How Long Does Tylenol #3 Stay in Your System?

Avoid Drug Interactions With the Codeine and Acetaminophen in Tylenol #3

Man taking prescription pills out of medicine cabinet
Tylenol #3 Can Interact With Other Drugs. © Getty Images

Tylenol #3 is prescribed for pain relief when you have mild to moderate pain. It contains acetaminophen (paracetamol) as is found in regular Tylenol and it also contains codeine which belongs to a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. Codeine works on the central nervous system to provide pain relief, while acetaminophen is a non-narcotic pain reliever and fever reducer.

Both acetaminophen and codeine have risks for serious interactions with other medications and overdoses. If you know more about how long Tylenol #3 stays in your body, you may better understand how to avoid these reactions.

Risks from Tylenol #3 in Your System

You may not realize the risk of an overdose from acetaminophen, but it has only a narrow safety range. If you exceed a total dose of 4000 milligrams per day, you risk irreversible liver injury that can lead to death. Often, you don't realize you are taking acetaminophen in more than one medication. Trade names include Tylenol and Panadol, and you'll see it listed on the ingredient list as paracetamol or acetaminophen. Combination drugs like Tylenol #3 are now limited to no more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per tablet, capsule, or dosage unit to help prevent these dangerous overdoses.

Discuss all of your prescription, non-prescription, and over-the-counter medications with your doctor so you can avoid interactions.

Especially concerning are medications containing acetaminophen, antidepressants; cold or allergy medicines, pain relievers, sedatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and vitamins.

Because it affects the central nervous system it should not be taken with other drugs that can slow breathing or cause drowsiness.

It also can react with other medications and drugs. You should not drink alcohol while taking Tylenol #3.

Codeine can also be habit-forming. Therefore, you should never take a larger dose, take it more often, or for a longer period that prescribed by your healthcare provider.

How Long Tylenol #3 Stays in Your System

The acetaminophen in Tylenol #3 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 and whether they have taken an overdose. Most has passed out through the urine in 24 hours.

Codeine has a half-life of 2.5 to 3 hours and a duration of action for 4 to 6 hours. It is excreted in the urine for as long as 3 days after a dose as its metabolites, morphine, and hydrocodone. If a urine drug screen is performed, it is likely that it will test positive for opiates. Be sure to disclose any prescriptions to the testing laboratory so they can appropriately interpret your test results.

Signs of a Tylenol #3 Overdose

Take your medications according to the schedule provided by your doctor, as you risk an overdose with either acetaminophen or codeine. Here are some of the symptoms of an acetaminophen and codeine overdose:

  • Breathing shallow

If someone has an overdose on Tylenol #3, seek medical help immediately because this type of overdose can cause death.


Acetaminophen and codeine. MedlinePlus NIH.>

Acetaminophen and codeine overdose. MedlinePlus NIH.

Opiates. Mayo Medical Laboratories.