What Are Opioids?
Opioids, sometimes called narcotics, are medications prescribed by doctors to treat persistent or severe pain. They are used by people with chronic headaches and backaches, by patients recovering from surgery or experiencing severe pain associated with cancer, and by adults and children who have gotten hurt playing sports or who have been seriously injured in falls, auto accidents, or other incidents.
Opioids are a broad group of pain-relieving drugs that work by interacting with opioid receptors in your cells. Opioids can be made from the poppy plant — for example, morphine (Kadian, Ms. Contin, others) — or synthesized in a laboratory — for example, fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, others) .
When opioid medications travel through your blood and attach to opioid receptors in your brain cells, the cells release signals that muffle your perception of pain and boost your feelings of pleasure. Opioid addiction can happen after just a week of use. The risk for long-term opioid abuse increases after only five days of taking the medicine. Some people who were supposed to take opioids for only a week are still taking them a year later.
How Opioids Are Metabolized?
The metabolism process determines how quickly a drug enters and leaves a person’s body. When taken orally, most opioids experience first-pass metabolism, meaning a significant portion of the opioid is metabolized by the liver or stomach wall before it enters blood circulation. Intravenous or transdermal administration causes the opioid to immediately enter the bloodstream before being metabolized.
Metabolites, a byproduct of the metabolism process, are usually attached to chemicals such as glucuronic acid before being excreted. However, some chemicals are directly excreted in the urine.
For example, heroin is metabolized by the liver, kidneys, brain, and heart into a chemical called 6-monoacetylmorphine, more commonly known as 6-MAM. The body converts 6-MAM into morphine, and morphine is metabolized by the liver. After morphine is metabolized, the chemical is either excreted in the urine or feces as morphine or it’s attached to glucuronic acid and then excreted. 6-MAM can also be excreted in urine or feces.
Because morphine is a byproduct of heroin, the presence of morphine in a drug test can indicate either heroin or morphine use. 6-MAM is only a byproduct of heroin.
Some opioids, such as heroin or codeine, produce active metabolites that are more potent than the original compound. Heroin and codeine are metabolized into morphine, which can have euphoric or pain-relieving effects on the brain. If the drugs reach the brain before being metabolized, the effects are less noticeable.
Each person’s metabolic rate affects how mildly or severely they experience a drug’s effects. For example, someone who struggles to metabolize codeine may not feel the drug’s effects because the body converts only a small amount of the drug into the active metabolite morphine. On the other hand, people who rapidly metabolize codeine can end up with a dangerously high level of morphine in their system.
Metabolism rates can affect drug tests because someone with a high amount of morphine caused by the rapid metabolism of codeine could be suspected of using heroin. However, that scenario is rare.
Some stores and websites sell products that claim to help a person remove opioids or opioid metabolites from a person’s body. However, over-the-counter detox products are unlikely to help you pass a drug test. Changes in diet or exercise may cause minor changes in how your body removes opioids from its system, but at-home detox strategies don’t cause significant changes.
Factors That Affect Drug Processing
Opiates tend to have short half-lives, meaning that they leave the system quickly, though effects can last for several hours. How long drug tests can detect each opiate varies depending on many factors, including the type of ingestion. For example, prescription opiates typically come in pill form. Taking a drug orally means passing through the digestive system first, so it can take around an hour for the effects to begin. On the other hand, substances like heroin are more often injected, smoked, or snorted. These methods create a much faster and more intense high, and they pass out of the body sooner.
Other factors affecting how quickly an opiate leaves the system include:
- The individual’s metabolism rate
- Body mass and weight
- Body fat content
- Health of the liver and kidneys
- How often and how heavy opiate use is
- Quality of the drug
- Amount of water in the body
Of course, the type of opiate also factors into how long drug tests can detect it. Commonly prescribed opioids include Vicodin—which was discontinued in the U.S. market—OxyContin, morphine, and codeine.
Factors that Influence How Long Opioids Stay In Your System
- How much was taken
- Speed of metabolism
- The dose taken regularly
- The method of administration
- Presence of other drugs in the body
- Medical conditions affecting drug elimination
How long do opiates stay in urine?
Numerous factors determine how long do opiates stay in your system. The most influential factors are the frequency of drug use and the type of opioid. For example, short-lasting opiates such as codeine are only detectable for a few days by most drug tests. Still, long-lasting opioids such as methadone can be detectable for multiple days or one week .
Drug tests are an essential tool that caregivers, doctors, and therapists use to keep loved ones or patients in recovery from addiction accountable. In addition, knowing that a drug test is on the horizon may deter someone from using opiates and help them maintain sobriety. But drug tests aren’t perfect, and many of them can produce misleading results if the person administering the test isn’t aware of the detection window for opioid use. For example, hair and urine tests can detect opioids and opiates in the body for longer periods of time than blood or saliva tests.
