How Long Are Opiates in Urine?

Last Editorial Review: 10/13/2017

Ask the expert

I've been to rehab for heroin, and I've been clean for three months. The job I'm applying for requires a drug test. How long are opiates (detectable) in urine?

Doctor’s response

In general, opiates are detectable in urine for about 2 to 7 days depending on the individual's metabolism, frequency of use, opiate type, opiate detection test and effectiveness of your body's storage and clearance mechanisms (for example, body fat, kidney function, water intake).

The common opiates tested for in urine are codeine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone and opium. Each drug may vary in detectability time but not by much. The following is a range of time that the five major opiates are usually detected is several body components (sweat tests are available but seldom used):

  • Urine tests – 2-7 days
  • Blood tests – 6 hours to 4 days
  • Saliva tests – 5 hours to 4 days
  • Hair tests – 90 days

Factors that increase time of detectability of opiates in the above body components (especially urine) are:

  • Frequency and quantity of opiate intake
  • Amount of body fat (opiates are retained longer in fatty tissues)
  • Age (older individuals have slower metabolism)
  • General health (people who eat an unhealthy diet and don't exercise have slower metabolism)

Factors that decrease time of detectability of opiates in urine include:

  • Drinking water in large amounts (dilutes urine concentration of blood and kidney waste compounds like opiates)
  • Do not use first morning urine for urine tests as the overnight urine usually contains more concentrated waste products (like opiates)
  • Vigorous exercise along with a healthy diet may increase your metabolism of opiates

A problem with some individuals that occasionally happens is a positive opiate urine test is reported but the person denies taking such drugs. Although a few such people are in denial, others fail to realize that some medications like cough suppressant medication may contain an opiate like codeine. You and your doctor should review all of your medicines before you take a drug test to make sure none contain an opiate that would give you a positive urine opiate test.

For more information, read our full medical article about drug addiction, witdrawal, treatment, and rehabilitation.

"Opioid abuse workup"
Dixon, D.
Medscape, 10/6/2017