How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?

Many people wondering how long opioids like heroin or oxycodone stay in their system are worried about taking drug tests. We’ll discuss why and when drug tests are used, what factors influence how long drugs are detected on tests, and why the only way to guarantee a clean test is to avoid opioids.  

Do Opioids Show Up on a Drug Test?

Drug Test form

Yes. While not all drug tests look for the same substances, many will detect at least some opioids, typically those that are natural opiates or are semi-synthetic.1

Certain tests will only show the general presence of opioids but not be able to differentiate between opioids. Other types of drug tests will be able to specifically identify some or all of the opioids an individual has used.1

When Are Drug Tests Conducted?

Drug tests are conducted for many reasons. Often, people are subjected to drug tests by employers. Drug tests may be mandated by employers at random or:2

  • When a prospective employee is applying for a job.
  • As part of employee annual physical exams.
  • When an employee has shown signs of being intoxicated at work or has shown a pattern of engaging in unsafe behavior on duty.
  • If the employee has been in an accident while on the job.
  • If the employee is returning to work after attending treatment for substance abuse.

Drug screens may also be mandated by drug treatment programs or your healthcare provider, schools, law enforcement, or by the courts in legal proceedings.3,4

Patients on opioid therapy for pain or another medical condition may be given drug tests to improve patient care, ensure patient safety, monitor compliance and detect prescription drug misuse.4,5

Which Opioids Show Up on Drug Tests?

The specific opioids that are detectable will depend on the laboratory and the test that is given. Opioids that can may be detected on drug screening tests include, but are not limited to:6-8

In many cases, such as in drug testing for the purposes of employment, the typical drug screen may or may not adequately detect certain semisynthetic opioids (oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and buprenorphine) and will not screen for synthetic opioids (fentanyl and methadone). Drug screens specifically targeting these substances exist and may be used by doctors, law enforcement, or employers.9,10

Opioids taken for medical purposes may show up on drug screens. In cases where the amount of the drug passes the threshold for a positive drug screen, additional testing may be done and a verifiable, legitimate medical prescription will be taken into account.10

How Long Will Opioids Show Up on a Drug Test?

Doctor reading test results

Many opioid metabolites will be detectable on urine drug screens for about 3 days.7,11,12 In the case of heroin, this drug metabolizes to 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM) first and then to morphine. The metabolite 6-AM is rarely detectable in bodily fluids for long (less than a day); however, morphine can show up on urine tests for several days.6,7

Different drug testing methods will have different detection times. For example, drugs can be detected in the hair for much longer, up to 90 days.13 Saliva tests, on the other hand, typically only have a drug detection window of about 24-36 hours.11,12

What Factors Influence How Long Opioids Will Show Up on a Drug Test?

Factors that will influence how long opioids are detectable on a drug test include:14

  • The sensitivity of the drug test.
  • The test method (e.g., urine, saliva, hair, blood).
  • The pH and concentration of the specimen being tested, e.g., urine or saliva.
  • The duration and frequency of opioid use.
  • How long it takes the individual to fully metabolize and excrete the opioid.

What Can You Do to Get Opioids out of Your System Faster?

There is a lot of pseudo-scientific advice online about how to get opioids and other drugs out of your system to pass a urine drug test. For example, some websites will tell you to chug a lot of water or to drink cranberry juice prior to your test. Some retailers will even sell detox drinks promising to help the buyer pass a drug test.

How to Make Detoxing from Opioids Easier

Detox sign with stethoscope

Detoxing from opioids means more than trying to get opioids out of your system in order to pass a test. Detox can be an important first step in the treatment of opioid addiction. If you are constantly worried about passing drug tests, whether it’s for your job or for another reason, you may need this kind of treatment.

Detox refers to a set of interventions used to manage the acute withdrawal process.16 Acute withdrawal from opioids can be extremely uncomfortable. It feels like a terrible flu with symptoms that include runny nose, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.16 Medical detox programs utilize medications to alleviate symptoms, while staff monitor your condition and intervene if you show any signs of medical complications such as dehydration.16

In professional detox programs, staff can also help you make the transition into another form of treatment for opioid addiction.16 For example, they may usher you into an inpatient program or help you make a seamless entry into outpatient therapy.

At Desert Hope, we offer a full continuum of care for opioid addiction that begins with medical detox and includes many treatment program options to meet your unique recovery needs. If your opioid use has begun to control your life, we can help. Call us to learn more about our detox and treatment programs today at .