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How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Vicodin is a brand name specific formulas like Hydrocodone/APAP or Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen are sold under. Among these components, hydrocodone is an opioid. The combination of Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen in Vicodin makes it a potent analgesic that can alleviate the pain of severe intensity. In 2014, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) reclassified Vicodin from being a schedule 3 drug to a schedule 2 drug due to high risk of abuse, misuse and addiction associated with it. During the year 2010, Hydrocodone was topping the list of frequently abused drugs in the United States. Exceeding the prescription doses is not only harmful but an overdose can also cause immediate death if a patient is not given emergency treatment. The drug comes with a clear warning on the label that Acetaminophen component in improper doses can lead to a permanent liver damage. The long term use of drug is also associated with many adverse effects. It should be taken strictly in accordance with the doctor’s prescription.

How long does Vicodin stay in your system?

When talking about how long will Vicodin take to leave the system, the first thing to made sure is the complete stoppage of drug use. This will lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, the option must be practiced under a proper medical supervision especially if a person has been abusing the drug for long durations. There can be drastic changes in blood pressure that can even be fatal if left unattended so complete stoppage must be medically monitored. However, even after complete cessation, the drug stays in the body for some days. This depends on the half-life of drug.

Vicodin is composed of two active ingredients, Hydrocodone and acetaminophen. The half-life of Hydrocodone is 3.8 hours. So, 50% of hydrocodone will take about 4 hours to get eliminated. For 100% clearance of Hydrocodone, it will require 21 hours. The half-life of acetaminophen is about 2.5 hours; about 98% of the acetaminophen gets excreted in 18-20 hours.

Considering both the components together, Vicodin is said to have a half-life of 4 hours. The complete drug gets excreted in approximately 20 hours. Though, the time taken is subjected to a lot of individual variations. Many research studies have reported the half-life of Vicodin to be about 18.5 hours in some people. However, for a few, the time taken was up to 2 days for the complete removal of the drug.

Factors that influence how long Vicodin stays in your system:

A lot of factors can influence the clearance rate of Vicodin. They are divided into four main categories, individual factors, doses, frequency, and use of other drugs.

Individual Factors:

  • Age:As a person reaches an age of 60+, the ability of the body to actively metabolize the drug is significantly decreased. Young individuals can metabolize the drug at a much faster rate.
  • Body size: A large individual consuming the same amount of the drug will metabolize it at a faster rate compared to an individual of small body size. So a large body size will lead to an early excretion and clearance of drug from the body.
  • Genetics: Some individuals have a more efficient hepatic enzymatic system than others. This is genetically determined by the presence of alleles for such characteristic enzymes. Some people exhibit a poor metabolism because of their less-efficient enzymes compared to average population.
  • Food Intake:Food intake before drug ingestion also influences the pharmacokinetics of Vicodin. A full stomach leads to the slow absorption of the drug as more of the blood is diverted towards the absorption of digested food particles.
  • Liver and kidney Functions:Liver and kidney are the two main organs involved in the direct processing of drug. Any impairment or dysfunction of liver or kidney can lead to the disturbance in metabolism and excretion of the drug. As a result, more time will be taken by the drug to get cleared from the system.
  • Urinary pH:A low pH promotes the excretion of Vicodin. Alkalinity or high pH is associated with more drug reabsorption from the kidney tubules and hence, higher levels of Vicodin in the body.

Frequency of Vicodin use:

The frequent use of the drug requires a lot more time to get cleared from the system. This is due to the fact even before the previous dose clears out from the system, more drug is administrated in the body. As a result,  it starts accumulating in body tissues. Norhydrocodone, a metabolite of Hydrocodone has a strong propensity for accumulation and thus, prolonging the clearance time.

Using other medicines:

Some drugs interact with the enzymes responsible for Vicodin metabolism. Methadone, Codeine, Delavirdine, Yohimbine, Sertindole, and Perphenazine slow down the activity of concerned enzymes. Rifampicin and Dexamethasone tend to speed-up the metabolism of Vicodin.

