How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?

14 Mar How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?

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Drugs can stay in your system for hours, days, or weeks at a time. It depends on a variety of factors including a person’s height, weight, age, and gender. It matters how much of a drug a person ingests, how long they’ve been using it, and the strength of the drug. There is not a set formula to determine how long drugs will remain in the body, but rather a range of time of expectancy.

Testing is a determining factor since different tests can detect drugs at different time frames. How long do drugs stay in urine? For example, a hair screening may detect drugs months after use, while a urine sample generally can detect drug use for up to a few days. The types of tests that may be used for drug testing include:

Breath test. This is most commonly used to detect alcohol levels and intoxication. Nearly 90 percent of alcohol is processed through the liver, but the remainder is eliminated through the urine and breath, which can be detected within a couple of hours.

Blood test. Blood tests can detect alcohol levels for up to 24 hours after drinking. They are used to test concentration levels of both alcohol and drug use.

Urine test. This type of testing develops quicker than blood tests and provides convenient and accurate results. It’s a popular screening choice among employers and law enforcement agencies, especially when used for random drug screenings. In most cases, it detects drug use up to a few days after use, but for chronic drug users, it may be able to detect traces of the drug up to a month.

Saliva or hair test. Both the saliva and hair can be tested to detect traces of drugs. The length of time differs between the two. With saliva, drugs can be detected for up to a few days, while a hair analysis can detect traces of drugs for months.

Types of Drugs and How Long They Last in the Body


Commonly abused substances in the U.S. include methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs. However, alcohol is the most frequently abused drug, followed by marijuana. Many people separate drugs from alcohol when discussing the negative effects and signs of addiction, although alcohol is, in fact, a drug.

The body can only process so much alcohol at a time. When you drink past a blood alcohol level of .015 within an hour time frame, a person should expect that the body will need longer to metabolize it. This means that the faster and more a person consumes, the less time the body has to eliminate the alcohol, increasing the intoxication level.

Despite the differences between men and women’s ability to metabolize alcohol and other factors that affect a person’s blood alcohol concentration, you should estimate that alcohol may stay in your system anywhere from 1 to 12 hours.


Marijuana is derived from cannabis with THC as the active ingredient. The effects of marijuana can take effect within 10 minutes of use, but THC is released slowly into the bloodstream because the body stores it within the fat cells.

THC then remains in the system for up to five days as detected in a urine test. Or, for chronic users, it may be detected for up to 30 days.


Speed is the commonly known term used when referencing amphetamines as a street drug. However, there are also prescribed amphetamines, such as Adderall, which can do just as much damage when abused.

These types of drugs stimulate the central nervous system and are designed to give the person taking them a strong ability to focus and more concentrated energy. How long do drugs stay in your urine? One dose may be detected in the urine for up to two days, while traces of the drug may be detectable by a hair test for up to 90 days.


Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant. It produces a rush of euphoria when ingested and is sent directly to the brain and takes effect within minutes. Cocaine can be ingested by snorting, injecting, or smoking it in its various forms with millions of people abusing it every year.

For up to 12 hours, cocaine can be detected through blood testing. A hair analysis can show traces of cocaine use for three-plus months after initial use.


Heroin is also a highly addictive drug, which similarly to cocaine, produces feelings of immediate euphoria within a matter of minutes. It, too, can be injected, snorted, or smoked and is eliminated from the body within eight minutes.

Depending on factors such as weight, age, amount of the drug ingested and the frequency of use, urine testing can detect heroin for up to 48 hours.


Methamphetamines, more commonly known as meth, is a stimulant that like heroin and cocaine produces the same “high” and energized focus, but the effects can last much longer for the user.

In some cases, levels of methamphetamine will peak in the system at about 12 hours and can be detected in urine up to four days after use. Hair testing can detect traces of the drug months after use.

Short-Term Effects of Drug Use

questionNo matter how long drugs stay in your system, they have both immediate and long-term damaging effects. Drug abuse not only affects the user, but their friends, family, and co-workers. It creates hardship on relationships and interrupts work and social commitments. Drug use also attributes to the spread of infectious diseases through the sharing of needles and impacts the rate of crime and homelessness.

Studies show that approximately 20 million Americans have used an illegal drug in the past month. This includes use of:

    • Marijuana


    • Cocaine


    • Heroin


    • Inhalants


    • Hallucinogens; or


  • Prescription drugs without a prescription.

Costs for illegal drugs equal hundreds of billions of dollars spent every year from loss of productivity and increase of crime- and health-related spending. Abused substances disrupt normal functioning of the brain and the way it responds and communicates with the rest of the body. Drug use alters a person’s perception, judgment, control, emotion, memory, and motivation.

