Detox, Opioid Detox, Opioid Treatment

How long do opiates stay in your system? What types of drug screens can detect these drugs for the longest amount of time? How can you get help to complete opiate withdrawal safely? If you have been looking for answers to questions like these, today’s post is for you.

What Are Opiates?

Opiates are a category of substances that are naturally derived from the opium poppy plant. This category includes both legal prescription medications such as morphine and codeine and illicit drugs such as opium.

In common conversations, the word opiates is often used as a synonym for opioids. However, the term opioids actually refers to a much larger category that includes:

  • Natural opiates such as morphine, codeine and opium
  • Semi-synthetic drugs such as heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone
  • Synthetic substances such as methadone and fentanyl

What these drugs have in common is that they all interact with specific receptors in the central nervous system and have similar (but not identical) effects on the body and mind.

How Long Do Opiates Stay in Your System?

The question, how long do opiates stay in your system, can be answered in one of two ways:

  • The amount of time that these substances remain in your body
  • The length of time that a drug screen can detect these substances

Neither version has an absolute, universally correct response. The amount of time that an opiate stays in your system or can be detected via a drug screen can depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Your age, weight, and metabolism
  • The length of time you have been using opiates
  • The amount of opiates that you typically use
  • The method you use to ingest opiates (such as swallowing, snorting, or injecting them)
  • If you have also been abusing other substances

Taking these types of influences into consideration, we can make general, educated estimates about how long do opiates remain in your system. 

How Long Opiates Remain in Your System

The half-life of morphine is about two to three hours. A half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for your body to reduce the amount of a drug in your system by 50%. 

Here’s an example of how half-lives work:

  • If you received 20mg of morphine, in about two or three hours (or one half-life) there would be about 10mg of the drug in your system. 
  • After another two to three hours, the amount of morphine in your body would again be cut in half, falling to about 5mg. 
  • Two to three hours after that, that 5mg of morphine will have been reduced by half, leaving you with about 2.5mg of morphine in your body.

After four to five half-lives, only about 3% of a drug will remain in your system. At this point, the amount of the substance is considered to be clinically insignificant.

This means that morphine will likely remain in your system from eight hours (four cycles of a two-hour half-life) to 15 hours (five cycles of a three-hour half-life).

How Long Opiates Can Be Detected by a Drug Screen

Many people don’t realize that drug screens don’t only test for the actual presence of specific substances in your system. They also test for metabolites, which are created as your body processes and eliminates a substance. 

Metabolites will remain in your system for a period of time after the drugs themselves have been eliminated – though the length of time they are detectable can vary depending on which type of drug test you take. 

This is why the question, how long do opiates stay in your system, can prompt a range of answers, such as:

  • A urine test may detect opiate metabolites for up to 36 hours (or a day and a half) after your last use.
  • You may test positive on a blood test up to 48 hours (two days) after you last used an opiate.
  • An analysis of your hair follicles can detect past opiate use for as long as 90 days after the last time you used a drug from this category.

What Happens During Opiate Withdrawal?

As your body processes and eliminates opiates, the drugs’ effects will, of course, subside. If you have been taking morphine to treat pain, this means that the pain will return and the sense of sedation you had been experiencing will wear off.

If you have become addicted to opiates, the impact of the drug leaving your system can be much more severe. Common opiate withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Intense drug cravings
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Hot flashes and chills
  • Agitation and anxiety

Once you have developed an opiate addiction, these and other symptoms can make it difficult for you to end your opiate use – especially if you try to quit on your own.

To minimize the distress of opiate withdrawal and increase your chances of successfully completing the process, you may want to consider beginning your recovery journey in a detoxification program.

While you’re in detox, you will be under the care of professionals who can provide both medical and therapeutic support. Your detox team can keep you safe and as comfortable as possible throughout the withdrawal process. 

Once you have successfully completed detox, your treatment team can refer you to the most appropriate source of aftercare. During aftercare, you can learn how to live a healthier life, free from compulsive opiate abuse. 

[Recommended: “Can You Die From Heroin Withdrawal?“]

Learn More About Opiate Detox in Nashville

If the pain of opiate withdrawal has kept you trapped in active addiction, Music City Detox is here for you.

We employ evidence-based practices and trauma-informed principles to help our patients get through withdrawal safely and with minimal discomfort. We understand that every person who struggles with addiction is impacted in a unique manner. As such, we are committed to providing each patient with a truly customized experience while they are in our care.

To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our admissions page or call us today.

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