How Long Do You Test Positive for Opioid Abuse and Addiction?

Test Positive Opioid Abuse and Addiction

Prescription opioids are used for pain management but they too can lead to drug addiction. The overall rates of opioid addiction may have declined over the years though it’s hardly any good news.

Opioids remain to be the leading cause of drug overdose in the United States. In 2018, when opioid addiction rates were supposedly at its lowest in 12 years, as much as 128 Americans died each day from opioid overdose.

About 29 percent of people who obtain prescription opioids end up misusing them. The estimated 71 percent who take them as prescribed aren’t necessarily spared from its dangers, however. Long-term opioid use is known to cause drug tolerance and addiction.

If you’re taking opioids for chronic pain, we strongly recommend you undergo drug testing. Opioids stay in your system shortly after you ingest them. During which time, doctors can check your urine, saliva, hair, and blood for signs of:

  • Recent misuse of opioids
  • Ongoing opioid abuse
  • Long-term opioid addiction

Doctors can then use these findings to decide whether or not you can continue taking opioids, or if it’s time to consider alternative pain treatments.

What are Prescription Opioids?

Prescription opioids are medications that are used as painkillers. There are three kinds based on their active ingredients:

  • Opiates which are derived naturally from opium poppy plants (i.e. morphines).
  • Synthetic opioids which are produced in laboratories (i.e. fentanyl) to mimic the effects of opiates.
  • Mixed opioids which combine natural opiates with man-made opioids.

Once they enter the body, they attach themselves to opioid receptors and activate them. They block painful sensations and release copious amounts of dopamine, a hormone that induces feelings of pleasure and mental relaxation.

Because of these, opioids have the ability to treat moderate to severe pain as well as help you cope with its discomforts.

What Makes Opioids Dangerous?

The desire to relive the “high” produced by opioids is what makes them prone to abuse and drug addiction. Users tend to up their dose or take it more frequently than what their doctor allows.

Besides drug abuse, opioids pose the risk for dependence, tolerance, and accidental addiction.

Opioids and Drug Dependence

Dependence is when your body gets used to a drug that if you stop using it, you’ll experience a withdrawal phase. It manifests as physical and mental symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.

Withdrawal symptoms are distressing and can last for days or weeks. Unless you undergo drug detox – a treatment which alleviates these symptoms – you’re more likely to get stuck in a cycle of dependence.

Opioids and Drug Tolerance

Tolerance is when a drug stops working as intended. When you develop opioid tolerance, you will need to take more of it to achieve similar effects as a lower dose.

The longer you stay on opioids, the higher the dose you will need. This increases your risk for drug addiction, overdose, and death.

Accidental Addiction to Opioids

Not everyone who has an opioid addiction starts with the intention of getting high. Many people become “accidentally” addicted for two main reasons:

  • Not following the doctor’s orders. Taking prescription opioids with alcohol, or going beyond the recommended dose to relieve pain more effectively, are just a few examples where you might misuse the drug.
  • Long-term opioid treatment. Staying on prescription opioids for more than 4 to 8 weeks also puts you at risk for accidental addiction.

Testing for Opioid Abuse and Addiction

Opioid testing gives doctors a picture of how you’ve been taking these medications. As the name implies, you will be tested for the presence of opioids in your body.

Urine Testing

The urine is tested for opioid byproducts which pass through the kidneys after they’ve been metabolized by the body. The resulting byproducts indicate which opioids were recently ingested.

Saliva testing

Less accurate than a urine test, it can detect opioids within a few hours after ingestion. Saliva testing is only preferred for its less invasive nature.

Hair testing

It checks for the presence of opioid byproducts in the hair. Hair can store several months worth of substances after they’ve been metabolized by the liver. This makes it ideal for testing long-term drug abuse.

Blood testing

This is by far the most accurate test for ongoing drug abuse. With it, doctors can identify the type and amount of drugs you’ve recently taken.

How Long Do Opioids Stay In Your Body?

It’s going to be different for everyone. But there are numerous factors influencing the halflife of opioids or the time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the ingested dose.

How long you’ve been on opioids (duration), how much you’ve been taking (dose), and how often you take them (frequency) can all affect their halflives. So does your age, sex, gender, weight, metabolism, medical history, and other medications you may be taking.

The type of opioid you are taking can also give a clue on how long it might stay in your body.

Long Acting Opioids

These opioids are prescribed for chronic pain that last more than 6 months. Their long half-lives means they stay in the body longer and require less frequent dosing.


  • Urine: 1 to 4 days
  • Saliva: 1 to 2 days
  • Hair: Up to 90 days
  • Blood: Up to 24 hours


  • Urine: Up to 2 weeks
  • Saliva: 1 to 2 days
  • Hair: Up to 90 days
  • Blood: 2 to 3 days

Short-acting opioids

These are opioids which are prescribed for breakthrough pain or pain that is severe but only flares up occasionally. They have short halflives and don’t stay in the body for too long. Because of this, they are usually paired with low doses of long-acting opioids to sustain pain relief.


  • Urine: 1 to 2 days
  • Saliva: 1 to 4 days
  • Hair: Up to 90 days
  • Blood: Up to 24 hours


  • Urine: 2 to 4 days
  • Saliva: 12 to 36 hours
  • Hair: Up to 90 days
  • Blood: Up to 24 hours


  • Urine: 1 to 3 days
  • Saliva: 1 to 4 days
  • Hair: Up to 90 days
  • Blood: Up to 12 hours

Better Ways to Treat Chronic Pain

Detecting opioid abuse in its early stages will help doctors prevent tolerance and eventual drug addiction so it’s very important that you get tested. In cases where tolerance and addiction have already set in, Roots Through Recovery can get you started with medication assisted treatment (MAT) and provide drug rehab. We believe there are healthier options for pain management.

If you or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment Catalina Island, CA and don’t know where to turn, we, at Roots Through Recovery can help. Reach out today to get started. Visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.

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