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How Long Does Hydrocodone Stay in Your System?

how long does hydrocodone stay in your system

If you’re taking hydrocodone for pain management, you may wonder: How long does hydrocodone stay in your system? The answer is crucial for managing dosage, avoiding potential side effects, and complying with drug testing regulations. Moreover, the physical effects of hydrocodone have a strong connection to addiction and played a critical role in the recent opioid epidemic. Understanding the power of this potent pharmaceutical is the first step toward hydrocodone safety.

How Hydrocodone Impacts Your Body

First things first: What is hydrocodone? In short, hydrocodone is an opioid medication often prescribed for pain management. Known for its effectiveness in treating moderate to severe pain, it's typically prescribed when other pain relievers prove ineffective or cannot be used.

Hydrocodone works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. It helps to reduce the perception of pain and promote a sense of well-being — but it also can suppress breathing, which is why overdoses can be dangerous. Worse yet, its effects on the reward center of the brain can make hydrocodone highly addictive.

Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone has a high potential for abuse and addiction. It can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms if usage is abruptly stopped or reduced, necessitating medical oversight for long-term users thinking of discontinuing or changing their dosage.

How Long Is Hydrocodone Detectable in Your System?

Generally, hydrocodone can be detected in urine for up to 72 hours after the last dose. It can be found in blood tests for about 24 hours, in saliva for 12 to 36 hours, and in hair for up to 90 days.

The length of time hydrocodone stays in your system depends on various factors, including the dosage taken, frequency of use, overall health, and metabolic rate of the individual. Hydrocodone will show up on various drug tests, particularly those designed to detect prescription drugs or opioids. Employers, especially in industries requiring high levels of alertness and safety, may perform these tests to ensure workplace safety.

Is Hydrocodone Legal?

Hydrocodone may sound dangerous — and it certainly can be — but this drug is legal when prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider. It is a controlled substance in the United States, classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This classification indicates that hydrocodone has a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence, but also has accepted medical uses.

As a Schedule II drug, hydrocodone is subject to strict regulations regarding its prescription and dispensation. For example:

  • Prescriptions must be written by a healthcare provider who is licensed to prescribe controlled substances.
  • Prescriptions generally cannot be refilled; a new prescription is required for each issuance.
  • There are stringent record-keeping and security requirements for pharmacies and medical facilities that handle these substances.

While hydrocodone is legal for medical use, possessing or using it without a prescription, or selling or distributing it outside of legal channels, is illegal and can lead to significant legal penalties. In other words, hydrocodone isn’t legal for recreational use.

Unfortunately, even legal hydrocodone use can be a dangerous gateway to addiction — a difficult truth that came to light in the wake of the opioid epidemic.

Hydrocodone’s Role in the Opioid Epidemic

Hydrocodone played a significant role in the development of the opioid epidemic, a major public health crisis that has affected millions across the United States and other parts of the world. The opioid epidemic refers to the massive increase in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs, particularly since the late 1990s — and the associated rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Here’s how hydrocodone fits in.

Prescription Trends

At the forefront of the opioid crisis, hydrocodone was one of the most commonly prescribed opioids for pain relief. Initially, opioids like hydrocodone were believed to be relatively safe with a low risk of addiction when used in medical settings. This led to widespread prescribing by healthcare providers, often in quantities greater than needed for the treatment of acute pain.

Misuse and Addiction

As mentioned previously, hydrocodone is highly addictive. Regular use, even as prescribed, can lead to dependence. Over time, users may develop tolerance, needing higher doses to achieve the same pain relief, which can lead to addiction. The pleasurable sensation that opioids induce in the brain can also lead individuals to intentionally misuse the drug — for instance, taking it in a manner or dose other than prescribed or taking it without a prescription at all. These factors featured prominently in the rise of addiction during the opioid crisis.

Impact on Public Health

At the height of the opioid epidemic, extravagant and often unnecessary hydrocodone prescriptions not only contributed to a surge in misuse and addiction but also a rise in overdoses.

As tolerance to the dosage builds, the risk of overdose increases. Opioid overdoses can be fatal, particularly because of their effect on the respiratory system — high doses can suppress breathing to the point of hypoxia (inadequate oxygen reaching the brain), which can result in death.

Response and Regulation

In response to the opioid epidemic, the U.S. government and medical institutions have implemented stricter prescribing guidelines and monitoring programs. Hydrocodone was reclassified in 2014 from Schedule III to Schedule II, which tightened restrictions on how doctors could prescribe the drug and how often patients could refill their prescriptions. Despite these measures, the legacy of its widespread availability continues to contribute to the opioid crisis.

Detect Hydrocodone Use with Countrywide Testing

Knowing how long hydrocodone stays in your system is not just about understanding how long the drug's effects may last but also about planning for safe usage. If you think that a friend or loved one may be misusing hydrocodone, Countrywide Testing can provide the answers you need. We offer discreet, at-home alcohol and drug testing kits that will help you confirm a loved one's substance use and help get them started on the road to recovery.

Countrywide offers an array of drug testing products for workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, law enforcement purposes, and individuals trying to stay clean after rehab. Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support a cleaner, safer lifestyle? Just contact our team today.