How Long Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

Know the Risks from Interactions with Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen

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Avoid a Vicodin Overdose. © Getty Images

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, sedation, and 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 with drugs that affect a component of liver metabolism, CYP3A4, either inhibiting or inducing its action.

Using, changing dosage, or stopping use of 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. These include erythromycin, ketoconazole, and ritonavir as CYP3A4 inhibitors and rifampin, carbamazepine, and phenytoin as inducers.

But you also have 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 4000 milligrams. You might be taking other 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 take alcohol, this is even more of a risk. This is another reason 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 Does Vicodin Stay in Your System?

The acetaminophen in Vicodin has a half-life in the blood of 1.25 to 3 hours, depending on whether a person has poor liver function. Most of it has passed out through the urine in 24 hours.

A dose of Vicodin provides pain relief for 4 to 8 hours. Half of the dose of hydrocodone has been deactivated after 4 hours in your system, and it can be detected in the urine for up to 3 days. While you are taking Vicodin, it is likely that you would test positive for opiates on a urine drug screening test. Be sure to disclose your medications to the testing laboratory so they can interpret your test accurately.

Vicodin can also produce withdrawal symptoms if you have been taking it for several weeks and suddenly stop. Work with your doctor on ways to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Signs of a Vicodin Overdose

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

    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 a treatment of Narcan.

    Sources:

    Hydrocodone and acetaminophen overdose. MedlinePlus NIH. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002670.htm

    Hydrocodone Combination Products. MedlinePlus NIH. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601006.html.

    Opiates. Mayo Medical Laboratories. http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-info/drug-book/opiates.html.

    Vicodin. Abbott Laboratories. http://medlibrary.org/lib/rx/meds/vicodin-2/.

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