How Long Does Lortab Stay in Your System?

Avoid Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone Drug Interactions and Accidental Overdose

Urine Testing
Urine Test for Drugs. © Getty Images

Lortab is a pain-relieving medication that combines the opiate hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Lortab) or with aspirin (Lortab ASA). It's prescribed for moderate to severe pain. Similar hydrocodone-acetaminophen combination products include Anexsia, Anolor DH, Lorcet, Norco, Vicodin, and Zydone.

While this combination drug is in your system, you are at risk for drug interactions and overdoses. Knowing more about how they work in your body and help you understand and avoid these risks.

Risks from Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone in Your System

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 this injury didn't realize how much acetaminophen they were getting from a variety of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

You need to carefully go over the list of the nonprescription 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 these dangerous overdoses.

Some medications can interact with hydrocodone to produce breathing problems, sedation, or coma. The ones of heightened concern are benzodiazepines (Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Diastat, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, Halcion and others), muscle relaxants, sedatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and medicines for mental illness or nausea.

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

How Long Lortab Stays in Your System

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 1.25 to 3 hours, but that varies depending on whether a person has poor liver function. Most of it has passed out through the urine in 24 hours.

Hydrocodone has a half-life of about 4 hours, which it the time in which half of it is no longer acting in your system. It takes five to six half-lives to eliminate most of a drug from your system. Hydrocodone can be detected in the urine for up to 3 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.

Preventing an Accidental Lortab Overdose

One reason that it is important to know how long Lortab remains in the system is because of its potential to interact with other drugs, such as alcohol. Another reason is because of the risk of accidental overdose. 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.

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 throw up unless specifically told to do so by poison control (1-800-222-1222), a health care professional or 9-1-1.

Before you call, it will be helpful if you can determine the following:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (ingredients and strength, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed
  • If the medication was prescribed for the patient

Treatment for Lortab Overdose

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.

The overdose patient may be given the following:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Breathing support
  • Chest x-ray
  • 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 they received treatment. The sooner they receive medical help, the better their prognosis.

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