The US is going through opioid epidemics, with a significant number of people abusing them. Thus, opiates have emerged considerable cause of mortality. In fact, now legal drugs kill more people in the US than illicit drugs.
Legal drugs are highly toxic at higher dosages. In addition, they generally have a so-called narrow therapeutic window. Moreover, those dependent on opioids are quite likely to use them at higher dosages due to the development of drug resistance. It means that they increasingly need a higher dosage to overcome pain, withdrawal symptoms, or experience a high.
Fortunately, these drugs are also well studied, and their pharmacology is well known to science. However, it is worth understanding that there are many opiates. Therefore, it is not a single drug rather a name for a group of chemically related drugs.
Thus, there are substantial individual variances in the safety and pharmacokinetic profiles of various opiates. Some stay in the body for a short period, while others may remain for much longer. In addition, of course, some of the illicit drugs are also opiates. Thus, the most commonly abused opiates in the US are hydrocodone, oxycodone, and heroin.
Many factors affect drug metabolism in the body
Fortunately, most opiates are quite readily metabolized by the liver, and the body gets rid of them quickly, though their effect may last for much longer.
It is vital to understand that when drugs undergo metabolism in the liver, they still produce some of the active metabolites, and thus much longer action of the drugs. Most opiates are generally taken as pills, though not necessarily. Thus, heroin can be snorted, injected, or smoked for faster and more predictable action.
There are many factors that affect how long any drug can stay in your body, and there are considerable individual differences:
- Individual metabolic rates differ, and factors like race and genetics play a considerable role in it.
- Body mass also plays a vital role, as it appears that generally, lean people can metabolize drugs faster. However, those with greater body mass may need drugs in more significant amounts to get high.
- Higher body fat content may also slow down the metabolism of drugs.
- Age is another factor, as there is a slow down in metabolism due to aging. That is why older adults are more likely to have high even at much lower dosages than young adults.
- Liver and kidney health plays a central role in drug detoxification. Those living with the diseases of these organs might struggle to metabolize drugs; thus, they may need more time to detoxify the body.
- How frequently opiates are used also influences their duration of action, as multiple dosages have an accumulative effect. Moreover, taking drugs too often may hamper some metabolic processes.
- The quality of drugs matters significantly, especially in the case of illicit drugs.
- The amount of water in the body is another vital influencing factor.
How long do various opiates stay in the body?
Here we look at some of the most commonly used opiates. Among them, illicit drug heroin has an amazingly short-lived action, and the body can get rid of it quite quickly. Generally, in 5-7 hours, most of it has left the body. Thus, it is not detected in saliva tests after 5 hours and in the blood after about 6 hours. However, traces of it remain in the body for much longer, and tests can detect it for a week in urine. Similarly, it may accumulate in the hair and might be detected in them for about 90 days after the last use.
Hydrocodone is among the most commonly abused opiates used to treat painful conditions. Although it is a medication, but most people who abuse it may buy it from illegal sources. A saliva test can detect it for about 36 hours, a urine test for 2-4 days, and stays in hair for three months.
Morphine is another commonly abused painkiller that is detectable n the blood test for about 12 hours and in urine for 3 days or a bit longer. Again for the hair, the time period is 90 days.
Codeine is not just an excellent painkiller but also helps suppress dry cough. It is detectable in the blood for about 48 hours in urine for 24-48 hours. In saliva test for 1-4 days. However, in hair, tests can detect after 90 days.
Oxycodone of oxycontin is detectable in urine 1-4 days after last use. Generally, on average, drug tests may detect it for 3 days. It is present in a considerable amount in saliva for 48 hours. Like all other opiates, it remains in the hair for 90 days.
Finally, it is vital to understand that above are just averages. However, individual differences are immense. Moreover, those who are addicted to drugs are more likely to be tested positive, as their body is slow to metabolize the drugs. Drugs are tested in hair for much longer as they are
metabolically not very active, and the body finds it difficult to get rid of them once the drug has accumulated in them.