How Long Do Drugs Stay In Your System

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The amount of time a drug stays in your system depends on the type of drug you’ve taken as well as your age, weight, health, and genetic makeup. In addition to being extremely dangerous, taking multiple drugs at once can also affect the amount of time it takes for your body to process them. Once someone has taken a drug, it will enter thier bloodstream and be broken down by the liver, which is the body’s main filtration system. The liver purifies blood once it has passed through the stomach, filtering out drugs and other harmful substances. 

How The Body Processes Drugs 

Your body is intelligent and recognizes drugs as toxic substances. As such, it is designed to metabolize and release toxins as efficiently as possible. Drugs are mostly broken down by the liver but are also released by sweating, breathing, and urinating. Every drug has what is known as a “half-life” which is approximately how long it takes your body to process 50% of any drug. 

This half-life is a useful guideline that can help you calculate how long you might feel the effects of a drug, and how long it will take for you to legally be considered sober. Keep in mind that it takes five half-lives for your body to fully eliminate a drug. 

Commonly Misused Drugs 

Here is a guide for some of the most misused drugs and how long it takes your body to release them. Contrary to what many people believe, there is no way to speed up this process and become sober faster. Drinking coffee, taking cold showers, sleeping, and staying hydrated can all help support your body’s natural detoxification process but will not help you pass a drug test. 

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As a general rule of thumb, the older you are, the longer it will take your body to metabolize alcohol. Drinking alcohol on a full stomach will also slow down the absorption rate and therefore take longer to process. The liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol and can only process a small amount of alcohol at once, so binge drinking will also slow down the process significantly. A standard alcoholic beverage such as a can of beer has a half-life of 4-5 hours, which means that it can take about 24 hours for your body to fully release it. 


Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that has a 30-60 minute half-life. It is processed by the liver, where it is broken down into several metabolites including benzoylecgonine, which is a chemical compound that many drug tests can detect. Even though cocaine has a relatively short half-life, its metabolites can be detected for up to another 4-5 days. Taking a large dose of cocaine, binge-using, or consistently using smaller amounts of cocaine will extend this timeframe even more. 


Benzos are highly addictive sedative drugs that are commonly prescribed for sleep and anxiety disorders. Some well-known benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan, but the body processes different benzos at different speeds. Xanax, for example, has a half-life of 6-12 hours, while Valium has a half-life of 48 hours. Some benzos are not water soluble and will bind to a person’s fatty tissue, which means that people with a higher percentage of body fat will take longer to metabolize certain benzodiazepine medications. 

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Opioid Medication

Synthetic opioids like codeine and fentanyl are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. The processing rate for opioid pain medication varies depending on the strength of the dose and a person’s physical health, weight, and age. Codeine, for example, has a maximum half-life of 4 hours, which means that it can take up to 20 hours for the body to release it. Although fentanyl has a similar half-life of 5 hours, it does not break down into morphine like other opioid drugs do and cannot be detected by standard drug tests.  

Find Your Path to Recovery

At Quest 2 Recovery, our holistic treatment philosophy is focused on the unique needs of the individual. Our knowledgeable and professional team members offer incredible support and guidance to everyone who attends one of our programs and also help oversee the practical details involved with attending treatment to make your path to recovery as smooth as possible. With a trauma-based approach in a safe, family-like environment, we offer medical detox and tailored treatment plans to help people of all ages learn more about and resolve the underlying issues that cause substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, contact us today.

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