Codeine is an analgesic drug in the opioid family typically prescribed to relieve mild to moderate pain. It is also used for cough suppression, diarrhea, and other secondary treatments. Codeine is commonly combined with other medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol 3 with Codeine) or the anti-nausea drug promethazine (Phenergan with Codeine).

Those taking the drug may wonder, how long does the codeine remain in my body? To understand this, let’s look at how the body processes codeine and how different tests can detect its presence in your system.

How Codeine is Processed

Like many medications, codeine is metabolized by the liver upon ingestion. The half-life, or how long it takes the body to process half of the ingested drug in the blood’s plasma, of codeine is 3 hours.

Like many opiates, codeine is processed relatively quickly by the body, and nearly 90% of the substance is eliminated via the kidneys in urine within the first 24 hours. That said, trace amounts of the medication can remain in your system for longer and be detected with drug testing.

How Long is Codeine Detectable

How long codeine is detectable in a person’s system can vary by person and situation. Several factors can affect this, including:

  • The amount of the drug taken.
  • Which formulation of codeine is consumed.
  • Length of codeine use.
  • Consumption of other medication or drugs.
  • The individual’s metabolism.
  • Hydration and activity levels.
  • Age, liver and kidney health, and other physiological factors.

For example, particularly large doses or prolonged use may extend the amount of time the drug is in your system. While exact times may vary, below are typical estimates for how long codeine is detectable, listed by the testing methodology.

How long is codeine detectable in urine?

As noted above, codeine is eliminated from the body fairly quickly by the kidneys. On average, the substance remains present in urine for 1-2 days.

How long does codeine show up in saliva?

Codeine can show up in saliva drug tests in as few as 15 minutes. Typically, the drug will fall below testable levels in 1-2 days.

How long does codeine stay in blood?

Due to its short half-life, codeine is typically detectable in the blood for only one day. As such, it is not as commonly used for testing as other methods.

How long is codeine detectable in hair?

A hair follicle test can detect codeine for up to 90 days. The effectiveness of hair testing depends on hair length and the heaviness of drug use. However, unlike other testing methods, it can take 1 to 3 weeks for the drug to show up following initial ingestion.

Codeine Abuse

Despite its legitimate medical uses, codeine also carries a risk for abuse and addiction. Like many painkillers, it can cause physical dependence, and medications containing codeine have faced increasing restrictions in the pharmaceutical industry.

In our home state of Colorado, opioids were involved in nearly 70% of all overdose deaths in 2018 (46,802 deaths), while early data from 2020 suggests that 2020 was a record year for drug overdoses in Colorado.

Help for Opiate Abuse

If you or someone you love is struggling with opiates like codeine, please reach out today for assistance. Our expert, caring staff is ready to help you. We have a long history of safe, effective treatment at our Palmer Lake, Colorado facilities. Get in touch today.

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MedlinePlus. “Codeine.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, December 15, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2021.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. “PubChem Compound Summary for CID 5284371, Codeine.” PubChem, 2021. Accessed September 28, 2021.

Smith, H. S. “Opioid Metabolism.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, July 2009. Accessed September 28, 2021.

NIDA. “Colorado: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 3, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2021.

Drummer, Olaf H. “Drug testing in oral fluid.” The Clinical biochemist, 2006. Accessed September 28, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.