How long does hydrocodone stay in the body?

Understand how long hydrocodone stays in your system for drug testing. Learn about addiction signs, risks, and treatment options for informed decision-making.

Ophelia team
hydrocodone cough syrup pouring into spoon
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Fact checked by
Mena Soliman, NP

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid that is prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. It is part of the group of medications known as opiate (narcotic) analgesics that also include other strong pain medications, like morphine, codeine, and oxymorphone. As an opioid, hydrocodone use carries significant risks of dependency and addiction. This risk is why doctors generally only use hydrocodone to treat patients whose pain cannot be managed by other medications or treatments. 

Patients who are currently taking or planning to take hydrocodone may wonder about the drug’s effects on the body and how long those effects last. This information is essential to anyone subject to drug testing. So, how long does hydrocodone last?

How long does hydrocodone stay in your system? 

Half-life is the most common metric for understanding how long a drug stays in a person’s system. This metric measures how long it takes for the concentration of a drug in the patient’s body to go down 50 percent. The half-life of short-acting hydrocodone is between three and a half to four and a half hours, on average. In other words, patients have half as much active hydrocodone in their systems around four hours after taking the drug. The half-life of long-acting hydrocodone is longer, averaging between seven to nine hours

It takes much longer for a person’s body to eliminate hydrocodone completely. The body should process all or nearly all of the drug within 18 to 24 hours. However, some drug tests may still be able to detect hydrocodone in the patient’s body after 24 have passed. Different drug tests have different detection timelines, so it’s essential to consider the sensitivity of the type of test the patient is subject to. 

How long does hydrocodone stay in your urine?

In general, urine drug tests have a reasonably short detection window and are the most common form of drug test. Hydrocodone should only stay detectable in your urine for two to four days. After this period, a urine drug test for hydrocodone should come back negative. 

How long does hydrocodone stay in your blood?

Blood tests tend to have even shorter detection timelines for hydrocodone than urine tests. 24 hours after taking hydrocodone, the drug should no longer be detectable in the patient’s blood. As early as nine hours after the last use, the hydrocodone may be gone from the bloodstream. 

How long does hydrocodone stay in your saliva and hair?

Saliva drug tests should only detect hydrocodone for 12 to 36 hours after last use. The one drug test that can detect hydrocodone for a long time after the last use is a hair test. Hair tests can detect hydrocodone for up to 90 days after the patient last used the drug. These detection periods for hydrocodone are similar to those for other semi-synthetic opioids, like oxycodone

The detection window for hair drug tests is so much longer than for the other three test types because the strand of hair retains information about a person’s drug use from when it was growing. Even though the hair grows out, it still contains detectable amounts of the drugs a person was using up to 90 days ago. 

Signs of hydrocodone addiction

Like other opioids, hydrocodone can be habit-forming. The opioid crisis has drawn attention to the significant risks of opioid use, including hydrocodone use. One of those risks is developing opioid use disorder (OUD), even without misusing their prescribed hydrocodone. Some patients even express reluctance to take any opioids, regardless of their doctor’s prescription and supervision, due to the addiction potential. 

For those who do choose to take hydrocodone, it’s important to know the possible signs of hydrocodone addiction. Recognizing the signs early on can help patients get the treatment they need and reduce the risks associated with OUD. Watch out for these common indicators of hydrocodone addiction:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Slowed breathing
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

If you notice that you or a loved one is developing these symptoms, contact a medical professional as soon as possible. It may be possible to adjust your hydrocodone prescription or your entire pain management plan to address these symptoms. And with severe symptoms like seizures, consult emergency services right away. 

How to reduce the risks of hydrocodone addiction

While addiction is always a risk with hydrocodone use, there are ways to reduce that risk significantly. The number one step patients can take to bring down their risk of hydrocodone addiction is to take their medication exactly as prescribed. Do not change the dose or use hydrocodone prescribed for someone else. If your pain management needs change, reach back out to your medical professional so they can adjust your prescription as necessary. Deviating from your hydrocodone prescription on your own only increases the risk of addiction. 

Healthcare providers also have the responsibility of educating themselves about the risks and signs of hydrocodone addiction. They must maintain open, honest lines of communication with patients so they can notice and take action if those signs appear. 

Treatment for hydrocodone addiction + OUD

Hydrocodone addiction and OUD can feel insurmountable, but help is available. Ophelia offers customized treatment plans for OUD that combine ongoing support from your virtual care team with Suboxone® or another buprenorphine-naloxone medication. These medications for addiction treatment (MAT) are available online, so you don’t even have to leave your home to get started

We’ll get to know your needs and set up a schedule for you to meet with a dedicated care team virtually. Our goal is to make sure you have the guidance and support you need to leave OUD in the past.


Treatment that works is right at your fingertips.

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