Opioids are a broad class of drugs. This category encompasses both legal prescription drugs as well as illicit substances such as heroin. People who abuse opioids do so for a number of reasons, including seeking pain relief, being physically addicted and not able to deal with withdrawal symptoms or desiring the high that comes with overusing the drugs.
The consequences of using opioids in a way that is not prescribed — or using illicit opioids — can be serious. They can range from legal woes and health concerns to overdose and death. The serious nature of these drugs leads people to be tested for their use in a variety of scenarios.
How long can opioids be detected in your body? It’s a question many people who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder or addiction ask. They want to know how long after abusing the drugs they’re facing a risk of being outed at work, in a medical test or via substance abuse treatment testing.
Opioid detection windows depend on a variety of factors, including the type of opioid you used, how much you used and what type of test is used to detect it.
Why Are People Tested for Opioids?
People are tested for opioid use for a number of reasons. In some cases, tests might be part of a medical treatment program for a chronic illness. Doctors may need to check that you’re on the right kinds and types of meds or ensure you’re free of opioids before moving forward with certain types of treatments.
However, more commonly, opioid testing is done for the purpose of drug screening in situations that include:
- Academics, to ensure students are complying with rules about drug use
- Sports, to ensure athletes are not engaging in any performance-enhancing drug use
- Employment, to ensure employees are following company drug policies and are also not operating equipment under the influence
- Legal issues, where law enforcement needs to know if someone was under the influence of a substance at the time of an accident or crime
- Substance abuse treatment, when treatment providers may conduct random or routine tests to ensure someone is compliant with treatment or an abstinence program
How Are Opioids Tested For?
Most opioid tests involve a urine sample, although blood, saliva and hair tests are possible. Blood and saliva tests may be less useful than urine tests, as they have a shorter detection window.
Typically, hair tests are used for forensics purposes only or in cases where proof is required that someone was using opioids within the past few months. That’s because the opioid detection window in hair is much higher than it is for all other test forms.
Most people who deal with a drug test for opioids will do so via what is called a clean catch urine test. This involves taking a urine sample from you that is clear of all contaminants. The test usually requires you to wash your hands well and clean your genitals with a wipe that’s provided by the tester. You’ll then collect a sample of your urine midstream — that means collecting from the middle of your urination and not right when you begin or are about to stop urinating.
Most of the time, the container you are given for the sample will have a mark on it so you know exactly how much urine is required for the test.
If your saliva is being tested, a qualified person will place a collection pad or swab inside your mouth, up against your cheek. You’ll keep it there for a minute or two so it can absorb your saliva.
During a blood test, a qualified person takes a sample of your blood, just as a medical lab might draw when testing for illnesses or running lab work during a physical.
How Long Can Opioids Be Detected?
The detection window for opioids can range from a few hours to a few months, depending on the type of drug you abused and what testing method was used.
How Long Are Opioids in Urine?
With the exception of methadone, opioids are detectable in urine for one to two days on average. That includes codeine, heroin, morphine and opium whether you smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed the drug. Methadone has a longer half-life than other opioids, so it’s detectable in your urine for up to a week.
How Long Are Opioids in Blood?
Opioids move more quickly through the blood stream, which brings down the detection window. Depending on the type of drug you use, it may only be detectable in a blood test for between five and six hours. Methadone is again an exception; depending on the amount of the drug and other factors, it can be detected in the blood for 30 minutes to three days.
How Long Are Opioids in Saliva?
Opioid detection windows for saliva tests range widely. Heroin is typically only detected in the saliva for about five hours, but some prescription opioids may be detected in saliva for as long as three days.
How Long Are Opioids in Hair?
Hair tests almost always have the longest detection window, regardless of drug. That’s true for opioids. Any type of opioid may be detected in a hair sample as much as 90 days after the last use of the drug.
How Do People Try to Alter Opioid-Use Test Results?
People try to beat opioid detection test results in a number of ways. They may attempt to secretly provide a clean sample from someone else, especially for urine testing. They may also try to add something to their urine or saliva, believing that an additional substance might counteract the effectiveness of the test.
Other people try to clear their body of the drug by drinking copious amounts of water or taking other DIY actions. Mostly, these actions are ineffective, and they can even be dangerous and cause serious health complications.
If you’re worrying about how long opioid detection windows really are or you’re trying to find out how to alter an opioid test result, you might need to consider your motivations. These can be signs that you’re struggling with an opioid addiction or substance abuse disorder and that you’re trying to hide it from others.
Instead of living life in fear that a sudden drug use test might show that you’re abusing opioids, consider reaching out proactively for help. Seeking professional assistance with your addiction now can help create a more positive outcome than you might experience if you’re discovered by an employer drug screen. The caring professionals at FHE Health are ready to take your call, so reach out today for more information about opioid addiction treatment and how to get back on track with a positive, drug-free lifestyle.