As there are many different types of opioids, they also stay in your system for different amounts of time.
Some opioids such as heroin will pass through your system quickly, while others such as methadone will remain in your system for longer.
Facts about opioids and opioid addiction
What are opioids?
You may be prescribed opioids if you have an operation, a serious injury or are suffering from an illness that causes pain such as cancer.
It’s possible to become addicted to opioids even if you are taking them as prescribed, but the risks are drastically increased if you take opioids recreationally.
This is also true if you take opioids to treat long-term pain, and most doctors will usually only prescribe them on a short-term basis due to their addictive properties.
What are the different types of opioids?
You may be surprised at how many different types of opioids are available.
Many forms of opioids are legal and may be prescribed by a medical professional. Others are illegal and are manufactured specifically to sell for recreational use.
Fentanyl is another highly addictive form of opioid that is commonly used recreationally. It is 50 times stronger than heroin.
Some of the different types of opioids are listed below:
Many of the above medications can be legally prescribed by a medical professional.
Even if a specific opioid is legal, this does not make it safe. In fact, the prescription of opioids is highly regulated due to their addictive properties.
Why are opioids so addictive?
Opioids such as fentanyl and heroin are thought to be some of the most addictive substances in the world, but what makes them that way?
If you frequently crave opioids and use them compulsively despite negative consequences, it is likely that you have developed an addiction.
Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking out the feeling of pain and causing a rush of pleasurable sensations.
If you are taking opioids for pain relief, you may begin to feel as though you need them to survive.
It is also possible to develop a tolerance to opioids, meaning that you need to take larger amounts more frequently to experience the same effects.
This is another way in which they are addictive, as people will often increase their dosage in pursuit of that initial pleasurable sensation.
What are the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction?
It is possible to become addicted to opioids even if you are taking them for medical reasons, have been prescribed them by a doctor and are using them as directed.
Some of the signs and symptoms of opioid addiction include:
- Ordering opioids via the internet
- Visiting multiple doctors to obtain more than one prescription
- Using opioids in inappropriate or dangerous situations such as driving
- Experiencing consequences to opioid use including legal or financial problems
- Trying to stop using opioids but being unable to
- Taking larger amounts than prescribed
- Using opioids in a way they are not intended, such as injecting them
- Only spending time with other people who use drugs
- Isolating yourself from friends and family
- Failing to meet responsibilities at work, home or school
What are the short and long-term side effects of opioid use?
Using opioids, both legally and illegally, can affect your life in various ways.
There are short-term effects, which occur while you are actively using opioids and will likely resolve themselves once you stop ingesting them.
If you have been prescribed opioids by your doctor, it’s important that you understand all of the potential side effects that could occur as a result of this medication.
Short-term effects of opioid use include:
- Feeling drowsy and tired
- Nausea, with or without vomiting
- Chronic constipation
- Breathing at a slower rate
- Feeling itchy
- Becoming unconscious
Long-term effects of opioid use include:
- Potential infections if opioids are injected
- Reduced heart rate
- Higher chance of injury
- Increased risk of addiction
- Increased risk of overdose
- Legal troubles
- Financial troubles
- Damage to relationships
For more information about opioids, visit our website or contact us for advice.
How long do opioids stay in your system?
How are opioids tested?
There are several different ways to test for opioids in your system, with some being less invasive than others.
- Urine test
- Blood test
- Saliva test
- Hair test
- Perspiration test
Depending on the half-life of the opioid, it may take longer for it to leave your system.
A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of a dose to leave your system. In most cases, it takes five half-lives for the drug to completely clear from your system. 
The half-life can vary depending on the type of testing, for example, urine vs. breastmilk.
- Heroin has a half-life of approximately 8 minutes.
- Morphine has a half-life of approximately 1.5 to 24 hours.
- Codeine has a half-life of approximately 3 hours.
- Fentanyl has a half-life of approximately 13.5 to 27 hours.
- Tramadol has a half-life of approximately 6 to 11 hours.
- Methadone has a half-life of approximately 8 to 120 hours.
Which factors influence how long opioids stay in your system?
Not all opioids are created equally, and some may stay in your system longer than others.
