How Long Are Opioids in Your System?
The length of time opioids remain in someone’s system depends on many different variables. How long an opioid can be detected through a drug screen also depends heavily on the test itself as well as the test subject’s health and pattern of opioid use.1
This page will discuss:
- How drug screens test for opioids.
- How detectable certain opioids are.
- Give a general detectability window for opioids based on the types of drug screens.
- Explain the various factors that influence how long drugs remain in someone’s system.
Will Opioids Show up on Drug Tests?
In general, a urine drug screen that tests for the presence of multiple drugs will only detect metabolites of natural opioids, that is, codeine and morphine. This includes the ability to detect certain semi-synthetic opioids, like heroin, because it metabolizes to morphine.2
There are, however, panels available that more specifically detect semi-synthetic (e.g., oxycodone) as well as synthetic opioids (e.g., methadone, fentanyl).2
How Long Will Opioids Show up on Drug Tests?
It’s impossible to give an exact answer as to how long a drug will be detectable in an individual’s system because there are many variables that effect detectability.1 However, there is a generalized detection window for opioids for each testing method.
Typically:3, 4, 5
- Opioids are detectable in urine drug screens for about 3 days.
- Tests that analyze hair follicles can detect drugs used repeatedly for up to 90 days after use.
- Drugs are detectable in a saliva test for 24-36 hours after the last dose.
- Blood tests have a very narrow window of detection of up to 12 hours. However, this window may be much wider for patients that use opioids chronically.
Which Opioids Do Drug Tests Check For?
Drug tests may screen for different opioids, depending on the laboratory and the panel used. Common opioids that are detected in drug tests include:6, 7, 8
Some common drug screens are unable to detect synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone, buprenorphine, or fentanyl. However, more stringent tests—such as the ones used by law enforcement, doctors, or certain employers—can detect these substances.9, 10
Opioids used medicinally and in recommended dosages may be detected by a drug test. If this happens, an additional test will likely be required, and the patient may have to provide their prescription. The concentration of opioids in their system will also be considered.10
What Factors Impact How Long Opioids Stay in Your System?
Every individual will metabolize opioids at a different rate, which determines how long drugs will be detectable with a drug screen. The duration of time it takes for someone to metabolize opioids is dependent on a number of variables, including but not limited to the:1, 11
- Person’s age, sex, and genes.
- Patient’s liver health.
- The amount of body fat.
- Pattern of (frequency and dosage) of opioid use.
- Half-life of the opioid taken.
- Route that the opioid was administered.
Characteristics of a drug test that may affect detectability include the:
- Type of test administered (i.e., saliva, urine, hair, blood).
- Cut-off concentration of the test (i.e., predetermined threshold of the concentration that will flag as positive).
- Sensitivity and specificity of the test.
- The concentration of the saliva, urine, hair, or blood that was tested.
How Can You Get Opioids out of Your System Faster?
The internet is full of ill-advised and misguided methods promising to rid the body of opioids or other drugs at a faster rate, or on how to “fool” a drug test. Most of this advice is unhelpful and some of it can even be dangerous.
The fact of the matter is that even if someone was to dilute a sample, switch a sample with a synthetic replacement, or tamper with the sample, drug screens have methods to detect this.12
How to Make Detoxing from Opioids Easier
When someone has been using opioids for a prolonged period of time, there is a high likelihood they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit or drastically reduce their use. This can happen even when someone has been taking opioids according to a doctor’s recommendations.13
Withdrawal from opioids is not usually life-threatening, though it can be painful and unpleasant. Common symptoms include:14
- Abdominal pains.
Sometimes these symptoms can be so severe that they cause someone to relapse and return to opioid use.14
For those who have attempted to reduce their opioid use and have been unsuccessful because of severe withdrawal symptoms, medical detoxification can make the process safer and more comfortable. In a medical detox facility, staff can monitor the patient, respond immediately to emergencies, and administer medication to mitigate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as necessary.14
While medical detox is an important step towards treatment of an opioid use disorder, it’s rarely sufficient by itself in helping a person achieve long-term sobriety. That is why continued treatment in a rehabilitation program after detox is crucial.15
Opioids and other drugs of abuse affect behavior and the way the brain functions; they can even alter the brain’s structure. Once a patient is sober after detox and no longer contending with acute withdrawal symptoms, symptoms as a result of drug use will likely persist. It is with further treatment and various therapy methods can shift someone’s thought and behavioral patterns, enabling them to recognize and overcome the triggers and ways of thinking that led them to use.15
Long-term maintenance treatment or other medication-assisted treatment methods may also be necessary for some patients.15
If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s not too late to get help. Please reach out to one of our Admissions Navigators at for more information.