How Long the Opioid Lortab Stays in Your System

Avoiding Harmful Drug Interactions and Accidental Overdose

Urine Testing

Getty Images

Lortab is a combination drug prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain. It combines the opiate hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Lortab) or with aspirin (Lortab ASA). Similar hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination products include Anexsia, Anolor DH, Lorcet, Norco, Vicodin, and Zydone. While this medication is in your system, you are at risk for drug interactions and overdoses. Knowing how long Lortab is present in the body can help you understand and avoid these risks.

Detection Windows

Determining exactly how long Lortab is active or detectable in the body depends on many variables. The acetaminophen in Lortab has a half-life in the blood of about one and a quarter to three hours. This is the time in which half of it is no longer acting in your system. But that varies depending on whether a person has poor liver function. Most of it is passed out through the urine in 24 hours.

Hydrocodone has a half-life of about four hours; it takes five to six half-lives to eliminate most of the drug from your system. That said, hydrocodone can be detected in the urine for up to three days. If you take a urine drug screen while you are taking Lortab, it is likely to test positive for opiates. Be sure to disclose your medications to the testing laboratory so they can interpret your test accurately.

Risk of Drug Interactions

One reason that it is important to know how long Lortab remains in the system is its potential to interact with other drugs. If the pain-killing effects of Lortab wear off, but the drug is still in the system, an overdose could occur if someone takes more of the drug too soon.

With Hydrocodone

Some medications can interact with hydrocodone to produce breathing problems, sedation, or coma. Benzodiazepines—Xanax (alprazolam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Klonopin (clonazepam), Diastat (diazepam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Restoril (temazepam), Halcion (triazolam), and others—muscle relaxants, sedatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and medicines for mental illness or nausea are some of the drugs that interact with hydrocodone.

With Other Acetaminophen-Containing Drugs

While acetaminophen is found in over-the-counter products like Tylenol, it has a narrow safety range. If you take more than 4000 milligrams in a day, you risk irreversible liver damage and even death. Often, people who have experienced this type of liver injury report that they didn't realize how much acetaminophen they were getting in aggregate from a variety of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

You need to carefully review the list of the non-prescription and prescription drugs that you take (preferably with your doctor or pharmacist) to look for acetaminophen or paracetamol on the label. Combination drugs like Lortab are now limited to no more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per tablet, capsule, or dosage unit to help prevent a dangerous overdose.

Preventing an Accidental Overdose

You must not drink alcohol, take any medication containing alcohol, or use street drugs while you are taking Lortab or you risk life-threatening reactions.

The following are some of the symptoms that can occur with a Lortab overdose:

If You Suspect an Overdose

Seek immediate medical help. Do not make the person vomit unless specifically told to do so by poison control (1-800-222-1222), a health care professional, or 911.

It would be helpful to provide the following information if you can. Don't delay in calling for help to gather it, however:

  • The person's age, weight, and health condition(s)
  • Name of the product taken (ingredients and strength, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed
  • If the medication was prescribed for the patient

Treatment

If someone suspected of a Lortab overdose is taken to the emergency room, their vital signs—including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure—will be monitored closely and their symptoms treated as appropriate.

They may be given the following:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Fluids through an IV
  • Laxative
  • N-acetylcysteine to lower acetaminophen levels in the blood
  • Naloxone to reverse the effect of the hydrocodone
  • Tube through the nose or mouth to wash out the stomach

How well the overdose victim recovers will depend on how much of the drug they took and how quickly treatment was administered. The sooner they receive medical help, the better the prognosis.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources