How Long Opiate Pain Medications Stay In Your System?

November 12, 2012

How Long Opiate Pain Medications Stay In Your System?

Opiate pain medications get their name because they are all made from the poppy plant, the same plant from which the drugs opium and heroin are from. Medical expert caution patients on the overuse of opiate pain medications like morphine or hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin) because they can become addictive. People find themselves needing to take more and more medication in order to get the same relief.

Opiate drugs are used for extreme pain or for only a few weeks in order to prevent addiction. People using pain medications to manage chronic pain such as severe arthritis can go through painful withdraw symptoms once the medication leaves their systems. But how long to opiate pain medications stay in your system, or remain in your bloodstream or urine? How long a drug stays in your system depends on the drug’s half-life. Each medication has a different half-life.

About Half-Life in Medications

How is half-life for a medication determined? It is the length of time it takes for half of the amount of medication taken to leave the body. This is a good estimate for determining how long opiate pain medications stay in your system.

Morphine has a half-life of two hours, the shortest for any opiate medication. The longest is mepredrine at three to four hours. After the half-life is reached, the drug will still stay in your system up to three days, but at far less concentrated levels. People taking these medications usually feel the effectiveness begin to wear off soon after the half-life is reached. They reach for another dose even though trace amounts of the medication is still in their bodies.

About Toxicology Screens

Drug tests or toxicology screens are used to determine if a person has medication in their systems at the moment the test was taken. Toxicology screens cannot determine how long a medication will stay in your system or if you are an addict. But many employers feel that if even trace amounts are apparent in a drug test, the chances are high that the person tested is an addict.

In order to pass a toxicology test, you must know how long an opiate pain medication will stay in your system. Most opiate medications, including illegal drugs like heroin, leave the body after three days, except for oxycodone (used in the brand names OxyContin and Percoset) which only stays in your system for two days. This is because oxycodone is a man-made copy of the pain-killing chemicals in poppy plants instead of using medications made from poppy plants.

About Withdrawal Symptoms

The body sends out painful withdrawal symptoms to make you take more medication. Withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to headaches, uncontrollable trembling, muscle cramps, nausea, insomnia and anxiety. They can become excruciating. John Lennon’s famous song “Cold Turkey” is about suffering through heroin withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can last from 7 to 10 days.

The big problem is that people can become not only physically but psychologically dependent on pain killers. The medication stops not only physical pain but other types of pain such as loneliness, worry, fear or other problems. Unless these issues are addressed and a person learns to manage their problems without drugs, they will go right back to using drugs, including opiate painkillers.

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