Over the past several years, there has been an increase in both opiate and opioid abuse and addiction. This stems largely from the misuse of prescription medication since opiates are highly habit forming, although they don’t remain in the system for long.
Opiates are painkillers, which are prescribed to help with pain management, usually after a surgical or other, serious medical procedure. In other cases, they are used to treat moderate to chronic pain in patients. Common prescription medications like morphine, codeine, and oxycodone fall under the category of opiates.
So, just how long are opiates in your system? They have a short half-life, which is the length of time it takes for the drug to be reduced in the body by half. They quickly affect the brain and body and can be detected anywhere from a few hours to several days after use. The detection of opiates in your system is dependent on the kind of testing that’s performed, as well as other factors that are considered on a case-by-case basis. To put simply, though, they can remain in your system anywhere from 12 hours to 90 days after use.
Opiate Testing and Contributing Factors
There are various tests to detect opiates in the system and not all of them have the same timing capabilities. Saliva testing is the most commonly used and can detect opiates for up to 12 hours after the last use. Blood tests also typically track opiates in this same time period, too. Alternatively, urine can track opiates in the system for up to 72 hours after the last use. Finally, there is hair follicle testing, which is less widely used but it is one of the most accurate testing methods. It can detect opiates for up to 90 days after last use.
Opiates don’t fully leave the system very quickly, but there are ways to help the process along. Hydration is helpful because the water helps flush the system of all toxins, including opiates. Exercise can also boost your metabolism to break down the drug faster. While these may help, the effects are likely to be minimal. Plus, there are several, individual contributing factors that determine how long opiates may remain in your system.
Your height, weight, and general health all play a part in how long opiates remain in the body. For example, if you are in good health with a healthy metabolism, you may break down opiates more quickly than someone who is suffering from poor health or a slower metabolism. The length of time opiates stay in your system also depends on how often you’ve taken opiates and how much has been used.
Long-term use means opiates have built up in the system. You may need more of the drug to feel the same kind of high (or relief) you did when first taking them. This tolerance can prolong how long it takes for opiates to be cleared from your body. In short, no two people will be affected by opiates in the same way. There may be similar instances and general timelines to follow, but it all depends on how your body processes the drug. Drug testing in any form may be used for many reasons, such as part of employment requirements or for legal purposes. There is no tried and true way to ensure there won’t be traces of opiates that show up during a drug test except for abstaining from drug use altogether.
Side Effects of Opiate Withdrawal
When you discontinue opiate use, especially after a lengthy period, you will experience opiate withdrawal. This is linked to many painful and uncomfortable side effects, which often deters people from continuing the subsequent detox and rehabilitation phases. Common side effects of opiate withdrawal include muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mood swings, including depression and heightened irritability.
In many cases, withdrawal symptoms can feel like a prolonged, serious case of the flu. It’s important to maintain your fluid and nutritional intake during this time to maintain your health and strength.
Due to the intense nature of opiate withdrawal, it’s highly recommended to go through the process under medical supervision. For the sake of your health and safety, undergoing detox in a treatment facility is a favorable choice. Additionally, you will have the support you need to get through what can be a truly challenging time. Going through withdrawal and ultimately, detox may not be comfortable, but it is temporary and achievable. It’s necessary to go through this first step before you advance in your recovery plan.
Without assistance, many people may go through the withdrawal period and then, relapse. Continued use is what leads to opiate abuse and eventually, addiction. Once addicted, you are at risk for more serious health problems like heart attack, stroke, coma, and in the worst case scenario, death. Fortunately, you have the opportunity to beat your addiction through treatment. There are resources and people ready and willing to help you on your journey.Speak with a treatment specialist today.
Opiate Withdrawal Timeline
The opiate withdrawal timeline varies from person to person. The general withdrawal period begins within 12 to 30 hours after the last time you use. But it depends on how your body reacts to the process, as well as your current environment.
Although self-treatment is an option, it is usually not as successful as care in a treatment facility. If you are part of an inpatient or outpatient program, you are in calm, peaceful place that is conducive to healing and recovery. You won’t have to face the temptations and negative influences that may still be present through self-treatment.
During opiate withdrawal, the first days are the most intense. This is when your body goes through the abrupt change of not having opiates as part of its “normal” routine. Even though it’s not what’s good for your body, it’s what it’s been accustomed to. This 180-turn often come with long bouts of painful or uncomfortable symptoms that will continue as your body works the drug out of its system. In more serious cases, opiate withdrawal may last for several weeks rather than days, although the side effects eventually become less intense.
Going through the opiate withdrawal process under the care of medical supervision is beneficial and recommended for several reasons. First, it allows you to be monitored in a safe and secure environment. Drug addiction can be unpredictable and so can withdrawal. When going through this phase, your body will be under high stress. It’s important for someone to be constantly checking your physical state and making any adjustments as needed.
