How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

How long does hydrocodone stay in your system? Read on to learn more about symptoms and treatment options.

What is Hydrocodone Used For?

Hydrocodone is an opiate medication used to relieve severe pain. This medication is generally only prescribed to patients who need strong pain relief that cannot be found in acetaminophen or other over-the-counter pain medication. Hydrocodone is most frequently found in prescription painkillers along with oxycodone.
How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System

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Common Pain Medications that Contain Hydrocodone

The most common pain medications that contain these ingredients are:
  • Norco
  • OxyContin
  • Percocet
  • Percodan
  • Vicodin
A person should start feeling the effects of hydrocodone in a little under an hour after taking it. It works by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. The effects of hydrocodone include relaxation, sleepiness, and euphoria.

What Negative Side Effects Can Hydrocodone Cause?

Not all effects of hydrocodone are pleasant. Even at the recommended dose, a person may experience intense negative effects of hydrocodone. These symptoms can include:
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Back pain
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Muscle tightness

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

Research shows that a ten-milligram oral dose of hydrocodone will reach peak concentrations in the bloodstream in roughly an hour and a half. However, those who take hydrocodone often will most likely build up a tolerance to the drug over time. For these people, it may take longer to feel pain relief, or the relief may not feel as strong.1
The half-life of hydrocodone is relatively short and is around four hours. This means that the average healthy person eliminates half their dose of hydrocodone within that time. It’s important to remember that everyone metabolizes medicine differently, so the exact half-life of hydrocodone varies person to person. For most people, hydrocodone will be fully eliminated from the bloodstream in one day or less. However, the drug can be detected in the system in other ways and for longer amounts of time.


Hydrocodone can be detected in the saliva twelve to thirty-six hours after the last dose is taken.


The drug can be found in the urine for up to four days after the last dose.


Hydrocodone can be detected in the hair for up to ninety days after the last dose is taken.

Is Hydrocodone Habit Forming?

If you or your loved one’s hydrocodone prescription isn’t providing the same level of pain relief anymore, it’s important to consult a doctor before starting to take a larger dose of the drug. Altering the dosage of a prescribed substance without medical intervention and supervision can be potentially dangerous, as your body can easily become dependent on the substance.

Since hydrocodone can be habit-forming, especially if you’ve been taking it for a long time, remember to only take it as directed. Also be sure to discuss with a healthcare provider your pain treatment goals, how long you would like to receive treatment, and alternative pain management options if needed.

If you think you or someone you know may be dealing with opioid addiction, get medical assistance as soon as possible or contact the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. There are resources available to help you and your loved ones; you don’t have to undergo this challenge alone.

Factors that Influence Hydrocodone in System

There are several factors that impact the longevity of hydrocodone in the system. The hydrocodone dosage someone takes may only provide pain relief for a few hours, and in this case, a doctor will likely recommend that the prescription is taken every four to six hours. Doctors may also prescribe extended-release tablets that can provide pain relief for up to twelve hours, depending on what the patient needs.
Overall health and metabolism can also affect how long one feels the effects of hydrocodone in the body. If someone naturally metabolizes the drug quickly, they will feel the effects for a shorter time than others.

Additional Factors that Influence Hydrocodone’s Half-Life

Additional factors that impact the longevity of hydrocodone in the system include:
  • Weight and body fat percentage
  • Liver function
  • Hydrocodone dosage
  • How long someone has used the drug
  • If the patient has ever used other opioids in the past
  • Medical conditions
  • Interactions with other medications
  • Alcohol use

Using alcohol with hydrocodone is dangerous. Some people combine the two substances for a synergistic effect. However, when you drink alcohol with hydrocodone, the effects of the drug are increased. This combination can lead to dangerous side effects and even a fatal overdose.

Symptoms of a Hydrocodone Overdose

It’s important to disclose to your doctor if you or anyone in your family has a history of substance use. It is also necessary to disclose any mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. These factors can make hydrocodone misuse more likely, and telling your doctor can be the first step in preventing addiction and overdose. 2
That said, hydrocodone overdose can and does still happen. In fact, the CDC reported over 500,000 fatal opioid overdoses (including overdoses from hydrocodone) in 2019 alone. 3

Physical Indicators of an Overdose

It is important to know what to look for when identifying an overdose. Hydrocodone overdose symptoms include:
  • Extremely low blood pressure
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Sleepiness
  • Blue skin, lips, or nails

Again, drinking alcohol with hydrocodone increases the risk of overdose, as does using street drugs with a hydrocodone prescription. 4

Symptoms of Hydrocodone Withdrawal

Symptoms of Hydrocodone
Misuse of hydrocodone can quickly lead to addiction. When someone stops using the drug and goes through withdrawal symptoms, the reward centers in the brain, which have been flooded from opioid use, are unable to send pleasure signals on their own, meaning the individual is unable to function normally for a period of time.
Someone who is physically dependent on hydrocodone will likely experience uncomfortable side effects when they reduce their hydrocodone dosage or try getting hydrocodone out of their system. While taking the drug can cause feelings of calm, relaxation, and euphoria, withdrawal causes symptoms that are the opposite: irritation, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. Withdrawal can be attempted alone, but it is always recommended that one goes to a medical facility to mitigate and alleviate many of the symptoms in a safe, secure environment.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Some physical withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking
  • Joint pain
  • Sweating

Which Tests Are Used to Detect Hydrocodone?

You or a loved one may need opioid testing to ensure that you aren’t taking too much of the prescribed medication. Doctors can test for hydrocodone in urine, blood, hair, and saliva.

Often, hydrocodone testing includes a blood test. The blood test can indicate if you are using more of the drug than you should be, which can be a sign of addiction. If this is the case, your doctor may discuss options about lowering your dose, switching medications, and considering counselling to address your substance use.

Treatment at Stillwater Behavioral Health

Stillwater Behavioral Health offers high quality and compassionate treatment for substance use disorders. At Stillwater Behavioral Health, you or your loved one can detox from substances comfortably and with full emotional and medical support at our state-of-the-art detox center.

Stillwater Behavioral Health’s residential care allows you to relax in a tranquil environment as a team of experts supports your unique needs. Your treatment includes around-the-clock support, structure, and routine, and your healing is accelerated with luxury amenities and personalized treatment. To find out more, call 805-572-7911.