What are Opiates?
Opiates are a class of drug that has been derived from a plant commonly called the opium poppy. Several naturally occurring opiate alkaloids—such as morphine, codeine, and thebaine—serve as the chemical building blocks of many semi-synthetic opioid drugs, including heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
Many opiates are essential in the medical community for their sedative and painkilling properties, though heroin is a morphine derivative that’s exclusively recreational and highly illegal. All of these drugs have high addiction potential, and even those that are given out legally via prescription are often abused and can be found on black markets. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2012 World Drug Report, 26.4-36 million people across the globe abuse opiates.
Types Of Opiates
There are a variety of medical reasons why opiates are prescribed. There are two main classifications for this type of drug: antagonists and agonists.
- Antagonists: such as Naltrexone and Naloxone, are considered to be less addictive than agonists, though the potential for abuse still exists. They are often used to help with the detoxification process, which often takes place as the first part of addiction treatment.
- Agonists: mimic the effects of naturally-occurring endorphins in the body and produce an Opiate effect by interacting with specific receptor sites in the brain. Agonists include drugs like Morphine and Fentanyl, which are most commonly used in medical settings and have the strongest effects. Many substances in this category have a very high potential for abuse and addiction. Other examples of agonists include Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Heroin, and Buprenorphine.
What is Opiate Addiction?
Opiate Addiction is a declared epidemic in the United States. In 2017 HHS declared a public health emergency regarding this addiction. According to Hhs.gov, in 2019 around 1.6 million people in the US. had an opioid use disorder. 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids in the same year, and there were 48,006 deaths attributed to overdosing on synthetic opioids other than methadone from the second half of 2019 to the first half of 2020.
As stated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, in the piece ‘Opioid addiction’, Opiate Addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems. Opioids are a class of drugs that act in the nervous system to produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief.
Some opioids are legally prescribed by healthcare providers to manage severe and chronic pain. Commonly prescribed opioids include oxycodone, fentanyl, buprenorphine, methadone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. Some other opioids, such as heroin, are illegal drugs of abuse.
Classic signs of Opiate addiction are characterized by a powerful, compulsive urge to use opioid drugs, even when they are no longer required medically. Opioids have a high potential for causing addiction in some people, even when the medications are prescribed appropriately and taken as directed.
Many prescription opioids are misused or diverted to others. Individuals who become addicted may prioritize getting and using these drugs over other activities in their lives, often negatively impacting their professional and personal relationships. It is unknown why some people are more likely to become addicted than others. Opioids not only include prescription medications, they are a class of drugs that also include the illegal drug heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
Factors That Affect Drug Processing
How long do opiates stay in your system? Opiates tend to have short half-lives, meaning that they leave the system quickly, though effects can last for several hours. How long each opiate can be detected by drug tests varies depending on many factors, including the type of ingestion. Prescription opiates typically come in pill form. Taking a drug orally means that it has to pass through the digestive system first, so it can take around an hour for the effects to begin. On the other hand, substances like heroin are more often injected, smoked, or snorted. These methods create a much faster and more intense high, and they pass out of the body sooner.
Other factors affecting how quickly an opiate leaves the system include:
- How often and how heavy opiate use is
- Quality of the drug
- Amount of water in the body
- The individual’s metabolism rate
- Body mass and weight
- Body fat content
- The health of the liver and kidneys
Of course, the type of opiate also factors into how long it can be detected by drug tests. Commonly prescribed opioids include Vicodin, OxyContin, morphine, and codeine.
How long do opiates stay in your system?
Heroin is a particularly fast-acting drug with a very short half-life. A saliva test will only be able to detect heroin for the first 5 hours after the last dose, while blood tests can detect it for about 6 hours after the last use. Urine tests are the most commonly used and can detect heroin up to 7 days after the last use. Urine tests are the most commonly used and can detect heroin up to 7 days after the last use. Hair follicle tests, however, can find heroin for up to 90 days.
Hydrocodone leaves the body even faster, with saliva tests only working for the first 12-36 hours after the last pill was taken. Urine tests can detect hydrocodone for 2-4 days, and hair tests are effective for 90 days.
Morphine takes longer to work than heroin and the effects tend to last longer. Despite this, blood tests can only detect morphine for the first 12 hours after the last dose, and urine tests only work for up to 3 days. However, saliva tests are more effective, being able to detect traces of morphine for up to 4 days. Again, morphine stays in the hair for 90 days.
Lastly, codeine is one of the fastest of all opiates to leave the system. It can be found in the blood for just 24 hours, and in urine for 24-48 hours. Saliva tests have a wider range, being effective for 1-4 days after the last dose. As with the rest, it can be found in a person’s hair for up to 90 days.
These are all averages. However, due to the fact that opiates will build up in fatty tissues after excessive use, these averages may extend beyond the outer limit if the individual is a heavy, long-term user.
Oxycodone is detectable in the urine for 1-4 days, and a person will test positive for the drug within 1-3 hours after taking it. It is detectable in saliva within minutes after a person takes the drug and can be detected on a test for up to 48 hours. Like other opioids, it can be detected in the hair for up to 90 days.
Oxycodone is primarily metabolized by the liver. This process produces metabolites, the most common of which is noroxycodone, followed by noroxymorphone. Oxycodone and its metabolites are excreted through the kidneys.
The half-life of oxycodone is 3-5 hours, which means it takes about that much time for half of the dose to be eliminated from the bloodstream.
Other Notable Drugs & The Body
- Blood: Up to 12 Hours
- Saliva: 1-4 Days
- Urine: 8-24 Hours
- Hair: Up to 90 Days
- Blood: After 30 mins up to 2-3 Days
- Saliva: After 30 min and Up to 2 Days
- Urine: After 1 Hour and Up to 2 Weeks
- Hair: After a Few Days and Up to 90 Days
How Long Do Poppy Seeds Stay in Your System?
People always wonder if eating a poppy seed muffin or bagel before a drug test will end in a false positive. The answer to that is, yes it can. However, testing guidelines have improved and it’s less likely to be flagged for opiate use after eating poppy seed-containing foods. In the past, poppy seeds have been known to cause testers to fail for up to 16 hours after consumption. Since poppy seeds contain low levels of opiates, many tests now have a higher threshold to avoid false positives.
Reclaim Your Life From Opiate Addiction
Opiate Addiction is a chronic disease that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California rehab institute can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition and give you clarity about questions such as “How long do opiates stay in your system?.” Opiate addiction treatment centers have specialists to know what you are going through. Please know, and contact We Level Up California Center, that each call is private and confidential.
 ‘Opioid addiction’ – U.S. National Library of Medicine (medlineplus.gov)
 ‘Opioid Overdose Crisis’ – National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov)