Opioid usage in the United States has reached perilous proportions, so much so that it’s considered an epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that opioid-related deaths increased by six percent from 2018 to 2019 and were involved in 70 percent of the over 70,000 drug-related deaths in 2019.

With such a rampant uptick in opioid usage, it’s important to know what the drugs are, how long opioids stay in the body and what the side effects are.

What are opioids?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drugs that are all chemically similar and impact the functioning of opioid receptors and nerve cells in the brain. They are used medically for pain relief and can be legitimately obtained and utilized for certain conditions with a prescription but are often abused.

Heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Vicodin, morphine, fentanyl and others are all considered opioids. Opioids can make users feel calm, relaxed or elated and are thus highly addictive. Naloxone (or Narcan) can reverse an opioid overdose and has saved countless lives.

How long do opioids stay in my system?

How long opioids stay in the body depends on many factors. A person’s size, age, genetics, metabolism and the drug itself will all impact how long the drug sticks around. Additionally, different methods of testing (hair, urine, etc) for the substance will produce varying results.

Heroin: According to the American Addiction Centers, heroin has a half-life of 30 minutes, meaning half of the substance has left the body after a half hour. The drug can be detected in urine for about two days, on a drug test for seven days and in a hair follicle test for up to three months.

Oxycodone: Oxycodone, or Oxycontin as it’s commonly known by the brand name, has a half-life of around three to five hours. It can be detected in urine up to four days, via saliva test for up to two days and in a hair follicle test for up to three months.

Hydrocodone: This opioid has a half-life of around 4 hours. It stays in saliva for about one to two days, in urine for up to four and can be detected in a hair follicle test for around three months.

Morphine: The half-life of morphine is around two to seven hours (depending on how the morphine is taken). The drug can be present in a person’s blood and saliva for three days, in urine for four and in a hair follicle test for up to three months.

Fentanyl: This drug has a half-life of around two to four hours. It can be detected in blood for up to 12 hours, in urine for one day, in saliva for up to four days and in a hair follicle test for up to three months.

What are the effects of opioids on my body?

There are numerous side effects of opioids on the body which differ by the amount used and the frequency of usage. In addition to pain relief, many users of opioids experience a high or a feeling of euphoria after consuming the drug. Other short-term effects include lessened pain, fatigue, constipation and slowed breathing.

The long-term impact of continued opioid usage includes a high risk of addiction and overdose. There are also negative consequences for misuse during pregnancy, such as low birth weight and miscarriage. Individuals who combine opioid consumption with other substances (such as alcohol or other prescription drugs) may have increased side effects.

How can I overcome opioid addiction?

Overcoming an opioid addiction alone is incredibly difficult. The withdrawal symptoms are intense and often drive people back to the substance to find relief. Common withdrawal symptoms from opioids include muscle aches, changes in sleep or appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes and jitters.

Recovery from opioids is no easy battle, but many people successfully overcome the withdrawal period with the help of a rehab or detox program. Detox centers are designed to provide both medical and therapeutic support during the most painful phase of recovery to increase success in sobriety.

Detox and recovery services differ in intensity and duration and could range from a 10 day stay in a rehab facility or a year-long residence in a home. Many also choose to participate in a 12 Step Program like Narcotics Anonymous and continue with aftercare or behavioral therapy.

What will my life be like after an opioid addiction?

Freedom from opioid addiction is possible and within reach. Recovery will take time and energy, but the results will be well worth the effort you put in. When you’re sober from drugs you’ll have more mental clarity, feel better physically, have healthier relationships and feel secure in yourself.

Where can I get help?

Getting help is just a phone call away. Silver Ridge Recovery is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program located in Asheville, North Carolina that offers holistic and trauma-informed treatment. Services are catered to help adults over the age of 35 find healing from addiction. Call 855-945-7788 to get set up with the treatment you deserve.