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How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

Hydrocodone is a popular prescription medicine for the management of moderate to severe pain. It is also used as antitussive in the cough syrups. It is a semi-synthetic opioid drug that is synthesized from an opioid alkaloid (codeine), which is derived from the opium poppy. The drug binds to the mu-receptors and delta-opioid receptors. The onset of action starts in few minutes of ingestion and feelings like intense euphoria, pleasure, and relaxation get elicited in the user. This has led to its abuse by many people. Hydrocodone has been classified as the schedule II drug, which means it carries a high potential for abuse and addiction. The user becomes liable to develop early tolerance and physical and psychological dependence on the drug. The long-term use is associated with neurophysiologic symptoms and impaired memory. To avoid the deleterious effects of Hydrocodone, it is important to clear the drug from the system.

How long does Hydrocodone stay in your system?

Quitting the drug leads to a number of drastic signs and symptoms, known as withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, the discontinuation process must be carried out under the proper medical supervision. After the administration of Hydrocodone, the drug components linger in the body for some time before they get out of the system. It depends on the half-life of drug.

The research studies have established the half-life of Hydrocodone as 3.8 hours. It shows that 50% of Hydrocodone will take about 4 hours to get cleared from the system. To fully excrete the drug, it will require about 20.9 hours. Some sources suggest a range of 3.3-4.1 hours to be a more accurate figure. It means some individual can excrete the drug quickly in about 18.5 hours and others in 22.5 hours. Most of the users’ clear drug in one day, others may take about 2 days. This delay is due to Norhydrocodone, a metabolite of Hydrocodone.

Factors that influence how long Hydrocodone stays in your system:

A number of factors influence the clearance of drug from the body. Some of these include individual factors, dosages, frequency, and duration of use of drug.

Individual Attributes:

Two persons consuming the same dose of drug will have slightly different clearance rates of the drug. This is due to the following factors.

  • Age:As the person grows older, the body’s physiologic performance declines and it cannot metabolize the drug as efficiently as in the younger people. This results in an increased clearance time taken by elderly people.
  • Body size: People having a larger body size tend to exhibit a faster metabolism and excretion of Hydrocodone.
  • Genetics:The genetics also play an important role in determining the elimination of drug from the body. Based on the specific alleles present in people, they get categorized as rapid or slow metabolizers of Hydrocodone.
  • Food Intake:The type of food intake also influences the drug absorption. An empty stomach leads to a faster absorption whereas a heavy intake of carbohydrates slows down the process of absorption.
  • Liver and Kidney Functions:These are the two organs involved in the processing of Hydrocodone. Any degree of impairment or dysfunction can proportionally reduce the rate of metabolism or excretion of the drug, respectively.
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):People having a high BMR tend to eliminate the drug at faster rate in comparison with other people. The BMR, in turn, depends on the genetics of people and other factors such as exercise, drugs, supplements, and diet.
  • Urinary pH:People having acidic urine can eliminate Hydrocodone more efficiently in comparison to people having a more alkaline pH of the urine.

Frequency of drug use:

A person using a drug regularly versus a person who uses occasionally will demonstrate a large difference in the clearance time of drug. Infrequent users can clear the drug within a single day. On the other side, the frequent users will take more than 2 days after the last dose.

Taking other medicines:

There are many drugs or supplements that can affect the metabolism of Hydrocodone. They can either enhance the metabolism or reduce it. It is due to a number of interlinking enzymatic processes. Medicines such as Citalopram, Paroxetine, Fluoxetine, Codeine, Amiodarone, and Methadone can slow down the hepatic metabolism of Hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone absorption, metabolism, and excretion:

The drug is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract after the oral administration. The peak levels in the blood are attained in approximately 1.3 hours. Hydrocodone then gets metabolized in the liver by the action of hepatic enzymes.

The O-demethylation of Hydrocodone takes place to produce Hydromorphone. The N-demethylation of Hydrocodone produces another metabolite, Norhydrocodone. Other metabolites of comparatively less significance include 6-beta-hydrocodol and 6-alpha-hydrocodol. The half-life of Hydrocodone is 3.8 hours and the half-life of Norhydrocodone metabolite is about 8 hours. It means Hydrocodone will take about 2 days to get eliminated from the system.

Excretion takes place through the kidneys. The concentration of Hydrocodone is about 6 to 20%, Norhydrocodone is 2-14%, and Hydromorphone is 5% in the urinary samples of individuals. The concentration of each metabolite is variable based on many factors. Generally, women produce more of these metabolites due to a greater density of the enzymes involved with Hydrocodone metabolism. The research has confirmed that 70% of the metabolites are excreted in first 24 hours and the rest get cleared in 72 hours.

Different types of Hydrocodone drug tests:

Hydrocodone is not tested on standard drug screening tests (SAMHSA-5 panel) as it doesn’t breakdown to produce morphine. Many other types of tests are available that can be used for testing the presence of Hydrocodone in the body system. Urine tests, saliva tests, hair tests, and salivary tests are the common testing modalities used for this purpose.

  • Urine Tests:

The urine samples are collected and sent for urinalysis in the laboratories. It’s a common modality of testing due to convenience and non-invasiveness. Since the majority of the drug gets excreted through kidneys, urine samples are effective for testing Hydrocodone. The drug remains detectable for up to 2 days after the last dose. Some studies have detected the presence even up to 7 days of the last dose. One thing to note is that Hydrocodone can test positive for longer durations in the females and carry a more probability for positive urine tests of Hydrocodone.

  • Hair Tests:

About 20-50 hair follicles are collected from the scalp of the user. They must be at least 3 cm in length. A drawback associated with the test is its incapability to detect a recent ingestion. This is because hair takes some time to accumulate the drug. The hair follicle tests stays positive for about 90 days. Some of the techniques that are used for hair analysis are ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assays) and GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry). The amount of drug in hair samples is proportional to the ingested amount of Hydrocodone. Hair tests are expensive but are accurate and provide a longer detection period for Hydrocodone.

  • Saliva Tests:

An adequate quantity of oral fluid is collected from the person. Salivary tests are not as popular in cases of Hydrocodone as it is more difficult to detect the presence of the drug in comparison to other testing modalities. However, the advantage is that the positive results can be attained within few hours of last ingestion. Hydrocodone stays detectable for one day whereas Norhydrocodone can be identified for up to 2 days. The drug usually doesn’t get secreted in saliva so detection window is short. GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) technique is used for the detection in salivary samples.

  • Blood Tests:

This is not a preferred modality of testing for the detection Hydrocodone. The reason is the invasive nature and a short window of detection. Hydrocodone becomes detectable in blood in about 1.5 hours and stays identifiable for about 24 hours after the last ingestion. The tests are, however, reserved for the hospitalized patients. They are used for determining precise levels and monitoring of drug levels in case of toxicity and overdose.

Tips to clear Hydrocodone from the system faster:

Several ways are present that can enable a faster clearance of drug from the body. Some of the tips are really obvious and others don’t have an established efficacy. Many require a prior proper medical consultation before implementation.

  • Stop the use of the drug but it should be done under a medical supervision as the withdrawal symptoms can be harmful to the person.
  • Enzymes enhancers in the form of medicines or supplements are available that can expedite this process. However, a medical consultation is mandatory.
  • A low urinary pH can enhance the excretion of drug from the body. Alkaline urine causes the retention of the drug within the system.
  • Adequate hydration can speed-up the elimination of the drug from the system.
  • Exercise is another important tool to improve the circulation of blood throughout the system and thus, effective functioning of liver and kidneys.