How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your Body?

How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your Body?

Every drug affects the body differently, and takes a different amount of time to fully leave the body. It’s important to know how long a drug stays in your system to avoid overdosing.  

Different Types of Drugs

Drugs can have different effects on different people, depending on the drug metabolites that will be expelled from the body at different rates. This means that the time it takes for drugs to leave your system can vary depending on the drug, and the drug metabolites in that drug.

The different drug metabolites in different drugs can also result in different withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to know the drug(s) you’re taking and its half life in order to know when it will leave your system.

Drugs can be broken down into a few main categories: stimulants, opioids, hallucinogens, and benzodiazepines.

Stimulant Drugs

Stimulant drugs are a class of drugs that include cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, nicotine and ecstasy. They help to increase alertness and energy levels in people by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

These drugs can be addictive and lead to serious health problems if used incorrectly or in excess. Stimulant drug use is on the rise globally as they are often used for recreational purposes or to treat conditions such as ADHD.

Cocaine: Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that becomes effective by sending high levels of dopamine to the parts of your brain that control pleasure. This buildup causes intense feelings of energy and alertness, otherwise known as a high.

Adderall: Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, known for improving focus and reducing impulsivity, and is often prescribed to people with ADHD.

Meth: Methamphetamine belongs to a family of drugs called amphetamines, and is a dangerous and highly addictive drug that affects the central nervous system.

Ecstasy: Ecstasy (MDMA) has hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. It works by boosting the activity of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, resulting in feelings of increased energy, pleasure, and distorted sensory and time perception.


Opioid drugs are prescription and illicit drugs that act on the brain’s opioid receptors to produce effects such as euphoria, analgesia, and sedation.

They are classified into two main groups- synthetic opioids (such as heroin, fentanyl, morphine, codeine) and natural opioids (such as oxycodone). Synthetic opioids are much more potent than natural opioids and last longer in the body due to their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Fentanyl: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is used in medical settings for severe pain management, and is more than 50 times more potent than morphine.

However, fentanyl is also used illegally, and is often added to cocaine or heroin to increase its potency, and produces similar effects to heroin. Overdose from fentanyl can be fatal due to its high potency and long half-life in the body.

Heroin: Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, and is ingested through smoking, snorting, or injecting. Heroin gets to your brain quickly, and is extremely addictive.

Oxycodone: Oxycodone (OxyContin) is a semisynthetic opioid often used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It provides feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and pain relief.

As with any prescription medication, it’s important to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions to avoid becoming addicted.


Hallucinogens (or psychedelics) are drugs that produce changes in perception, mood and cognitive processes, and can cause hallucinations. They include LSD, ketamine, and MDMA.

LSD: LSD (acid) is one of the most potent, mood-changing drugs. LSD users experience a “trip” which can last around 12 hours.

Ketamine: Ketamine is used by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anesthetic, but can also be obtained illegally. Ketamine is a dissociative drug, which distorts perceptions of sight and sound and makes the user feel disconnected and not in control.


Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs are used primarily to treat anxiety and panic disorders, as well as insomnia and seizures. Benzos are central nervous system depressants that relax muscles and slow down activity in the brain, thus reducing anxiety. These drugs include Xanax, Ativan, and Valium.

Xanax: Xanax (Alprazolam) is often used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It is a central nervous system depressant which enhances a brain chemical called GABA, which slows down the nerve cell activity in the brain, creating a calming effect.

Ativan: Ativan (Lorazepam) is also used to treat anxiety and creates a calming effect.

Valium: Valium (diazepam) is used for treating anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures.

Is Alcohol a Drug?

A drug is considered anything that changes the brain’s psychology or physiology when ingested. Alcohol is classified as a drug since it is a central nervous system depressant which changes how the brain functions.

Just like any other drug, alcohol is addictive, and can have extremely negative effects on your health. Particularly if you binge drink, your body then has to work much harder to recover than if you had only had one or two drinks.

Drug Elimination

Not all drugs stay in your system for the same amount of time – in fact, drug elimination can vary depending on the drug and how much was consumed. Understanding how a drug half-life works is important in order to avoid exposure to unnecessary risks.

What is a Drug Half-Life?

A drug half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the drug dose to be metabolized and eliminated from the bloodstream. A drug half-life helps determine how long it will take for the drug to be fully eliminated from your body.

The length of a half-life can vary from person to person depending on age, weight, and medical history.

With drugs that have a shorter half-life, you will feel the effects quicker, but it leaves the body slower than a drug with a longer half-life. With drugs that have a longer half-life, you will typically experience less extreme withdrawal symptoms.

How Are Drugs Metabolized?

Drug metabolism is the process of breaking down drugs and their by-products so that they can be eliminated from the body. This process takes different times depending on the drug’s type.

The three types of drug metabolism are hepatic (the liver), renal (the kidneys) and excretory (urine). Knowing how long a drug will last in your system is essential for safety reasons as well as informing dosage adjustments.

Metabolized quickly: benzodiazepines, barbiturates, amphetamines etc.; half-life around 3-4 hours

Metabolized slowly: opioids such as morphine; half-life anywhere from 12 hours up to several days.

How Long Does it Take for a Drug to Leave Your Body?

Now that you are familiar with the different types of drugs and how they are metabolized, let’s look at how long each drug stays in your body.

