Hydrocodone is a strong opioid drug that blocks pain signals in the brain. The time it takes for hydrocodone to leave the system varies among individuals, but it can range from a day to a few weeks.

Hydrocodone is one of the most common prescription opioids in the United States. The drug can treat pain caused by various conditions, including arthritis and cancer. In many cases, doctors also use it to treat persistent coughs.

Many people know this medication as Vicodin, though Vicodin is a combination of hydrocodone and another drug called acetaminophen. Other brand names for this combination include Norco, Lortab, and Lorcet.

These hydrocodone-based medications have a high potential for misuse. In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassified them from Schedule III to Schedule II drugs. This category includes drugs with medical uses but a high potential for psychological dependence and overuse.

Additionally, hydrocodone can leave traces in the body for a long time, meaning healthcare professionals can detect even small doses in a person’s blood, urine, saliva, and hair.

This article explores how long hydrocodone lasts in the body.

According to Addiction Resource, it takes at least 18–24 hours for the body to clear most hydrocodone from the system. By this point, the body eliminates more than 90% of the drug. However, certain tests may be able to detect small amounts of hydrocodone past this point.

The timing varies significantly depending on the area of the body that a healthcare professional is testing. Traces of the drug can remain in certain areas well beyond 24 hours.

How long does hydrocodone stay in the urine?

Tests can detect the drug in the urine for around 1–4 days after a person takes it.

How long does hydrocodone stay in the blood?

In the blood, hydrocodone is present at its highest level after about 1.3 hours and is detectable for up to 24 hours after intake.

How long does hydrocodone stay in the saliva?

Tests can detect hydrocodone in the saliva anywhere between 12 and 36 hours after a dose.

How long does hydrocodone stay in the hair?

In the hair, traces of hydrocodone are detectable for the longest period — nearly 90 days after a person takes the drug.

There are many reasons why the time it takes for hydrocodone to leave the body varies. Some factors that influence this include the following:


A doctor prescribes a dosage depending on a person’s height, weight, and body fat composition, so dosages vary from person to person.

The higher the dose, the longer it takes for the body to metabolize, or break down, the drug and for hydrocodone to leave the system.


In the body, there are two classes of enzymes that help process hydrocodone: CYP450 and UDP-glucuronosyltransferases.

The quality and quantity of these enzymes vary from person to person according to their genes. This, too, can affect how a person metabolizes a drug.

Long-term use

When a person takes hydrocodone for a longer period — such as months or years — it likely takes longer for the drug to clear their system than it would for those who only take hydrocodone for a few days.

This effect relates to pharmacodynamic tolerance. This is the process by which a person becomes less susceptible to the effects of drugs with repeated intake. As a result, people may require higher doses to reach the same desired effect, meaning the drugs may stay in their system for longer.

Frequency of intake

Hydrocodone is available as an extended-release (long-acting) 12-hour capsule, which a person takes once every 12 hours. It also comes as an extended-release tablet that a person takes once every 24 hours.

The body takes longer to eliminate the 24-hour tablet from the body.

Common side effects of hydrocodone use include:

Other symptoms may include:

Hydrocodone also has the potential to cause weak or shallow breathing, so it is best if people with asthma, sleep apnea, or other respiratory conditions check with a doctor about other forms of treatment.

Hydrocodone is an addictive drug, so it carries a strong risk of misuse.

Signs of hydrocodone misuse include:

Other effects

Another condition that may occur in people who misuse opioids such as hydrocodone is narcotic bowel syndrome, in which the drug causes a person’s bowel function to slow.

If a person misuses hydrocodone by taking it via the nose, it can cause them to lose their sense of smell. Snorting the drug can also lead to nosebleeds, congestion, and frequent sinus infections.

Hydrocodone and acetaminophen

Research has found that taking hydrocodone alongside acetaminophen can increase a person’s risk of overdosing on the latter. This can lead to severe liver damage and failure.

Learn more about dialysis.

The length of time that hydrocodone stays in the body varies from person to person. This is due to factors such as age, genetics, and the frequency of intake. Generally, one dose takes at least 18–24 hours to leave the body.

There are certain risks associated with hydrocodone, especially in the case of long-term use. People taking hydrocodone should do so as a doctor instructs and report any side effects.