How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

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Vicodin is a pain reliever for moderate to severe pain. It is a combination product with the opioid narcotic hydrocodone bitartrate the nonnarcotic pain reliever acetaminophen. There are risks of interactions with other medications and substances you may be taking. If you learn how long Vicodin is active in your system, you may understand how to avoid these dangerous reactions and accidental overdose.

Risks With Vicodin in Your System

Vicodin contains hydrocodone, which is synthesized from codeine, one of the opioids found in opium poppies. Hydrocodone has the risk of dangerous interactions with alcohol and other medications. If you mix alcohol or certain other drugs with hydrocodone, you may have breathing problems or sedation and risk falling into a coma.

Do not drink alcohol or take street drugs while taking Vicodin. Discuss all of your prescription, non-prescription, and over-the-counter medications, supplements, and vitamins with your doctor or pharmacist. While many drugs interact with hydrocodone, the highest risks are with benzodiazepines (Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Diastat, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, Halcion, and others), muscle relaxants, sedatives, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and medicines for mental illness or nausea.

There are risks of interactions with drugs that affect a component of liver metabolism, CYP3A4. These medications include erythromycin, ketoconazole, and ritonavir as CYP3A4 inhibitors, and rifampin, carbamazepine, and phenytoin as inducers. Using, changing the dosage, or stopping these drugs can cause possibly dangerous changes to the amount of hydrocodone in your system even if you are continuing with the same dose of Vicodin.

You also risk the possibility of deadly interactions with the acetaminophen in Vicodin. The problem is that the limit you can take each day without an increased risk of liver damage and possible death is 4,000 milligrams. You might be taking over-the-counter or prescription remedies that contain acetaminophen, such as Tylenol. Those can add up, and people have had serious liver damage due to an accidental overdose. If you drink alcohol, this is even more of a risk. It is important to review everything you take with your doctor or pharmacist—not only drugs you are taking but also any you will be adding or stopping.

How Long Vicodin Is Active and Detectable in Your System

A dose of Vicodin provides pain relief for four to eight hours. This is due to both of the active ingredients—acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Your Vicodin dosage schedule is designed so the blood levels of these two drugs are constant enough to provide continuous pain relief as the body breaks down and eliminates them.

The acetaminophen in Vicodin has a half-life in the blood of 1.25 to three hours, depending on whether a person has a poor liver function. Most of it has passed out through the urine in 24 hours. Half of the dose of hydrocodone has been deactivated after four hours in your system, and it can be detected in the urine for up to three days.

Vicodin can produce withdrawal symptoms if you have been taking it for several weeks and suddenly stop. These symptoms can come on within six to 12 hours of your last dose. Work with your doctor on ways to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

While you are taking Vicodin, it is likely that you would test positive for opiates on a urine drug screening test for two to four days and a saliva drug test for 12 hours to three days. A hair follicle test may show Vicodin use for up to 90 days, although such tests are uncommon. If you must take a drug screening test for employment, be sure to disclose your medications to the testing laboratory so they can interpret your test accurately.

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.

Signs of a Vicodin Overdose

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

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Spasms of the stomach or intestinal tract
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Limp or weak muscles
  • Liver damage from acetaminophen
  • Narrowing or widening of the pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Seizures
  • Slow or stopped heartbeat
  • Blue color of skin, fingernails, lips
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

If you suspect someone is suffering from a Vicodin overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately. If caught early enough, the overdose can be reversed with treatment of Narcan.

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  1. MedLine Plus. Hydrocodone Combination Products. Revised October 15, 2019.

  2. MedlinePlus. Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen Overdose. Reviewed January 17, 2018.

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. What Are Opiods? Reviewed May 15, 2018.