How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

Hydrocodone is also known as Norco under other trades and have the similar effect: as a painkiller.


Hydrocodone has many brand names. It is a drug that doctors prescribe for those who are experiencing severe pain. Such people usually would need to be on a medication round the clock. But then, what hydrocodone does is that it stays in the system for a long time, thus suppressing pain for as long as it is yet to clear from the body. So then, how long does hydrocodone stay in your system? How long would it take before the pain relief effects of hydrocodone wear out? The answer to this question depends on a few factors. We will discuss all of that in this article.

This medication belongs to the category of pain reliefs called opiate analgesics. The way it works is that it affects how your nervous system and brain interpret pain and respond to it. It comes in the form of tablets and capsules, depending on what you prefer. Some common brand names for hydrocodone tablets and capsules include Zohydro ER and Hysingla. Asides from ‘stand-alone’ hydrocodone, a few products like Lorcet, Norco, and Vicodin combine hydrocodone with aspirin, antihistamines, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. A proper understanding of how long the effects of hydrocodone last in your system can help you avoid overdose, dangerous interactions, and side effects.

How Does Hydrocodone Affect Your System?

Hydrocodone is usually handled with care because it is an opiate. When your doctor prescribes hydrocodone for you, he will start you off on a small dose. He will gradually increase the dose to ensure that your body would tolerate it.

Usually, the drug is packed in extended-release tablets and capsules. You are expected to take it once or two times daily. As soon as you take it, the effects kick in after about 10-20 minutes. The effects gradually increase until it reaches its peak between 30 minutes to 1 hour.

The drug maintains its peak performance for about 4-8 hours before its effects gradually start to dwindle. At this time, the body begins to break it down into several metabolites.

Half of the drug would be broken down in less than 4 hours and cleared out of your system. It is removed from your body via your urine and through your liver.

Hydrocodone does more than just block pain. Remember that it is an opiate. So, it also has a depressing effect on breathing. This could be potentially dangerous if the drug interacts with any medications or substances used to treat breathing conditions like asthma.

Other conditions that call for precaution in the use of this medication include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, head injury, and any form of breathing problem for that matter. If you have any condition of concern, your doctor may choose to closely monitor you when you begin treatment with hydrocodone or when your dose changes.

A common side effect of hydrocodone is constipation. This happens because it somewhat slows down the digestive tract. You can ask your doctors for advice on how you can relieve constipation if you experience it.

Another possible side effect is feeling drowsy. If you experience this, refrain from driving or operating machinery.

You are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing if you stop hydrocodone treatment all of a sudden. You should follow your doctor’s instructions if you decide to discontinue hydrocodone treatment.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay In Your System?

A lot of factors contribute to the exact amount of time that hydrocodone stays in your system. The basic thing is that it would remain in your system until your body excretes it completely.

Hydrocodone would pass through to your urine. Usually, laboratory tests can detect hydrocodone in your system for 3 to 4 days after you take a dose.

Like a lot of other opiate drugs, lab tests can also detect hydrocodone in your hair follicle. You would still test positive 90 days after you take a dose. So then, if you are on hydrocodone treatment and you have to submit yourself for a drug screening test, you should tell them about your prescription.

From what we have said so far, you will realize that hydrocodone can stay in your system for a long time. However, their effects may wear out anytime between 12 hours to 2 days, depending on the dosage and how your body responds to it.

One sure way to know how long a particular drug will stay in your system is to find out its half-life. “Half-life” refers to the amount of time it would take for half of a given drug to clear out from your body.

The half-life of Hydrocodone in healthy adult males is 3.8 hours on the average. This means that it would take 3.8 hours for a healthy adult male to clear out half the dosage of hydrocodone from his system.

But then, remember that each person’s body responds differently to medications and metabolizes them differently. This means that the half-life is not absolute. It would vary from one person to another.

The pain relief effect usually wears out within 6 to 12 hours.  And by the time one full day has passed after the dose, most people would have no hydrocodone present in their blood anymore. But this does not mean it has fully cleared out from the system. It takes much longer for the drug to clear out from urine, saliva, and hair.

Signs of Dangerous Interaction or Hydrocodone Overdose

If you take more of this drug before the last dosage is sufficiently out of your system, you may risk an overdose reaction. Another thing that can cause an overdose is if you crush the pill or cut the capsule open. This would release too much hydrocodone into your system at once.

You should, therefore, always take hydrocodone intact as is. This is one of the ways to prevent overdose.

Symptoms of Hydrocodone overdose, as well as dangerous interaction with other medications, include slow breathing and sleepiness. Other symptoms include cold skin, muscle weakness, and severely reduced blood pressure. If left reversed, it could lead to coma or even death.

How long does hydrocodone stay in your system? It could take a very long time, but you usually should be able to take another dosage within 4-12 hours. But get immediate medical attention if you or someone close to you is suspected to be having an adverse reaction. If caught early enough, it can be reversed by using Narcan.

How long does hydrocodone stay in your system?

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