Vicodin absorption, metabolism, and excretion:

After taking the oral tablets, Vicodin is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. The drug is metabolized by the hepatic enzymes. There are different sets of enzymes that act on the drug to convert it into various metabolites. An isoenzyme acts to convert Hydrocodone into Hydromorphone. Oxidation of Hydrocodone produces another metabolite Norhydrocodone. Some other less significant metabolites include 6-beta-hydrocodol and 6-alpha-hydrocodol. Acetaminophen is acted upon by enzymes to form inactive glucuronide, sulfates, and NAPQ1. The NAPQ1 metabolites are toxic and can cause hepatotoxicity. They are conjugated with glutathione to produce APAP-GSH, which is a relatively safer compound.

Vicodin is excreted through urine. The urine consists of both the components Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen and their metabolites. The unchanged Hydrocodone, norhydrocodone, Hydromorphone, dihydrocodeine, isodihydromorphone, isodihydrocodeine and dihydromorphone are found in urine samples. Moreover mercapturic acid and cysteine are the metabolites of Acetaminophen, which get excreted through the kidneys. The research studies have shown that 70% of Vicodin is eliminated in first 24 hours, followed by metabolites which take about 72 hours to get cleared from the system.

Different types of Vicodin drug tests:

There are many drug tests that are used for the detection of Vicodin in body tissues. These include blood tests, urine tests, hair tests and salivary test.

  • Urine Tests:

It is also called urinalysis. This is a common test used for detecting Vicodin. Since the components are excreted in the urine, this modality is a good way for calculating the levels of Vicodin in test samples. Hydrocodone doesn’t remain detectable in urine samples after 24 hours but its metabolite norhydrocodone can remain recognizable for more than 2 days. For Vicodin, looking for Norhydrocodone in samples is a better way to estimate the drug levels. Some speculate that the drug remains in the urine for about a week after the ingestion. Another thing to take a note of is that females tend to form more Norhydrocdone than males so their urine samples are going to test positive for longer durations.

  • Hair Tests:

The hair follicles of 3 to 6 cm length are collected from the head hair. About 20 to 50 such follicles are collected and sent to the laboratory for analysis. A major drawback is the inability to detect recent ingestion of Vicodin. It is due to the time gap taken by Vicodin to start accumulating in the hair. Hair samples continue to test positive for about 90 days. The detection of Vicodin in the hair samples is confirmed by ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assays) and GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry). The test results are accurate and can be correlated with the amount of ingested Vicodin.

  • Saliva Tests:

A sufficient amount of fluid is collected from the oral cavity and is then sent to the laboratory for testing. Vicodin is a bit difficult to detect in oral samples as compared to urine samples. Hydrocodone and acetaminophen along with their metabolites are the focus of observance in salivary samples. The positive results are achieved within few hours of last ingestion and they stay positive up to 1 day. Metabolites can stay in the oral fluid for a much longer duration i-e 2 days. The GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) technique is used for analysis of salivary samples. The window of detection is smaller than other modalities of testing.

  • Blood Tests:

These are the least performed tests for the analysis of Vicodin. The reason is a short window of detection and invasiveness. Vicodin remains detectable up to 24 hours after the last ingestion. Blood tests become more useful when a person is hospitalized due to cases of overdose or intoxication. They also become important in cases where a vigilant and continuous monitoring of a patient is required.

Tips to clear Vicodin from the system faster:

There are several ways that can be employed to achieve a faster metabolism. The efficacy of these methods is not accurately established and different results can be produced in different individuals. However, a prior medical consultation can improve the benefits of these techniques.

  • Cease the use of drug because as long as it is continued, its complete removal from the system will be impossible.
  • There are medicines and supplements available that can induce the hepatic enzymes concerned with Vicodin metabolism.
  • The acidic or low urinary pH can ensure a faster excretion of drug in comparison to alkaline pH. The acidic pH can be achieved with the help of food and supplements. Care should be taken in this regard as too much acidity can be harmful.
  • Properly hydrate the bodies as it improves urinary flow rates.
  • Exercise is another useful tool to improve circulation, metabolism, and excretion of the drug.