Knowing how long a drug stays in your body can keep you from overdosing on that drug, or from experiencing negative side effects due to taking a drug while another drug is still present in your body.

How Long Do Stimulant Drugs Stay in Your System?

Here’s how long cocaine, Adderall, methamphetamine, and ecstasy remain present in your body. 

Blood – Up to 48 hoursBlood – Up to 24 hoursBlood – Up to 72 hoursBlood – Up to 72 hours
Saliva – Up to 48 hoursSaliva – Up to 48 hoursSaliva – Up to 48 hoursSaliva – Up to 72 hours 
Urine – Up to 4 daysUrine – Up to 4 daysUrine – Up to 72 hoursUrine – Up to 5 days

How Long Do Opioids Stay in Your System?

Here’s how long fentanyl, heroin, and oxycodone remain present in your body. 

Blood – Up to 48 hoursBlood – 5-6 hours, or up to 2 daysBlood – Up to 20 hours
Saliva – Not consistently detectedSaliva – 5-6 hours, or up to 2 daysSaliva – Up to 48 hours
Urine – Up to 72 hoursUrine – Up to 48 hoursUrine – Up to 72 hours

How Long Do Hallucinogens Stay in Your System?

Here’s how long LSD (acid) and Ketamine remain present in your body. 

Blood – Up to 12 hoursBlood – Up to 72 hours   
Saliva – Saliva – Up to 24 hours
Urine – Up to 4 daysUrine – Up to 14 days

How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?

Here’s how long Xanax, Ativan, and Valium remain present in your body. 

Blood – Up to 24 hoursBlood – Up to 3 daysBlood – Up to 48 hours
Saliva – Up to 2.5 daysSaliva – Up to 8 hoursSaliva – Up to 10 days
Urine – Up to 4 daysUrine – Up to 6 daysUrine – Up to 6 weeks 

What Determines How Long a Drug Stays in Your Body?

There are many factors that can determine how long a drug stays in your system, including the following. 

The Type of Drug

As we’ve already learned, different types of drugs stay in your system for different amount of time, due to their differing half lives.

Individual Metabolism

How long a drug stays in the body will vary from person to person since everyone has a slightly different metabolic rate. For people with a fast metabolism, the drug will be metabolized and leave their body quickly. In contrast, people who have a slow metabolism may take longer to metabolize drugs. 


The larger the amount of the drug that you consume, the longer it will take to leave your body. If you take multiple doses of a drug back-to-back, your body will not have enough time to metabolize the first dosage before getting hit with even more.

Frequency of Use

More frequent use of a drug tends to increase the amount of time it takes to eliminate the drug from your system.


As you age, it will take your body longer to process some chemicals. For example, seniors generally have slower rates of absorption due to reduced blood flow throughout their bodies, meaning that the half-life of a drug can be much longer in a senior than a younger person.

Can You Speed Up Drug Elimination?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to speeding up drug elimination. However, by eating healthy and drinking plenty of fluids, you can help speed up the process to an extent. 

How Drug Tolerance Works

Drug tolerance is a process where your body gets used to the presence of a drug and starts to require higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects. This can lead to addiction, worsened mental health conditions etcetera. However, in most cases drug tolerance is not permanent and it can be reversed with time and proper treatment.

Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms will vary from drug to drug, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Trouble regulating emotions
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and headaches
  • Problems with focus and memory

The length of a withdrawal will depend on the substance consumed, as well as the frequency of use, amount normally consumed, and individual factors such as age, weight, and metabolism.

The most dangerous drugs to withdraw from are alcohol and benzos – never attempt to detox from these drugs on your own, as it can be fatal if not monitored. Always speak to a medical professional and detox under medical supervision.

When to Seek Help for Drug Use

If you are struggling with drug abuse, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Drug addiction can be extremely destructive and lead to a number of unpleasant consequences, both short- and long-term.

A few signs that it’s time to seek help for drug abuse include:

  • You’re progressively using drugs more and more,
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using drugs.
  • You’ve lost interest in activities that were once enjoyable, like socializing or participating in recreational activities.

There are various resources available to those in need of drug addiction treatment and it’s best to speak to a professional before attempting to withdraw from drugs on your own.

Detox From Drugs Safely

Detoxing from drugs can be a long and difficult process, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run. Once detox is complete, you’ll feel much better and will be able to live a healthier lifestyle free of drugs.

Make sure to detox in a treatment center, as attempting to detox on your own can lead to dangerous and even fatal side effects that need to be monitored by a medical professional.

Drug Detoxification Process

When you stop using drugs, your body goes through a detoxification process. This starts with the kidneys and liver flushing out toxins. Depending on the drug(s), this might take several days or even weeks.

Eventually, your body will start to restore its equilibrium and eliminate toxins from the system naturally over time. However, if you experience any symptoms such as flu-like symptoms or extreme fatigue during detoxification, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.

Get Help for Drug Addiction

Taking the first step towards getting treated for a drug addiction can be scary, but at Paramount Recovery Center, we give you all the tools you need to succeed in your recovery. 

We offer a medical detox as a first step for those addicted to drugs, and from there we offer a sober living program which allows patients to work and go to school while in treatment.

In doing so, we are equipping patients to have a life outside of treatment, so that the only thing that changes when they leave our facility is where they live. 

Learn more about our addiction recovery program, or speak to one of our addiction recovery specialists.