Drug Test FAQ

How Long Can Vicodin Be Detected in Your System?

An open bottle of pills

Vicodin is a prescription medication used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. It can be detected in your system through various drug tests. As someone who has been researching drug testing for many years, I have frequently been asked how long Vicodin lasts in a person’s system. This article will provide you with the answer.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Vicodin is a prescription painkiller that can be detected in your system through testing.
  • It lasts in the body for about two to four days, but it depends on the individual’s metabolism and dosage.
  • Vicodin can be addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Vicodin?

A man pouring a bottle of pillsVicodin is the brand name for a medication containing two drugs – the narcotic hydrocodone (an opioid) and the pain reliever acetaminophen (non-narcotic pain reliever available over the counter). 

Vicodin is commonly prescribed for pain control after injury, oral surgery, and outpatient procedures. You can take this effective painkiller orally as a tablet, capsule, or liquid. The medication works by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, which changes the way the brain and body perceive pain signals.

When taken, Vicodin begins to have an effect within 15-30 minutes. The influence of the drug can last for about four hours.

The effects of Vicodin include:

  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoric high

While Vicodin effectively treats pain, it also has several potential side effects on the digestive and respiratory systems. The most common side effects are the following symptoms:

  • Digestive system issues like nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Chronic constipation
  • Dry mouth

More severe side effects of Vicodin can include:

  • Slowed or shallow breathing with respiratory infections or lung problems
  • Seizures and brain damage
  • Confusion, hallucinations, and mental illness
  • Liver damage (when taken in large doses or for long periods)

Vicodin went from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance, which means it has a high potential for substance abuse and need for addiction treatment. 

The risk of Vicodin addiction and substance abuse increases when a person takes the drug for non-medical reasons, such as recreational use. Vicodin use can lead to tolerance, physical and psychological dependence, and addiction. It can also result in Vicodin overdose.

Vicodin is a potent drug that can have serious side effects when used for non-medical reasons. Therefore, it is essential to talk to healthcare professionals about the best way to relieve pain. 

You may want to consider non-opioid options, such as over-the-counter or other prescription drugs. This is particularly true for those with chronic pain.

Vicodin Metabolism

A muscular man holding a pill bottle

To answer the question, how long does Vicodin stay in the body, you must understand its metabolism. Enzymes known as cytochrome P450 break down Vicodin in the liver. These enzymes then convert the opioid portion of the medication into the metabolites norhydrocodone and hydromorphone [1]. Those metabolites are then excreted in urine and saliva.

Many factors can affect how quickly Vicodin is broken down and eliminated from a person’s system [2]. These factors include:

  • Other medications. The cytochrome P450 system is responsible for the metabolism of up to 90 percent of drugs in the body [3]. Using other medicines like erythromycin, ritonavir, carbamazepine, ketoconazole, rifampin, and phenytoin will change the clearance rate of Vicodin.
  • Body fat percentage. Vicodin is fat-soluble, meaning the body stores it in fatty tissues. The more body fat you have, the longer opiates stay in your system.
  • Liver function and health status. The liver metabolizes Vicodin. If the liver is not functioning correctly, it will take longer for the drug to be broken down and eliminated from the body.
  • Genetics. The activity of the enzymes in the cytochrome P450 system can vary from person to person because of genetic differences. Some people may metabolize Vicodin more quickly or slowly than others.
  • Dose of hydrocodone and frequency of use. If you take larger doses more often, you will store the drug in the fat cells, and it will stay in your system for longer.
  • Amount of fluid you drink each day. Increasing fluid intake will increase urine production, which will help clear Vicodin from the body faster.

The elimination half-life for hydrocodone averages about 3.8 hours. That is the time it takes to eliminate half the active ingredients while the other half stays in your system. However, this varies widely depending on the factors above and can range anywhere from 3 to nearly 9 hours [4]. The average half-life for acetaminophen is 1.25 to 3 hours [5].

Can Drug Testing Detect Vicodin? 

A row of test tubes

Yes. Drug testing by a healthcare professional can detect traces of Vicodin in your system. Blood, urine, saliva, and hair follicle tests are potential testing methods for the presence of Vicodin. They detect hydrocodone metabolites, not acetaminophen.

Blood Testing

A blood test is the most invasive method of testing and is not typically used unless there is a reason to believe that someone has been using the drug recently. Vicodin can be found in the blood for only 2 to 12 hours, so this test is most often used in hospital emergency rooms for acute drug use or overdose.

Urine Testing

Urine tests are the most common method of testing for Vicodin. You can test positive in urine for 2-4 days after one dose. However, chronic use of Vicodin can result in longer detection times.

Saliva Testing

A saliva test is less invasive and often more accessible than a urine or blood test but is not as common. Vicodin can be seen in saliva for about 1-36 hours, making it more useful as a method of testing for acute use.

Hair Follicle Test

A hair test is rarely used to detect Vicodin and can only determine whether someone has used the drug in the last 90 days. This makes it less practical if the last use was only several hours ago.

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FAQs

Does the Department of Transportation test for Vicodin?

No, the Department of Transportation does not test for Vicodin on its standard 5-panel illegal drugs screen [6]. However, they may test for Vicodin if there is reason to believe that an individual has used the drug.

Does the military test for Vicodin?

Yes, the military does test for Vicodin as part of their standard street drugs screening process. If you are in the military, you will be required to undergo testing for opioids and other drugs.

Should you drive after taking Vicodin?

No, you should not drive after taking Vicodin. Vicodin can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects that can impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely. 

It is best to wait until the drug has worn off before getting behind the wheel of a car or other vehicle. You should certainly never drink alcohol, take Vicodin, and then drive.

How long does Vicodin withdrawal take?

Vicodin withdrawal takes 7 to 10 days after the last dose [7]. It is best to do a medical detox from Vicodin under professional medical advice to ensure that you are as comfortable and safe as possible during your withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Vicodin is a prescription opioid pain medication that is most frequently detected in a urine test. The time Vicodin stays in your system depends on a wide range of factors, but usually is 2-4 days after a single dose. 

Addiction treatment at treatment centers may be needed for those who use the medication too long. However, if you’re facing a drug test and need to flush out the Vicodin from your system fast, read our article on the best detox drinks that can assist you in achieving that goal.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24944068/#:~:text=Objective%3A%20Hydrocodone%20undergoes%20metabolism%20via,urine%20and%20secreted%20in%20saliva
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704133/
  3. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0801/p391.html#
  4. https://www.aruplab.com/files/resources/pain-management/DrugAnalytesPlasmaUrine.pdf
  5. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2006/088058s027lbl.pdf
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920965/
  7. https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/08/04/vicodin-withdrawal-symptoms-duration/

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