Secondly, addiction affects how you act, think, and feel. It can feel all too easy to relapse, if you’re not in the right frame of mind to go through the full withdrawal process. At this early period, you don’t have the tools to identify your triggers or give your body time to adapt to a life without addiction. By seeking the help of others, you will have the kind of support that’s proven to be helpful during this stage of recovery.
Thirdly, a detox facility will help keep you as safe and comfortable as possible. This may require administering medication to help with the severity of your withdrawal side effects. It may also mean introducing other ways to lessen the pain and discomfort for you. The time it takes for opiates to be released from the system is only the first phase of healing. It’s practical and more promising when you have people assisting you along the way.
Identifying Opiate Addiction
Opiate addiction affects millions of Americans a year; either directly or indirectly by watching a friend or family member struggle with it. Drug addiction doesn’t “look” a certain way. Every situation is unique and people handle their addiction in different ways, too.
As an example, two people who are suffering from chronic pain may have different pain thresholds. While both people may both be prescribed painkillers to help treat their pain and discomfort, one person may become addicted where the other person does not. Why? One person many decide to take more than what’s prescribed. Opiates are extremely addictive and if taken off a prescribed schedule, the body might think it needs increased doses of opiates more often to feel the same effects as before. This type of use can lead to drug dependency, which ultimately, results in drug addiction.
If you have concerns that a friend or family member has an opiate addiction, look out for behavioral cues. People who are suffering from addiction often experience heightened anxiety, insomnia, and mood swings. Also, if you know the person is going through their prescription medication faster than usual, this can be indicative of drug abuse.
It’s not always easily recognizable, but any unusual behavior involving opiates can quickly lead to more serious problems down the road. Identifying opiate addiction or signs that point to a possible drug dependency is important, in order for the person who is suffering to get the help they need.
Treatment Options for Opiate Addiction
There are many steps to overcome opiate addiction and to achieve long-term sobriety. The first step, drug withdrawal, is necessary before any other phases can begin. Many people become caught in the withdrawal phase and end up relapsing. This is not uncommon and is a setback, not a failure.
Seeking treatment helps to prevent this from happening. It will also encourage you to keep moving forward. There always will be temptations and pressures surrounding you and challenging your sobriety. A treatment program will help to keep you accountable and on track with your progress. It will allow you to focus on what’s most important: your health and well-being.
Following the withdrawal symptoms and detoxification phase, there is the option of entering either inpatient or outpatient care to continue your recovery. Both provide similar benefits. Inpatient care means you will temporarily reside at the place you’re receiving treatment. The benefit of this is that it physically separates you from your current, toxic environment of addiction.
Inpatient care means you are fully focused on yourself and your recovery. These types of facilities are normally in calming environments, such as among the mountains or near a lake, to help further highlight the importance of recovery without chaos.
Inpatient care provides the tools and resources you’ll need to understand your addiction and cope with it in the future. There is individual counseling, group therapy, educational classes, and other opportunities to identify the root cause of your addiction and how it affects your body. Once you can uncover your own triggers and temptations, then you can work on how to face them in the future. There is also time for you to exercise, socialize, reflect, and be mindful of your healing progress. After inpatient care, your world may not have changed, but you will have.
Both inpatient and outpatient care will also show you how to integrate back into your old life without resorting back to your previous lifestyle. Outpatient care includes everything inpatient treatment offers except you do not reside at the treatment facility. It’s your responsibility to check in and check out every day for your appointments and follow your health plan. Many see outpatient care benefits them best, especially if there are other responsibilities they can’t walk away from or if their personal support is at home.
These are all things to consider when you are seeking treatment for opiate addiction. There are multiple options available to you. An inpatient stay is typically 30-90 days, but each situation differs, because your treatment plan is individualized for you. However, the goal of all treatment facilities is to provide you what you need to reach and maintain your sobriety.
Getting the Help You Need
The truth is: addiction is a disease. And like with any disease, it requires a team of people to help you recover. Medical, emotional, and therapeutical assistance is available whenever you are ready to take the first step. It may seem overwhelming, especially in the beginning, but the final reward is worth it. You deserve to build a stronger, healthier life for yourself. It’s time to focus on how you want to build your future.Find hope. Find recovery. Begin a commitment to lifelong recovery today – for yourself, your friend, or for your loved one.
American Addiction Centers. How Long Do Opiates Stay In Your System? Revised Sep. 2018, Accessed March 2, 2016.
Health Line. How Long does Hydrocodone Stay In Your System? Revised Jan. 2018, Accessed March 4, 2016.
Mayo Clinic. Drug Testing- Opiates. Accessed March 4, 2016.
Medicine Net. How Long Are Opiates In Urine? Accessed March 3, 2016.
Drugs And Alcohol Information Support. How Long Do Drugs Stay In Your System? Accessed March 4, 2016.