Different opioids and opiates stay in the body for various lengths of time. The term opioid refers to drugs that are similar to chemicals found in the opium plant. The difference between opiates and opioids is that opiates occur naturally. Manufactured opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone usually stay in your system longer than opiates.
Heroin stays in your system for a few minutes, but standard drug tests can detect heroin metabolites for about three days. Oxycodone stays in the body for a similar length of time. After last use, it remains in urine for up to three days, saliva for between 24 and 48 hours, and blood for about 25 hours.
Brand name drugs stay in the body for similar lengths as generic versions. For example, Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen) stays in urine for up to three days and in blood for about a day. On the other hand, OxyContin, an extended-release version of oxycodone, stays in the body for eight and 12 hours. Therefore, it can remain in a person’s system longer than generic oxycodone.
Vicodin and other drugs containing hydrocodone stay in your system for a similar amount of time as oxycodone products. Similarly, morphine can be detected by most drug tests for two to three days.
How long do opiates stay in your system urine test?
Opioids represent one of many therapeutic options to treat chronic nonmalignant pain (CNMP) and have been among the most frequently prescribed medications in the United States since the 1990s, with hydrocodone being the second most dispensed medication overall 2015.
In 2015, clinicians in the United States prescribed three times more opioids than they did in 1999 and 4 times the amount that their European counterparts did in 2015. The lack of alternative nonopioid medications to address moderate to severe pain that are equally effective yet safer than opioids partially explains the explosion in opioid prescribing for this population .
While urine drug testing may be contentious, it only remains a supplement to the many other equally important elements that assist the clinician in risk assessing the person when developing or modifying the pain management treatment plan:
- Performing a focused history and physical examination
- Reviewing any available pertinent past medical records
- Reviewing the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP)
- Remaining vigilant for behavior issues (self-escalation, reports of lost or stolen prescriptions, frequent phone calls to the clinic, specific drug requests due to alleged intolerances or allergies, or doctor shopping)
Urine tests can detect codeine for up to 48 hours. Morphine can be detected for 48 to 72 hours. Hydrocodone can be detected up to three days.
How long do opiates stay in your hair?
Hair tests have the longest detection window of all types of drug screenings. Hair tests can detect opiates within seven to ten days after use and for up to ninety days. However, people who have been abusing the drug for an extended period of time may have far longer hair follicle detection windows.
How long do opiates stay in your saliva?
Saliva tests are similar to blood tests because they cannot detect opioids in the system for very long. As a result, saliva tests are rarely used to screen for opioid drugs. Saliva drug screenings may detect opioids for up to 5 hours after a person’s last use. However, saliva tests are very accurate at testing for heroin, so they are a common choice to use if someone suspects that a person has taken the drug in the last few hours.
How long do opiates stay in your blood?
Blood tests are typically only used in a medical emergency where individuals require immediate attention. Furthermore, heroin isn’t detected in blood for very long, so blood tests generally detect heroin for only 5-6 hours after the drug was taken. In rare instances, blood screenings may detect heroin for up to two days. Blood test can detect morphine for six to eight hours in your blood. Codeine can be detected for 12 hours. Hydrocodone can be detected for up to 24 hours. Fentanyl can be detected in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours.
Which Opioids Are The Most Commonly Abused?
Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drug abuse is at epidemic levels. The two represent what a doctor prescribes (prescription medicine) and what you can buy without a doctor’s prescription (OTC). Both have immediate and long-term consequences. The consequences can be serious, even deadly.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids. These include codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and Fentanyl. These are known as pain medicines. They are prescribed by doctors for pain related to surgery, chronic medical conditions, and dental procedures. Addiction to prescription opioids can occur after just a week of use. The risk for long-term opioid abuse increases after only five days of taking the medicine. Some people who were supposed to take opioids for only a week are still taking them a year later.
Current thinking encourages doctors to limit opioid prescriptions to just three days and if they are absolutely necessary. After three days, doctors encourage patients to use OTC pain medicine, such as Tylenol. Other prescription medicines that are abused include sedatives (to sleep), tranquilizers (to relax), and stimulants (to stay awake).
Finding the Next Level of Treatment At We Level Up NJ
If you’re wondering how long do opiates stay in your system and are detected on drug tests, you are also probably wondering how to get the opiates out of your system. Unfortunately, there is no pill you can take or drink you can drink to surely and safely flush opiate metabolites from your system. Instead, the only way to get the drug out of your system is to stop using it and ask for professional help.
If you’ve tried to quit in the past but ended up using heroin again, that’s a clear sign you need professional help. Get them the safest help they need and deserve. Our team at We Level Up NJ specializes in creating an ideal environment and providing effective therapies.