How Long Does Opium Stay in Your System?

Opium in Your Blood, Urine, Hair, & Saliva

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Opium comes from the seedpod of the opium poppy, which contains a variety of alkaloids that can be extracted, including morphine, codeine, and thebaine (paramorphine). These can be purified and used as opiate narcotic drugs for pain relief.

Opium was used for pain relief for centuries before it was discovered how to purify it. It was smoked as well as ingested and still may be used in that way in some countries where it is produced.

The medications paregoric and opium tincture or laudanum, which are used to treat diarrhea, contain opium. These drugs have largely been replaced by other non-narcotic medications, but may be used when diarrhea isn't brought under control by other drugs. They may also be used for treating neonatal abstinence syndrome.

How long opium stays in your system and how long it is detectable by a drug test can vary depending on a number of factors. This includes the type of drug that was used, the amount and frequency of use, and the type of drug test that is used. In urine, for example, the opium-derived medication codeine may be detectable for up to four days.

How Long Does Opium Typically Stay In Your System?

Blood: Up to 3 days

Urine: Up to 3 days

Saliva: Up to 3 days

Hair: Up to 90 days

How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?

The active alkaloids in opium bind to opiate receptors in the brain, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract. Binding to receptors in the gastrointestinal tract can help relieve diarrhea by slowing down the gut. A side effect of all of the opiates can be constipation due to this slowing.

After taking a dose, the effects begin within 15 to 60 minutes and last 4 to 6 hours. People experience pain relief as well as other effects including euphoria and drowsiness.

Opium can also produce other unpleasant side effects including:

  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Dizziness

The drowsiness produced by morphine or codeine can be dangerous when driving or operating machinery, so use caution.

If you experience difficulty breathing, this is a serious side effect. Contact your doctor or the medical emergency line immediately.

How Long Does Opium Last?

Opium-derived medications such as morphine have a short half-life, with half of it metabolized in 1.5 to 7 hours.

Most of a single dose is eliminated in the urine within 72 hours. However, multiple or heavier dosages may take longer to clear from your system.

Opium contains more than 50 alkaloid opiates. It is most commonly converted to morphine and further broken down into metabolites morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G). Research suggests that these metabolites are also detectable on drug tests.

Be aware that if you have a urine drug screen while you are taking paregoric or laudanum you will likely test positive for morphine and codeine. Be sure to disclose your prescription to the testing lab so your results can be properly interpreted.

Urine

Opium may show up on a urine test typically for about three days after use. This involves taking a sample and testing it will an enzyme-multiplied immune test. If opium or its metabolites are present in the sample, a colored line will appear on a test strip.

Positive results on a urine test are also often confirmed with a second test such as liquid chromatography or gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. 

Blood

Opium may be detectable on a blood test for a brief period. Such tests are more invasive and more expensive to administer, so they are used less frequently than urine tests.

Saliva

Opium can be detected in saliva typically for around three days after consumption, which is similar to blood and urine. Saliva testing is becoming more common since these tests are easier to administer. They are also less prone to tampering since the samples are collected directly by the test administrator.

During a saliva test, a collection stick with an absorbent pad on one end is used to swab the inside of the cheek. The saliva collected that then be tested to detect the presence of drugs.

Hair

Opium and opium-derived medications can be detected in hair follicle tests for up to 90 days after use. Hair testing is generally used to evaluate past use.

False Positive Testing

Consuming poppy seeds can produce a false-positive result on a test for opiates. Poppy seeds contain trace amounts of opium alkaloids, including morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine, and noscapine, which can be detected on an enzyme immunoassay. 

Research suggests that morphine and codeine can be detected for up to 18 to 32 hours after the ingestion of poppy seeds.

The use of some other medications can also produce a false positive for opiates. This includes the antibiotic medications ofloxacin and levofloxacin as well as allergy medications that contain doxylamine and diphenhydramine.

Factors That Affect Detection Time

Drug detection timelines are estimates and may vary depending on a number of different factors. Some factors that may influence detection times include:

  • Age: Older adults tend to metabolize opium more slowly. As a result, it may show up on a drug test for a longer period of time.
  • Dosage: Opium takes longer to be eliminated from the body when taken at higher dosages. 
  • Medical conditions: Liver or kidney impairments can also affect how long it takes for opium to be eliminated from the body.
  • Other medications: Medications that interfere with the enzymes that break down opium can interfere with metabolism and elimination speed.

How to Get Opium Out of Your System

Opium is metabolized and then excreted in the urine. In most cases, a single dose of opium is eliminated around 72 hours after consumption. If you have been taking opium for a longer period or in larger doses, it may take longer. 

While some people believe that drinking water or exercising will speed up metabolism, these are unlikely to affect how quickly opium clears from your system. It is important to be aware that consuming large amounts of water can result in a medical condition called hyponatremia. When this occurs, sodium levels in the blood can become too low, which can result in nausea, headache, confusion, and fatigue. 

The only way to get opium out of your system is to stop using it and wait for the drug to be eliminated from your body.

Once you stop consuming opium, practicing self-care may help your metabolism work efficiently. This includes staying hydrated, engaging in physical activity, and consuming a healthy diet.

Symptoms of Overdose

If you are taking an opium-derived medication, it is important to take it on the schedule determined by your doctor to avoid overdose. An opium overdose can be fatal. It is more likely to occur if too much medication is consumed or if it interacts with another medication. Symptoms of overdose may include:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Slowed respiration
  • Sleepiness

Overdoses related to opiates or opioids can be reversed with the administration of the medication Narcan (naloxone).

If you believe someone has overdosed on opium or a related opiate or opioid medication, call 911. Narcan can be used to revive the individual if it is administered quickly.

It's important to discuss all of your prescription and nonprescription medications with a healthcare provider to avoid dangerous interactions. Especially discuss pain relievers, antidepressants, cough medicine, cold medicine, allergy medicine, sedatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and vitamins.

Also make sure your healthcare provider knows your history of liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, or prostatic disease. Avoid alcohol while taking paregoric, as it can enhance the drowsiness that the drug produces.

Getting Help

Prolonged use of opium can produce dependence and the risk of addiction. When a person stops using opium, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms may include muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

These symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after the last dose. Acute physical symptoms usually resolve within a week, while the psychological symptoms may last for several weeks. The severity of withdrawal symptoms can also vary depending on the duration and frequency of opium use prior to withdrawal.

In some cases, people may need to be medically supervised during detox.

Medication-assisted treatments that are available for opiate-related withdrawal include methadone and buprenorphine. Following detox and withdrawal, other addiction treatments can also help support long-term recovery. 

In addition to medication-based treatments for addiction, therapy options include cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, family therapy, and 12-step support groups. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.