How Long Does Codeine Stay in Your System?

Detection Timetable Depends on Many Variables

Man Looking Through Medicine Cabinet
Codeine Is Habit-Forming. © Getty Images

Determining exactly how long codeine is detectable in the body depends on many variables, including which kind drug test is being used. Codeine - also known as Tylenol with Codeine, Empirin with Codeine, Robitussin A-C, Fiorinal with Codeine, Tylenol #3, Codate, Codephos Syrup - can be detected for a shorter time with some tests, but can be "visible" for up to three months in other tests.

The timetable for detecting codeine in the system is also dependent upon each individual's metabolism, body mass, age, hydration level, physical activity, health conditions and other factors, making it almost impossible to determine an exact time codeine will show up on a drug test.

The following is an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which codeine can be detected by various testing methods:

How Long Does Codeine Show Up in Urine?

Codeine is detectable in a urine test for 2-4 days.

How Long Does Codeine Stay in the Blood?

A blood test will detect codeine for up to 12 hours.

How Long Will Codeine Show Up in a Saliva Test?

A saliva test will detect codeine from 1-4 days.

How Long Does Codeine Remain in Hair?

Codeine, like many other drugs, can be detected with a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days.

How Is Codeine Absorbed by the Body?

Codeine is easily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and is distributed to different tissues throughout the body.

How Is Codeine Eliminated From the Body?

About 90% of the drug is eliminated by the kidneys in urine. With a half-life of only 3 hours, 50% of the dosage taken would be eliminated from the body within three hours.

The Dangers of Too Much Codeine

Codeine is an opioid pain reliever which means it can be habit-forming. Taking more codeine than prescribed or taking it longer than directed can increase the risk of developing a dependence on the drug.

It is important to know how long codeine remains in the system because taking more before a previous dose has metabolized can increase the risk of an overdose.

Codeine should not be taken with alcohol or other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, which can also affect respiration rate.

Symptoms of a Codeine Overdose

Symptoms of a codeine overdose can include:

Some of the above symptoms can occur even when codeine is taken exactly as prescribed. If you suspect someone has overdosed on codeine call 9-1-1 immediately or the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).

Sources:

Always Test Clean. "What Are Drug Detection Times?" Drug Test Facts Accessed December 2015

American Association for Clinical Chemistry "Drugs of Abuse Testing." Lab Tests Online. Revised 2 January 2013.

LabCorp, Inc. "Drugs of Abuse Reference Guide." Accessed March 2013.

OHS Health & Safety Services. "How long do drugs stay in your system?." Accessed March 2013.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Codeine Overdose." Drugs, Herbs and Supplements. October 2015

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