Have you recently been in an accident, like a fall or a car crash, and you’re now in constant pain? Or perhaps you’ve had surgery, and you now experience post-operative pain.
In either scenario, your doctor may prescribe opioids. Such medications, if used as directed, can help manage pain.
However, their misuse can also lead to opioid addiction or, worse, deadly overdoses. Therefore, it pays to know how long they can remain in the body.
So, how long do opioids stay in your system, then?
Keep reading to find out (and what you can do to avoid overdose incidents).
How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?
This depends on the specific opioid dose and type. Different drugs have varying half-lives, which is the time it takes for their concentration in the body to drop to 50%. Complete elimination then often occurs after four to five half-lives.
In general, though, the half-life of many opioids can last for several hours.
For example, hydrocodone has a half-life of two to three hours, while oxycodone’s is two to four hours. Fentanyl stays longer in the system, with its half-life being around seven to 12 hours. Levorphanol, on the other hand, has a 12 to 15-hour half-life.
A drug’s half-life also depends on whether it’s short-acting or long-acting. Some are available in both versions, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Long-acting opioids usually remain in the system longer due to inhibited drug metabolism.
Best Practices for Safe Opioid Use
Adverse opioid effects from overdose can be minor, such as euphoria and nausea. However, they can also be severe (e.g., respiratory depression, convulsions, and bradycardia). Worse, many opioid overdose incidents lead to death.
That’s a good enough reason to practice safe opioid use if you or a loved one must take such drugs. Here’s how.
Adhere to Your Doctor’s Instructions
Always read and follow your doctor’s instructions for proper dosing and frequency. This is even more crucial for opioids with both short- and long-acting versions.
If you or your loved one tends to forget things, it’s best to create a journal or a checklist as a reminder. As soon as you’ve taken your prescribed dose, note it, along with the time. This can help you avoid taking more than directed.
Suppose your doctor instructs you to take oxycodone every four to six hours. However, you forgot to take one at 1 PM, and it’s now 7 PM. In this case, take only one dose, not both.
Put Them in Secure Storage
Store all prescription opioids in a medication lock box. Then, hide this somewhere, such as in your bedroom closet. This can help keep children away from them and prevent accidental ingestion.
Prevent Opioid-Related Accidents
As you learned in this guide, the answer to “How long do opioids stay in your system?” depends on the type of drug. In general, though, they can last for several hours, with some, like levorphanol, having a half-life of over half a day.
So, if you’re on an opioid treatment plan, please be careful of your medication. Follow your doctor’s instructions to a T, as this can help you avoid having too much of the drug in your body.
For more health tips like this, check out our other latest blog posts!