How Long Do Drugs Stay in Someone’s System?

How Long Do Drugs Stay in your System?

In the U.S., millions of people currently struggle with drug or alcohol use disorder. The most commonly abused drugs are both synthetic and natural marijuana, prescription opiates, and cocaine. The opioid epidemic has spiraled so far out of control that more than 100 people die every day from opioids in the U.S. How long can these commonly abused drugs stay in someone’s system? It depends on the drug, how it is abused, and for how long and how heavily someone has abused the drug.


More than 4.5 million people ages 12 and older are addicted to marijuana. Marijuana and synthetic marijuana derivatives are the most commonly abused substances in the U.S. Marijuana is a central nervous system stimulant, and also dulls a person’s memory. For some, marijuana use can trigger panic disorder and severe anxiety. Smoking marijuana long-term can lead to lung infections, chronic cough, and cardiovascular diseases.

How is marijuana ingested?

  • Smoking
  • Vaporizing
  • Eating

The active ingredient in marijuana is THC, and drug tests look for THC in a person’s system. Marijuana can be found via saliva, urine, and hair tests. Depending on how long and how much a person has abused marijuana will influence how long THC stays in their bodily systems. Mostly, THC is stored in body fat. The following factors affect how long the drug will remain in someone’s system:

  • Weight
  • Body Fat
  • Amount Used
  • Frequency of Use

How long does marijuana stay in someone’s system?

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THC will show up in a saliva test within one hour of a person’s last use of marijuana. However, THC can’t show up in saliva past 12 hours of use.

A one-time marijuana user can test positive on a urine test anywhere from one day to six days after use. Moderate marijuana users will have THC in their urine for up to two weeks after last use. For heavy users, THC can stay in the urine anywhere from 30 days to 90 days.

THC binds to fat cells, but it doesn’t always bind reliably to the hair follicle. In cases where THC is found in hair follicles, the substance can stay in the follicle for up to 90 days after last use.


Prescription Opiates and Opioids

Prescription opioid drugs that are taken orally take longer to leave a person’s system than opioid drugs that are injected. A person who has abused heroin can potentially test clean on a drug test quicker than a person on a prescription opioid pill. The following factors can influence how long prescription opioids stay in a person’s system:

  • Weight
  • Metabolism
  • Body fat
  • Age
  • Kidney and liver health
  • How often and how heavily they’ve abused the drug

Prescription opiates and opioids have short half-lives, which means they leave the person’s system quickly, unlike drugs like marijuana. The most commonly abused prescription opiates are hydrocodone, oxycontin, and fentanyl.

Hydrocodone leaves the body the fastest, and the drug can only be detected in urine for up to four days. Saliva tests only work for up to 36 hours after last use, while a hair follicle test can identify the drug for up to 90 days.

Oxycontin has a half-life of three to five hours, meaning that it takes that amount of time to eliminate half of a dose from the bloodstream. The drug can be found in urine for up to four days after last use, and saliva tests can find traces of the drug within a few minutes after taking it, and for up to two days after last use. Hair follicle tests can detect the drug for up to 90 days after last use. The liver and to an extent the kidneys process and metabolize oxycontin. The healthier a person’s liver and kidney function, the faster the drug will be eliminated from their system.

Unlike hydrocodone and oxycontin which come in tablet form, fentanyl is a highly powerful prescription opioid patch. Since the drug is administered through the skin, it enters the bloodstream more quickly than the other opioids, and fentanyl entirely bypasses the liver. Fentanyl can be detected in the urine for up to 12 hours, saliva for four days, urine for only 24 hours, and hair follicle tests can detect the drug for up to 90 days.


Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can be taken in several different ways. Each of these ways effects how long the drug stays in someone’s system.

  • Smoking or injecting cocaine gives users a fast high, but the high and the cocaine will dissipate from a person’s bloodstream quickly.
  • Snorting cocaine will give someone a high that takes several minutes to take effect. However, the drug will stay in a person’s bloodstream for up to one hour.
  • Orally ingesting cocaine can give someone an intense high for up to 90 minutes.

All of these methods of ingesting will cause cocaine levels in the bloodstream to peak in about thirty minutes after use. A person’s metabolism will significantly influence how long cocaine stays in their system. Cocaine has a very short half-life of only about one hour. Long term, heavy use can influence cocaine to accumulate in a person’s body, and tests can find the substance in their urine or saliva for longer periods.

Using cocaine once, a person can test positive for a urine test for up to four days after last use. Chronic, heavy users can test positive for up to 14 days. Extreme cocaine binges can be detected for up to three weeks in a urine test. On average, cocaine can be found in saliva and blood for up to 48 hours after last use. In hair follicle tests, cocaine can be detected for years after a person has quit using.

Are you or someone you love struggling with substance abuse? It’s never too late to get help. The caring and dedicated drug abuse counselors at Windward Way are standing by to answer your questions. Please contact Windward Way to explore your options for drug abuse treatment.


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