they cause a series of reactions that affect the transmission of signals sent to the brain. Primarily, they numb pain receptors to alleviate pain.
Another effect of opioids is increasing the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Elevated levels of dopamine cause us to feel relaxed and calm and create sensations of euphoria. The brain remembers the effects of opioids as a rewarding or positive experience. As a result, the brain will gradually develop a craving for the drug, enticing you to use it again.
Why Are Opioids Addictive?
Opioids are addictive due to the pleasurable effects of pain relief and euphoria. Unfortunately, the longer the opioid use, the greater the tolerance. As a result, people will no longer believe the drug is working since they no longer experience pleasure when taking it.
Therefore, they will start to self-medicate and take higher dosages to achieve the original sensations they enjoy. Continued use then leads to dependence and, eventually, addiction. In cases of opioids use without a prescription, the risk of developing an addiction is even greater.
How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?
Most opioids have a short half-life, meaning the effects experienced only last a few hours and usually no longer than six hours. However, as mentioned previously above, how long opioids stay in your system is based on several factors.
For example, if you are misusing heroin, you can experience the effect within a few minutes of using heroin. A typical heroin high can last four to six hours before it wears off. Yet, the drug can still remain in the body for 24 to 72 hours after the last use. Heroin can even be detected in hair follicles up to three months later.
On the other hand, if you are misusing hydrocodone, the effects of the drug start to dissipate after about six hours. However, the drug is still detectable for up to three days in saliva, four days in urine, and 90 days in hair follicles.
As you can see, even though the effects of the opioid wear off in several hours, the drug is still detectable in the body much longer. Unfortunately, people with opioid use disorder take more opioids to offset the unpleasant and undesirable withdrawal symptoms as soon as the drug wears off.
Detoxing from Opioids
Detoxing from opioids should never be attempted on your own. The changes the drug causes in the body can result in severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, medically supervised detox is the safest way to detox from opioids.
Medically supervised opioid detox includes the use of MAT (medication-assisted treatment), which provides access to non-additive medications that mimic the effects of opioids to help you safely wean off the drug while reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms, which could include:
- Cold and Flu-like Symptoms
- Muscle Cramping
- Elevated Pain
- Elevated Blood Pressure/Heart Rate
- Mood Swings
- Intense Cravings
The physical detox symptoms usually peak in about seven to ten days before they gradually subside. However, psychological symptoms, like cravings, can last several months or longer.
Find Help for Opioid Addiction with At-Home Detox in Beverly Hills, CA
Whether you became addicted to opioids from taking a prescription or using them illicitly, MD Home Detox can help you safely detox from the comfort of your home in Beverly Hills or the Los Angeles area. We provide access to concierge-level at-home detox programs that include the use of MAT. Our experienced healthcare providers work with you to determine the most appropriate detox treatment plan. Contact us today.