How Long Opiates & Opioids Stay in Your System

How Long Opiates Opioids Stay in Your System

How long do painkillers last? How long do opiates or opioids stay in your system? These are common queries, both for people wanting to manage pain with over-the-counter or prescription remedies and those struggling with opioid addiction.

Opioids that leave the system fast may not be detected on a drug test done at the wrong time, leaving someone potentially without the support they need. Opioids that stay in the system for a long time could react with other drugs, causing additional medical issues.

Summit Detox brings you expert info on opioids, how long they stay in the system, and some useful insights into opioid addiction.

If you or someone you love is addicted to opiates and needs help now contact us today at 888-995-5265. If you have insurance from a major provider some or all of your treatment may be covered. Click here to complete our no-cost, 100% confidential insurance verification form so you or a loved one can start treatment today.

Further reading: How to Identify Drug Addiction in Your Loved One

Opiates vs. Opioids: What’s the Difference?

You may hear medical professionals refer to both opioids and opiates. They are not interchangeable terms, although they are related.

Opiates are any substance derived from the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. Opium itself is one such substance, which is a morphine-based latex used to produce other drugs such as heroin. Although it’s highly processed, heroin is still classed as an opiate, as are morphine and codeine.

Opioids are drugs that bind to receptors in the brain in the same way as opiates, but they may be synthetically created. Opiates actually fall under the umbrella term of opioids because they all bind to the opioid receptors in the brain and help manage pain levels, among other effects.

Examples of Opioids and Opiates

Many opioid painkillers are in circulation and often misused, which the FDA refers to as the Opioid Crisis. It’s useful to know which drugs are classed as opioids, particularly if you are concerned that someone you know may be taking too much of a particular drug or if you need support yourself. Common prescription opioids include:

  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Dilaudid
  • Methadone

Heroin is also an opioid, but one that is only available illegally. However, all opioids can have severely negative effects if misused, including death.

How Long Do Painkillers Last and What Affects This?

Understanding how long painkillers last requires a general understanding of the factors that impact how quickly your body processes any substance. These factors include:

  • Body mass
  • Health
  • Age
  • Dosage
  • Regularity of dose
  • Other medications taken
  • Diet
  • Level of hydration
  • Other lifestyle choices, such as alcohol consumption
  • Sex or gender (hormonal differences could impact how you process some chemicals)

Opioid and Opiate Half-Life

Understanding the question, “How long do painkillers last?” means understanding the half-life of particular substances. The half-life is a term for how long something lasts before your body processes it into its constituent chemicals. It can also indicate how long the effects of a substance may last. Here is the half-life for some common opioids:

  • Tramadol: 6-11 hours, depending on the dose and how often it’s taken
  • Fentanyl: Up to 27 hours for the skin patch, but only 13.5 hours if taken orally
  • Oxycodone: Up to 5 hours
  • Morphine: Anywhere from under 2 hours to over 23 hours, depending on dosage
  • Codeine: Up to 3 hours
  • Buprenorphine: Up to 60 hours when injected, but only 26 hours when applied via the skin
  • Dilaudid: Around 2.3 hours
  • Methadone: Highly variable, ranges from 8 to 120 hours

If you searched “How long do painkillers last?” today because you or a loved one is struggling with opioid use, please get in touch. Our substance abuse treatment options provide the basis for full recovery from opioid addiction and include both detoxing and residential treatments. Call us at (888) 995-5265 for more information.

Opioids in Different Bodily Fluids

Why is this important? Somebody you love may insist they have a clear drug test, but the test may not show opioids with a short half-life, depending upon the type of test taken. Drug tests are often done on urine or blood, but there are occasions when breast milk may be tested too.


Here is how long you should expect the following opioids to remain traceable in the urine after the last use of the drug:

  • Tramadol: Up to 4 days
  • Fentanyl: Up to 3 days
  • Codeine: 1-3 days
  • Buprenorphine: Up to a week, with by-products traceable for up to 14 days
  • Dilaudid: 1-3 days
  • Methadone: Up to 14 days
  • Heroin: Less than a day


Most substances disperse from the blood much quicker than from the urine, so it’s far more common to have a urine test done to detect traces of opiates or opioids. However, these are the durations the following opioids may remain in the blood:

  • Tramadol: 8-10 hours
  • Fentanyl: Up to 12 hours
  • Oxycodone: Up to 6 hours
  • Morphine: Up to 6.7 hours
  • Codeine: Up to 3.9 hours
  • Buprenorphine: Up to 42 hours, with constituent chemicals traceable in the blood for up to 150 hours
  • Dilaudid: Up to 3.8 hours
  • Methadone: Up to 55 hours
  • Heroin: Less than 15 minutes in most cases

Breast Milk

Many drugs travel into a nursing parent’s breast milk in small amounts. Here’s how long the following opioids remain traceable:

  • Tramadol: Longer than 10 hours
  • Fentanyl: Unclear due to minimal research
  • Oxycodone: Up to 37 hours
  • Morphine: Up to 15 hours
  • Codeine: Up to 12.5 hours
  • Buprenorphine: Unclear due to minimal research
  • Dilaudid: Up to 52.5 hours
  • Methadone: Up to 50 hours
  • Heroin: Unclear due to minimal research

Another way someone may be tested for opiate or opioid use is by testing a strand of hair. Opioids may remain in a person’s hair for 90 days. Conversely, someone’s saliva may only show opioid use for a maximum of 2 days.

Reasons for Opioid Addiction

There are many reasons someone may struggle with opioid addiction, which is why it’s always crucial to approach addiction with compassion and support. At the end of the day, addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as a healthcare issue rather than addressed with blame or shame.

One reason people become addicted to opioids is that these drugs are often provided as post-surgery painkillers, particularly after major operations such as cardiac surgery. Post-operative pain can be severe, so patients may be administered higher than usual doses of opioid medication such as fentanyl or lidocaine. As the pain reduces, the patient should receive lower doses of medication and eventually wean off the drugs completely. But some patients may become addicted to the medication, stating they are in worse pain than they really are to stay on a higher dose. The longer this goes on, the worse the potential outcomes.

Illicit opioids come into people’s lives in various ways. Some people may be peer-pressured into trying them. Others turn to drugs like heroin because of intense despair or depression in their own lives. Sometimes the fear of withdrawal symptoms can drive people to keep taking opioid drugs, even when they really don’t want to.

Helping Overcome Opioid Addiction

The important thing about painkiller or opioid addiction is to know that there is help available. From residential treatment to detox support specific to the substance in question, Summit Detox can provide a range of services to help you or someone you know get their life back on track. We’ll talk you through how to prepare if you’re coming to stay at one of our facilities and even what you can bring with you to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Reaching out for addiction treatment is a huge step toward recovery and one you can be proud of making.

Contact Summit Detox at (888) 995-5265 and talk to our expert team about the right addiction support for you or your loved one.

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