There are several factors that can influence how long opioids stay in your system, including:
- How much of the opioid you have taken
- What type of opioid you have taken
- Whether this was a one-off, or whether you take opioids regularly
- Your age – the older you are, the longer it will remain in your system
- Certain medical issues such as kidney problems can keep opioids in your system longer
- How much water you drink
- The amount of body fat you have
Your doctor should be able to answer any questions you may have about how long your particular medication will stay in your system.
How long do opioids stay in your urine?
Different types of opioids can remain in your urine for longer than others, so the answer to this question will depend on what you have taken.
- Heroin can be detected in your urine for up to 24 hours.
- Morphine can be detected in your urine for 1-3 days.
- Codeine can be detected in your urine for 1-3 days.
- Fentanyl can be detected in your urine for up to 3 days.
- Tramadol can be detected in your urine for up to 4 days.
- Methadone can be detected in your urine for up to 14 days.
How long do opioids stay in your saliva?
In general, most opioids will stay in your saliva for up to two days after your last dosage.
This means that if you submit to a saliva test, you will test positive for opioids if you used them within the last 48 hours.
How long do opioids stay in your hair?
Your hair follicles store a lot of information about you, including the substances that you use. 
Opioid use can be detected in your hair follicles for up to 90 days after your last dosage, much longer than other forms of testing.
How long do opioids stay in your blood?
Similarly to urine testing, different types of opioids can remain in your blood for longer than others.
- Heroin can be detected in your blood for around 15 minutes.
- Morphine can be detected in your blood for 6-7 hours.
- Codeine can be detected in your blood for 3-4 hours.
- Fentanyl can be detected in your blood for up to 12 hours.
- Tramadol can be detected in your blood for up to 8 hours.
- Methadone can be detected in your blood for up to 55 hours.
How long do opioids stay in your breastmilk?
The amount of time that opioids stay in breast milk has not been extensively studied, so much is unknown about this topic.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not use opioids.
- It is unknown how long heroin and fentanyl remain in breastmilk, as this has not been studied.
- It is thought that morphine lasts for up to 15 hours in breastmilk.
- It is thought that codeine lasts for up to 13 hours in breastmilk.
- It is thought that tramadol lasts for over 10 hours in breastmilk.
- It is thought that methadone lasts for up to50 hours in breastmilk.
How long do opioids stay in your perspiration?
To undergo a perspiration test, you will need to wear a specially-developed patch for five days. This is the amount of time needed to test for opioids in your sweat.
Frequently asked questions
Can you test positive for opioids if you consume poppy seeds?
It’s possible to test positive for opioids even if you are not using them, which can be worrying if you are required to take a drug test.
So how does this happen? It all comes down to the innocent poppy seed.
You may be surprised to learn that poppy seeds are harvested from the opium poppy, similar to the production of opioid drugs.
Although eating poppy seeds will not give you the effects of opioids, trace amounts of opium extract that remain on the seeds after washing can cause a positive opioid result.
You have a higher chance of testing positive for opioids if you eat a large amount of poppy seeds, and they can remain in your urine for between 48-60 hours.
It is recommended that you avoid eating poppy seeds in any form for at least two or three days before a drug test. This includes cakes, biscuits, teas, granola and salad dressings.
What are the differences between opioids and opiates?
You may have heard of both opioids and opiates, but are they the same thing?
In short, no. However, there is some confusion around which substances should be labelled opioids or opiates, and this can lead to certain medications being incorrectly identified.
An opiate is a substance that is derived from opium poppy, and this causes it to be labelled as ‘natural.’
An opioid is a substance that is at least partly synthetic and manufactured in a laboratory.
Are opioids legal in the UK?
While prescribed opioids for pain relief are legal in the UK, the recreational use of these substances is illegal.
You cannot buy, use, carry, sell or produce illicit opioids, and if you are found guilty you could spend the rest of your life behind bars.
Heroin and methadone are both classified as Class A drugs in the UK, carrying a maximum prison sentence of seven years for possession and life in prison for the production and supply of these substances. 
Codeine is classified as a Class B drug and carries a maximum prison sentence of five years for possession and up to 14 years for production and supply.