How Long Does Codeine Typically Stay In Your System?

Ever get prescribed codeine after a doctor's visit? You may be surprised by the class of drugs it falls under and how long it lasts in your system.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration reports codeine as an opioid that can relieve pain or combine with other medications to treat colds and coughs. Therefore, if you are prescribed codeine, you are taking something in the same class as heroin (per National Institute on Drug Abuse). Codeine is listed as a Schedule II, III, and V drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration because of its high potential to be abused and cause dependence (via American Addiction Centers). The tendency to cause dependence is due to how codeine makes you feel when it works to combat pain and coughs. Usually, with high doses, it causes relaxation and euphoria.

Codeine works by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to pain and reducing the brain activity that triggers coughing, reports MedlinePlus. It is usually taken orally as a liquid solution, capsule, or tablet every four to six hours to relieve symptoms as the body heals or recovers naturally. So now that you've taken your dose of codeine, how long does it stay in your system?

Codeine can be detected for 10 weeks

After codeine is ingested and circulates through the body, it is broken down by the liver, and eventually, it and all of its metabolites exit through the urine (per American Addiction Centers). Interestingly, when broken down, about 15% of codeine becomes morphine. This is important, as morphine and codeine can turn up on tests. In fact, codeine can appear in the urine, saliva, and hair follicles. While the time it takes for half a dose to exit your system is between 2.5 to 3 hours, evidence of the drug remains in your body much longer.

When testing for codeine, multiple factors can affect how easily it is detected, including duration of use, liver and kidney dysfunction, fluid intake, urine pH levels, weight, metabolism, and amount and time of the last usage. For the most part, codeine will appear in saliva tests for up to 21 hours and in urine testing for up to 48 hours after the last use. Hair follicle testing is much more thorough, as it can detect codeine usage for up to 10 weeks after last using the drug. So while codeine and its effects can be eliminated from the body and wear off relatively quickly, its indicators can point to its usage for quite a long time.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).