How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

A saliva test can detect hydrocodone for up to two days after last use, and urine tests can detect it for up to three days. The opioid remains detectable in hair samples for about three months.
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The addictive painkiller hydrocodone is found in popular medications such as Vicodin and Zohydro. The length of time hydrocodone stays in your system is influenced by a number of factors, including body weight, metabolism and history of opioid use.

How long hydrocodone is detectable in your system?

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic prescription opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is one of the most commonly prescribed opioids in the United States and the main ingredient in the popular painkiller Vicodin.

Generic hydrocodone has a short half-life that ranges from 1.25 to three hours, which means it takes about that long for half of the drug’s concentration to be eliminated from the body. Drugs with a shorter half-life generally have a greater addiction potential than substances with a longer half-life.

Hydrocodone Detection Times

Hydrocodone can be detected in the urine, saliva and hair. Urine and saliva tests can signal the presence of the drug for several days after it was last used. However, the detection window for hair tests is much longer.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your Urine?

Toxicology tests can generally detect hydrocodone in the urine for up to three days after last use. Urine tests, the most popular tool for drug screening, are effective at detecting short-term drug use. However, they are less effective at detecting long-term drug use.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology examined how quickly the body excretes a 10-milligram dose of hydrocodone in the urine. Researchers found that the medication reached peak concentrations in the urine from 3.5 to seven hours after last use. Among the seven study participants, hydrocodone remained detectable for a range of about two to four days.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your Saliva?

Oral tests that use a swab to collect a saliva sample from the inside of the cheek can detect hydrocodone for up to 48 hours after last use. Saliva testing typically is more effective than urine testing at detecting drugs taken within the past three days.

In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Opioid Management, researchers tested for hydrocodone and its metabolites in more than 258,000 urine and saliva samples collected between March and June 2012. The results showed that the positive detection rate of hydrocodone was much lower for oral fluid tests than for urine tests.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your Hair?

Drugs such as hydrocodone can be detected in the hair for up to 90 days after last use. Because of this lengthy detection window, hair screenings are an effective method for identifying long-term substance use.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology analyzed the hair of admitted opioid users for hydrocodone and its metabolite hydromorphone. According to the results, hydrocodone was present in 24 hair samples. Though other studies have analyzed hair samples to detect hydrocodone, this was the first to measure hydrocodone and hydromorphone concentrations among self-reported opioid users.

Factors that Affect How Long Hydrocodone Stays in Your System

The length of time hydrocodone stays in your system varies by person.

A number of factors can affect how long the drug stays in your body, including:

  • Body fat content
  • Weight
  • Liver function
  • Metabolism
  • Length of use
  • History of opioid use

A person’s overall health and history of substance use are also important factors in the detection window for hydrocodone. For example, the drug may metabolize differently in people addicted to alcohol than in healthy individuals. Mixing alcohol and drugs such as hydrocodone can lead to overdose.

How Long Do the Effects of Hydrocodone Last?

The effects of 5 to 10 milligrams of hydrocodone generally begin about an hour after administration, and peak effects occur after about two hours. The drug’s effects may last from four to six hours.

The effects of extended-release hydrocodone tablets last longer than those of immediate-release versions of the medication. Zohydro ER, an extended-release brand of hydrocodone bitartrate, can control pain for up to 12 hours.

If you use hydrocodone products and are concerned about passing a drug test, you may be experiencing issues related to prescription drug addiction or dependence. Professional treatment can help you safely detox from hydrocodone and teach you ways to address your problems without using opioids.

In addition, rehab centers provide medications to reduce hydrocodone cravings and teach useful strategies for preventing relapse. The combination of detox, medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapy may greatly increase your likelihood of maintaining long-term sobriety.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer,
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

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