How Long Do Opiates Stay In Your System

Opiates are a group of narcotic drugs that are naturally extracted from a plant known as opium. Morphine, Heroin and Codeine are examples of opiates that are commonly included in dozens of the drugs used as pain killers and antitussives. As pain killers, opiates-containing drugs are used to relieve moderate to severe pain.

Opiates are associated with abuse and misuse for recreational purposes, such as euphoria, relaxation and sedation. Common names of brands containing opiates include: Arymo ER, Kadian, MorphaBond ER, and MS Contin. In addition, as opiates are used as street drugs, they also have slang names, such as Skag, Junk, Black tar, Hero, White stuff, China white, Boy, and Number 2, which refer to heroin.

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How do opiates work

Opiates generally work through directly affecting the central nervous system. Opiates bind to 3 types of receptors in the brain, including Mu, cappa and delta. Each of these receptors is responsible for certain functions in the central nervous system. That’s how opiates relieve pain, cause euphoria, relaxation and anxiolysis.

For example, morphine inhibits certain neurons known as GABA inhibitory neurons that are responsible for prolonging the time of pain sensation.

How long do opiates stay in your system

Generally, the majority of opiates are likely to stay in your system for up to 3 days post-administration. However, in order to accurately determine how long opiates stay in your system, we undoubtedly need at first to know which opiate you administer? For example,


Up to 48 hours post-administration, codeine is likely to stay in your system. The reason is that the average half-life of codeine ranges from 4 to 8 hours, which means that within 4-8 hours post-administration, 50% of the administered dose of codeine will no longer be active in your system, and so on till the administered dose is fully eliminated.


Up to less than 1 hour post-administration, heroin can stay in your system. In the system, heroin is metabolized (transformed) into 2 substances, one of them is morphine; while the second is 6-acetylmorphine. Therefore, up to 47.4 and 3.6 hours post-transformation, respectively, those substances can stay in your system, respectively.


The duration morphine stays in your system depends on the dosage form you administer, as follows:

Generally, for up to 24 hours post-administration, morphine is likely to stay in your system. However, in case of administrating morphine through an epidural injection, for up to 36 hours post ‚Äďadministration, morphine would be likely to stay in your system.

On the other side, the administration of the extended release form of morphine results in prolonging the time morphine stays in your system for up to 5.9 days post-administration.

Other factors

In addition, there are other factors that can significantly affect how long opiates and their metabolites can stay in your system, including:

  • your age
  • your body mass
  • whether you’re a light or a heavy used of opiates
  • the administered dose. For example, if you administer an overdose of any opiate, that opiate and its metabolites will undoubtedly stay longer in your system.
  • your metabolic rate of drugs, which determines how quickly your system is able to get rid of opiates and their metabolites.

Will opiates show on a drug test?

YES, opiates will show on a drug test, as drug tests mainly check for certain substances, which mainly include opiates. Additionally, the results of opiates testing significantly depend on the factors shown below, which are even able to result in showing negative results in a certain person; but not necessarily in another.

  1. the type of the tests you are required to undergo
  2. the time the test is performed, as each test is valid only within a certain time frame. Therefore, what a certain test can detect may not be detected by another test at the same moment.
  3. Individual factors that differ from a person to another, as shown above, such as the functioning ability of your system to eliminate morphine.

How long are opiates detectable

When it comes to opiates detection in samples, that also depends on what opiate you definitely administer? Below are 3 examples.


  • Codeine is likely to detectable within 60 minutes post-administration. In case of intravenous administration, codeine can be detected within a shorter time.
  • Starting from 10-20 seconds post-administration, and up to 2 hours, heroin is likely detectable in blood; while heroin metabolites can barely stay longer.
  • Within half an hour post administration, and up to 24 hours, morphine is much likely detectable in your blood; while in case of administering the extended release form of morphine, that duration will extend to longer than 5.9 days.


  • Both forms of morphine are likely detectable in urine within 2-3 days postadministration.
  • Within a few hours post-administration, and up to a couple of days, codeine is likely detectable in urine.
  • Within minutes post administration, and up to 2-5 hours, heroin is much likely detectable in your urine; while that duration extends to 2-3 days for heroin metabolites.

Hair, saliva and fingernails

Starting from 7 days, and up to 10 weeks post administration, opiates and their metabolites are likely detectable in your hair; while in saliva, opiates and their metabolites can be detected within a shorter duration. For example, 1-21 hours after the last dose of heroin, and within 2-3 days post-administration, in case of morphine.

Fingernails are rarely considered for opiates testing.

What drug tests will show the presence of opiates in the system

  • Blood analysis
  • Urinalysis
  • Hair-based tests, including: Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assays)
  • Saliva-based tests, such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)

How are opiates stored in the body

Within a very short duration post-administration, each opiate rises in your blood till it reaches its peak plasma concentration. For example, It takes morphine around 30 minutes post-administration to reach its peak in plasma; while in case of heroin, that takes only 10-20 seconds. Afterwards, opiates are distributed with blood stream till they reach the central nervous system where they work.

Around 2%-12% of the administered dose of morphine remains unchanged in the system, and so is excreted. In case of heroin, the amount that reaches blood stream differs, according to the route of administration, whether heroin was snuffed, injected or ingested.

Within the half-life of each opiate, the body eliminates them from your system. For example, if you’re administering morphine, around 7%-10% of the administered dose is excreted through feces; while around 90% is excreted through urine within 24 hours postadministration.

Opiates generally tend to be stored in hair more than they do in fingernails or saliva.  1-cm hair length is likely to store amounts of morphine within half an hour post-administration; while it takes longer time to be stored in distal hair. A little amount of morphine, for example, stays in your saliva for around 2-3 days.


How Long Do Opiates Stay In Your System
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  • Updated December 20, 2017
  • Drugs
Daniel Miller

Hey there! I'm Daniel, a 35 years old Ph.D. in pharmacology and a member of THC Detox. My research into cannabis shows how cannabis affects health, including how cannabinoids can be used in the treatment of various diseases. I've got a long list of scientific and medical publications that show the positive effects of cannabis clearly.

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