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a bottle of opioids spill out over a drug test result form

How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?

One of the early steps in seeking help for opioid abuse is to confirm that misuse is happening. Do opioids show up in drug tests? Yes, and conducting a drug detection test is often the best way to confirm opioid abuse. With that said, there are some things you should know about how long opioids stay in your system as well as which kinds of tests are most effective at detecting their presence.

What Are Opioids?

When the term “opioids” is used, it is referring to a class of drugs used to help treat pain, be it from injury, disease, medical procedure, or some other reason. They are highly effective at their stated medical purpose and can be incredibly helpful for individuals struggling with pain, especially those who live with chronic pain. 

With that said, opioids are perhaps equally known for their addictive qualities. From codeine to heroin and fentanyl, this class of drugs is at an incredibly high risk for abuse thanks to the feelings of calmness and peace that they incite. 

Factors Impacting Opioid Retention Rate

It can be difficult to determine exactly how long opioids will remain in someone’s system because there are a plethora of factors to consider, including:

  • The amount of opioids taken.
  • The weight of the individual in question. 
  • The speed of the individual’s metabolism. 
  • The regularity with which the dose is taken.
  • The method by which the dose was administered. 
  • The presence of any other drugs in the individual’s body.
  • The age of the individual in question. 
  • The ethnicity of the individual in question. 
  • The presence of medical conditions like kidney problems that might affect drug elimination.
  • The individual’s gender.

As you can see, there are quite a few things that can affect just how long opioids remain in someone’s system. Giving a precise number here is, therefore, just about impossible, however that doesn’t mean that we can’t determine an estimate.

Some opioids have a longer effect timespan than others, for example, and that alone can help narrow down the window within which opioids will be detected in someone’s system.

Close up of a doctor holding a test tube

Drug Testing for Opioids

The most common types of drug tests are urine testing, saliva testing, and blood testing. These are the most widely available and affordable options, with urine testing kits, in particular, being sold in pharmacies across North America. Hair testing is also used, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree. 

Urine Testing 

Because drug byproducts are sent through the kidneys as the substances are metabolized, urine testing is quite popular and fairly effective. It is the most widely available and commonly used drug testing method. 

Saliva Testing 

Saliva testing is an option for non-invasive drug testing, however, it is not particularly reliable. The problem is that its ability to detect drug use has a much smaller window than urine testing. That means that unless the drugs being tested have been consumed within a few hours of the test administration, they might not be accurately detected.

Hair Testing

Hair testing is a useful testing method if you’re hoping to catch use that might have been happening months ago. It is less common than urine testing as it is both a bit more expensive and less practical for daily use (most people want to know if someone has been using recently as opposed to several months in the past).

Blood Testing

Blood testing is more effective than other testing methods, however, it is also more expensive and therefore less widely used than the other options. When it is used, however, it paints an accurate picture of an individual’s recent drug use and can even provide the levels of drugs in their blood.

Opioid Effect Duration

Opioids all work in the same way, but they often have different effect durations. This time is often measured by the amount of time it takes to eliminate the half-life of the drug. This refers to the amount of time it takes the body to metabolize and subsequently eliminate half of the dose originally taken.

It usually takes about five half-lives for a drug to be completely eliminated from the human body, and there are three different classifications of half-lives pertaining to opioids: short-acting, long-acting, and rapid-onset.

White pills on a table. In order to figure out how long a specific opioid will remain in someone’s system even independent from the factors described above, you need to know that particular opioid’s half-life. 

Long-acting opioids include oxytocin, Butrans, and methadone. Short-acting opioids include codeine, hydrocodone, and morphine, and sublingual and intranasal fentanyl are rapid-onset. Here are some of the generally detectable timeframes for common opioids, but keep in mind that the exact time will depend upon the factors mentioned above.

How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?

Opioid (synthetic) or Opiate (natural)

Detectable Up to






1 to 2 days

1 day

1 to 4 days


2 to 3 days

12 hours

4 days


Heroin (semisynthetic)

2 to 7 days

6 hours

5 hours

Hydrocodone (semisynthetic)

2 to 4 days

1 day

12 to 36 hours

Fentanyl (synthetic)

1 day

12 hours

unreliable test,
not applicable


Note that not every form of drug test is ideal for every opioid. Sometimes one test simply isn’t reliable, and you’ll need to look at another method. Let’s take a look at some of the more common drug testing methods available.

Medical Detoxification Safely Eliminates Opioids 

Medical detoxification or detox is a supervised procedure that rids the body of toxic substances, including addictive opioids and opiates. It helps reduce cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms to help a recovering addict get through recovery safely and much more effectively.

If you or someone you know is experiencing opioid addiction and is asking, “how long do opioids stay in your system?”, then you need to look into medical detoxification services.

Freedom From Addiction has a medical detox facility in Toronto that implements a customizable program to match every individual’s treatment requirements. Because of this, we are able to help addicts recover faster, and when paired with a Continuing Care Program, can improve long-term sobriety.

If you are ready to surrender opioids, call or send us a message today. Our team of experts are available 24/7 to help you get your life back so you can have a better future⸺free from addiction.



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