People who struggle with drug abuse suffer from side effects such as: nausea, vomiting, sweats, dehydration, and severe mood swings. It can lead a person to feel temporary, elevated feelings of happiness that may result in hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, and extreme highs and lows.

Drug use can cause immediate respiratory or cardiovascular failure. Over the long-term, it can lead to addiction.

Drug Abuse and Addiction

Recovering from drug abuse isn’t simply a matter of wanting to stop using. The chemical dependency that forms makes an user reliant on their drug. Drugs negatively affect the brain, decision-making and motivation, which makes it difficult to quit using.

Drug abuse comes in many stages. The most severe is addiction when the body constantly seeks to be replenished by the drug. In other instances, drug abuse can occur by binge use, as is common with alcohol consumption. And, those prescribed medication, such as Ritalin or medicinal marijuana, may abuse it by ingesting more than the recommended dosage.

Once a person becomes chemically dependent on using drugs, they require more in order to secure the same euphoric feelings that they felt before. Most drugs take only a matter of minutes to affect the brain and for the user to feel the high, which means those who crave that feeling can easily fall into becoming a chronic user always chasing the high.

Despite the examples of drug abuse given, every time a person uses drugs should be considered extreme due to the immediate damage it does to a person’s health and the impact it can have on a person’s future. Due to the highly addictive nature of many drugs, even one use can be detrimental and put lives at risk.

Detecting a Drug Problem

Drug abusers and addicts are not likely to be upfront and admit they have a problem. They often hide their use from others and deny any suspicions or concerns. Regardless, there are physical signs of drug abuse to look out for, which include track marks, extreme weight loss, facial twitches, or shakiness. Depending on which type of drug is being used and how often, it can lead a user to experience insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, and even suicidal tendencies.

Although drug addicts may build up a certain kind of tolerance, they still are unable to see what is considered normal to them is not normal for their friends and family. They commonly have drastically different personalities when intoxicated than when sober, especially since side effects are so visibly apparent.

People close to those who are abusing drugs will often notice small changes first, but may be unsure on how to approach the subject or how to help. Helping a person who is abusing drugs doesn’t have to rest solely on the shoulder of loved ones. As with any disease, medical and professional guidance is important and may be necessary for intervention.

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Common Myths about Drugs

Myth #1: Alcohol isn’t a drug.

This is possibly the number one myth when it comes to drug use. Alcohol is a depressant, which affects the central nervous system. Even though the consumption of it is legal for those who are 21 years of age and older, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a drug and can lead people to abuse it and become dependent on it.

Myth #2: Once I feel “normal” again that means the drugs have left my system.

The “rush” of many drugs is short-lived, but doesn’t mean that the drugs don’t remain in the system or continue to affect the body. Many drugs can be detected for weeks and even months after use.

Myth #3: I only use drugs once in awhile. You have to use them for a long time to really be harmful.

The effects of using drugs is immediate. Drugs affect the brain and how the central nervous system communicates with the rest of the body. A person may stop breathing, experience a heart attack or slip into a coma among the various other side effects. This is the same for the first, tenth or twentieth time using them.

Myth #4: I can stop using anytime I want.

This is true. You have the power to quit drug use at any point, but overcoming addiction is more complex than saying you want to quit. The withdrawal effects can be painful and cause people to relapse, but with a strong support and dedicated help, you can stop drug use for good.

Seeking Help for Drug Addiction

Any illicit drug is harmful. Each of the drugs mentioned above affect not only your physical health, but your mental and emotional health as well. If you find yourself asking, how long do drugs stay in your system it is time to start considering the possibility of addiction. The addictive nature of drugs can make a single use quickly spiral into a bigger problem. Before drug abuse turns into full on addiction, preventative measures, such as counseling and support groups, are key.

Drug abuse has to be acknowledged by the user. They must want to help themselves first. A detox and recovery program is a crucial step in the process. At Georgia Drug Detox, our treatment options include medical intervention, which helps with cravings and the withdrawal period, counseling, and an experienced team of support. Our facilities are designed to provide a comfortable and secure atmosphere for our patients.

It’s important to keep in mind that drug abuse and drug addiction are diseases and need to be treated as such. A medical exam can reveal what state of health you are currently in and what kind of treatment is best suited for you. Our staff understands how difficult recovery can be, especially in the first few days or weeks.  We customize our treatment plans to the individual and their specific needs to make it as comfortable as possible.

We have helped drug addicts fight for their sobriety and go on to lead strong, healthy lives. It is up to you to decide to take the first step. We are here for you and will guide you on the road to recovery with the support you need to succeed.


“How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?” 5 Mar. 2019.

T, Buddy. “How Long do Drugs Stay in Your System?” Verywell Mind. 21 April 2018. 5 Mar. 2019.

“Let’s Talk Truth: Exactly How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?” 5 Mar. 2019.

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