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Table of Contents

How Hydrocodone Works
How Long Hydrocodone Lasts

Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid in the United States and is connected to unprecedented levels of abuse. It is most commonly used for treatment of chronic pain, and is prescribed as Lortab or Vicodin.

Hydrocodone acts by activating opioid receptors, which inhibits your brain cells from sending out certain chemical signals. This disables the reception of feelings of pain and affects the reward center of the brain resulting in feelings of euphoria, reduced stress, drowsiness, and numbness, in addition to the pain relief. How long Hydrocodone stays in your system will depend on a number of factors and varies from person to person.

How Hydrocodone Works

Hydrocodone is prescribed to be taken by mouth, and therefore must pass through the digestive system before you will feel its effects. Usually, it takes about an hour to feel symptom relief. The dosage reaches peak concentration roughly 1.3 hours after it is taken. For people who have developed a tolerance of the drug, it may take longer to feel relief, or the effect of one dose may not be as strong. With repeated use, the brain changes how it functions in order to accommodate the drug, and eventually it can no longer function properly without it. At this point, withdrawal symptoms will occur when you stop taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms indicate that your body has developed a dependence on the drug. Dependence is when your body cannot function properly without the drug.

How Long Hydrocodone Lasts

The life of a drug is measured by its half-life, or how long it takes the body to metabolize half of the drug. For a standard 10mg dose of hydrocodone, the half-life is around 4 hours, meaning that it takes roughly 4 hours for the body to process and eliminate half the hydrocodone. It takes several half-lives to fully eliminate the drug, but generally one dose of hydrocodone should be gone within 24 hours. You will stop feeling the effects of the hydrocodone before it fully leaves your body. Withdrawal symptoms usually begin anywhere from 6-12 hours after the dose has been taken. Dosage, frequency of use, and bodily heath all play a role in the timeline and the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms are generally flu like symptoms, including: muscle aches, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, chills and sweats, irregular heart rate, difficulty concentrating, irritability, headaches, fatigue. Symptoms can also be more severe such as seizures or spikes in blood pressure. It is important to be under supervised medical care when coming off of hydrocodone. The process can be stressful and uncomfortable, or even painful, for someone who has developed a dependence on or addiction to hydrocodone. Medically supervised detox is recommended, and inpatient or outpatient treatment for hydrocodone addiction should also be used. Withdrawal symptoms generally begin to improve within 72 hours, and are significantly better within one week.

How long hydrocodone stays in your system varies from person to person. Below are several key factors that determine how fast a person’s body will eliminate the hydrocodone:

  1. Typically, the younger a person is, the faster they will be able to eliminate toxins because they have healthier and better functioning organ system and metabolism. The faster a person’s metabolism is, the faster they will go through foods, drinks, and drugs. A slow metabolism will slow a person’s ability to clear the drugs from the body.
  2. Body composition, including body fat content and weight. Dosage of hydrocodone is relative to height and weight. A body that has too much hydrocodone in its system for the person’s body composition will take longer to fully eliminate the hydrocodone.
  3. Genetics play a role in how a person processes and reacts to hydrocodone. They are also a factor in a person’s predisposition to addiction.
  4. Function of the kidney and liver. These are key organs for processing and eliminating anything from the body, including drugs. Any damage to or issues with either organ will make the elimination process take longer.
  5. Frequency of use. A person who has been using for months or years is going to take longer to eliminate the drug from their system when compared with a person who has only taken one or two doses.

It is helpful to know that hydrocodone can be detected by a blood test for up to 24 hours, by a urine test for up to 4 days, and by a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days.

Although hydrocodone is a very effective pain relief medication, it is also a highly addictive substance. It should be taken with specific care to your doctor’s instructions and according to the prescribed schedule so that the drug can work fully and optimally without undesired negative side effects. Open and constant communication with your doctor is crucial while taking hydrocodone.


It is important to get the right treatment. As mentioned above, it is highly recommended to seek out medically-assisted detox, in-patient, or out-patient treatment. At New Choices, we offer all of these options, with specialists who will look at your specific situation to provide customized care.

Related: Opioid Addiction Treatment


3 Responses

  1. I was wondering how long takes to get lortab out ur system of u normally don’t take it . Have a high metabolism 35 works out in heat sweats alot 5mg and taken about 10 of them

  2. I’ve been on 10mg for a year and on 7mg for a couple yrs for pain,I’ve started taking half of a 10 for over 12 hrs.

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