How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System

Opioid use disorder is a common yet devastating problem in the United States. When you are addicted to opioids, your chances of experiencing an overdose are incredibly high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), opioids were responsible for 80,411 overdose deaths in 2021.

One of the most commonly abused opioids is referred to as hydrocodone. Medical professionals often prescribe it to treat pain under the brand names Vicodin, Lorcet, and Lortab. While hydrocodone is an effective pain medication, it is a controlled substance because long-term use can lead to addiction.

If you abuse hydrocodone, you might be wondering how long it stays in your system. Typically, your body metabolizes hydrocodone within 24 hours. However, drug tests can detect metabolites of the substance for a longer period.

How Long Do the Effects of Hydrocodone Last?

If you take hydrocodone, chances are that you are swallowing a pill. The substance has to pass through your digestive tract before you begin to feel the effects. Typically, hydrocodone will begin working within one hour of taking it.

The common side effects of hydrocodone include:

  • Stomach aches
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Back pain
  • Muscle tightness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Excessive sweating

The effects of hydrocodone usually last between 4 to 6 hours. Taking hydrocodone often increases the risk of developing an addiction. If you are using hydrocodone to experience a drowsy and euphoric high, it might be time to consider substance abuse treatment.

How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

The easiest way to determine how long hydrocodone stays in your system is by looking at its half-life. To explain, a drug’s half-life is how long it takes your body to eliminate half of the substance. It typically takes 4 to 5 half-lives for a drug to be completely removed from your system.

Hydrocodone’s half-life is about 3.8 hours. In other words, hydrocodone will be out of your system between 18 to 24 hours after your last dose.

It is important to note that how long a drug stays in your system varies from person to person. For example, if you have only abused hydrocodone once, it might leave your system faster than a regular user.

What Factors Affect How Long Hydrocodone Stays in Your System?

Several factors can play a role in how long hydrocodone remains in your body. For example, if you are taking a high dose of hydrocodone, it might stay in your system longer than a person who took a smaller dose.

Other factors that affect how long hydrocodone remains in your body include:

  • Frequency and duration of use
  • The dosage consumed
  • Weight and body fat content
  • The speed of your metabolism
  • The function of your liver and kidneys
  • Whether you take other substances regularly
  • Overall health and medical conditions
  • Nutrition and hydration levels
  • The presence of alcohol in your system

It is important to note that while certain factors affect how long hydrocodone stays in your body, there is no way to speed up the process. You might have heard of detox drinks or increasing water intake to pass a drug test. Unfortunately, these methods are not proven and the only way to pass a drug test is to remain abstinent from a substance.

Drug Test Detection Times for Hydrocodone

While hydrocodone is usually out of your system after 24 hours, drug tests look for metabolites it leaves behind in different areas of your body. In other words, sometimes hydrocodone can be detected for a longer period. The detection window will vary based on what type of test is being used.


Urine tests are the most popular form of drug test for a few reasons. They are minimally invasive, relatively cheap, and tend to be reliable. These tests can detect hydrocodone in urine for 1 to 4 days after your last dose.


Saliva tests are not as common as urine tests because they offer a shorter window of detection. That being said, law enforcement often uses them in the field to determine if you are driving under the influence.

Saliva drug tests can detect hydrocodone for 12 to 36 hours after your last dose.


Blood tests are most commonly used in hospital settings to determine if a drug is affecting your current condition and symptoms. Hydrocodone is at the highest level of concentration in your blood about 1.3 hours after your last dose. These tests may detect it for up to 24 hours.


Hair testing is not commonly used for several reasons. First, sending these tests off to the lab to be analyzed can be expensive. Additionally, studies have found that hair tests discriminate based on color, making them unfair.

Some high-clearance jobs might use hair testing because of the long window of detection it provides. These tests can detect hydrocodone in your system for up to 90 days after you last used it.

Finding Help for Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one regularly abuses hydrocodone, you could be struggling with addiction. Any type of opioid addiction puts you at a high risk of experiencing a life-threatening overdose. As a result, you should always seek professional help.

Drug rehab centers can offer the tools and support you need to overcome an addiction to hydrocodone. Contact PAX Memphis today to be connected with a top-rated opioid addiction treatment center in your area.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.