Naturally found in the opium poppy plant, opioids are a class of drugs known to block pain signals from being transmitted from the brain to the body. They are commonly known as painkillers, and while some are legally prescribed by doctors as pain medication, other opioids, such as heroin, are classified as illegal street drugs with no beneficial medical purpose.
What do opioids do?
As stated, opioids block pain signals between the brain and body, relieving the individual of any pain they might be experiencing. Opioid medications such as morphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone are utilized in medical practice as painkillers for those who experience chronic pain or who’ve perhaps undergone surgery or are recovering from an injury.
Depending on the opioid and whether it’s legal or not, they may be taken via pill form, smoking, snorting or injection. The passageway through which it’s used depends on how quickly it will begin to take effect. In addition to pain relief, opioids can produce a euphoric high which some describe as pleasurable or relaxing. Individuals may also experience constipation or nausea, confusion, drowsiness and slowed breathing/heart rate, which at times has proven fatal.
Even though they may have been medically prescribed, opioid use is not risk-free. The longer an individual uses them, the more the body builds a tolerance, which can eventually turn into dependence. This means the body will require more and more of the opioid to feel the same effects; the body also learns that the synthetic opioids are the ones doing all the work, so the body stops producing its own and becomes completely dependent on the synthetic opioids. Therefore, when usage stops unpleasant withdrawal symptoms start.
How long do opioids remain in the system after use?
With all drugs, how long they remain in the body and how they affect an individual depends on many factors. Some variables include:
The weight, age and gender of the individual
The type of drug and how it was taken (injected, snorted, smoked, pill)
The length of time the person has been using the drug
How often the drug is taken
If there was a pre-existing mental condition or health problem in the individual
Whether the drug was taken in conjunction with other drugs and/or alcohol
The level of hydration in the body
Regardless of variables, the drugs do remain in the body’s system for some time before being flushed out. With almost all opioids, in fact, traces of the drug can be found in hair for up to 90 days. As far as detection in urine, saliva and blood, it depends heavily on the drug itself.
Heroine – Heroine begins to work on the body almost immediately, and is flushed from the system equally fast. After a single dose, half the heroin in your body will be gone. However, it can be detected in blood for five hours, saliva for six hours and in urine for up to seven days.
Morphine – Injected morphine begins to work in as little as five minutes, but it might take about an hour to feel its effects if taken as a pill. The short-term effects begin to wear off after four to six hours, but morphine will remain detectable in the blood for 12 hours after the last dose, in the urine for three days and in saliva for four.
Fentanyl – Fentanyl works similarly to morphine, but its effects are between 50 – 100 times more potent. Depending on the form in which it’s used, fentanyl can begin working on the body 15 minutes after use, and will typically last four to six hours. It remains in the blood for up to 12 hours, in urine for up to 24 hours and in saliva for up to four days.
Hydrocodone – Hydrocodone begins working in 20–30 minutes and can last for a number of hours. It remains in the saliva for 12–36 hours, in the blood for approximately 24 and in the urine for two to four days.
Oxycodone – Oxycodone also begins to take effect around 30 minutes after ingestion, but injections can be felt almost immediately. The short-term effects last for four to six hours and it can be detected in saliva for two days, blood for up to 24 hours and urine for four days.
Codeine – Codeine’s effects can be felt about 30 minutes after being taken and is flushed from the body mere hours later. It remains in the blood for 24 hours, saliva for 24-48 and urine for up to four days.
Exercising caution with opioids
Just because the short-term, immediate effects of opioid drugs might not be felt in the body for more than a few hours after use, the long-term effects remain a reality. Opioids have one of the highest risks of overdose because of the way the body can quickly become addicted, tolerant and dependent on the drug. If your doctor prescribes opioid pain medications, talk thoroughly with them about your concerns and take the time to understand the risks and best addiction-prevention measures.
In the event of addiction, help is always there. Freedom Detox offers recovery services and professional counseling for individuals battling actively with or overcoming opioid addiction. For help or general inquiries, call Freedom Detox today at 800-475-2312.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as medical advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a doctor-patient relationship.