There are both prescription and illegal drugs that are capable of causing a “high.” The nature of this high can vary to include a sedative effect, a sense of euphoria, or a manic feeling.
In each case, how long the drug lasts depends on several factors, primarily the type of drug. Depending on what a person is using, the effects may only last a few minutes or as long as a day.
These variations also apply to long-term effects and symptoms of withdrawal. Keep reading to learn more about drugs’ effects on the body and variations in effects length.
How Long Drugs Last In The Mind And Body
When a person abuses an illicit substance, their primary focus is on the high.
In reality, the high lasts a very short period in comparison to the other effects that both legal and illegal drugs can have on your mind and body.
Recreational drug highs are typically short-lived. Many of the illicit substances that are routinely abused produce a high that lasts less than a few hours (usually anywhere from just 10 minutes to an hour).
And while the initial high is limited in duration, the negative physical and mental side effects usually last much longer.
The lasting side effects associated with drug abuse fit into two categories: short-term side effects and long-term side effects.
With most drugs, the short-term side effects last between one and three days. These may include fatigue, cravings, irritability, and digestive issues depending on the substance a person used.
The long-term side effects associated with drug use are semi-permanent and are usually only resolved when a person quits abusing alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medications.
While organ damage is not always reversible, some of the long-term changes in your brain chemistry can be rectified. However, it may be several months to years before that occurs.
How Long Drugs Are Detectable In DNA Samples
Despite the short duration of the initial high, drug use can be detected in blood, urine, and hair follicle samples days to months after a single use.
The range of detectability in drug tests depends on the type of drug used, the frequency of use, and the type of sample taken.
Blood tests are best used to detect a drug that is active in a person’s system. They typically detect drug use that has occurred within the last 24 hours.
Once the drug has metabolized, it is less likely to show up on a blood test. However, it may be detectable in the urine as a result of the drug being processed by the liver and kidneys.
Urine tests are the most common type of drug test because the process of providing and testing a sample is relatively simple.
Drugs can usually be detected in the urine up to one week after use. However, people who abuse drugs regularly should be aware that they may test positive longer due to the build-up of the drug in their system.
Each hair follicle uses the surrounding blood vessels to fuel hair growth. As a result, hair samples can be used to track signs of substance abuse over a prolonged period.
On average, a hair sample can be used to detect drug use for up to 90 days.
Withdrawal is often a side effect of repeated drug abuse. The acute stage is usually short-lived, but post-acute withdrawal can negatively affect your mental health for months or years.
On average, post-acute withdrawal usually lasts about 90 days. After that point, you are far less likely to relapse.
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Factors That Influence How Long Drugs Last
Every drug and every person is different, which is why it is virtually impossible to know exactly how long a specific drug will last in your system.
With that said, an educated guess could be made if you can account for the specific factors that influence the duration of a high and other side effects.
Type Of Substance
The type of substance used is the most influential factor in determining how long you will experience the effects of substance use.
For example, opioids are more likely to produce a short high with lingering side effects, while methamphetamine can produce a long-lasting high that may extend through an entire day.
A higher dosage does not always result in a more prolonged high, but it will cause more intense effects. A larger dose may also influence how long the drug is detectable in a drug test.
In substances with a longer half-life, a larger dose can make a significant difference in the length of time that the drug stays in your system.
Method Of Use
One of the most important factors in determining the duration and intensity of a high is the method of abuse.
Snorting or smoking a substance usually causes a delayed high with longer-lasting but more mild effects. Plugging or injecting a substance causes a more intense, immediate, and short-lived high.
Drug Dependence And Tolerance
People who use illegal substances or prescription drugs are more likely to build a tolerance to their effects. This can reduce the length and intensity of a high.
As you build tolerance, you may be tempted to increase your dosage to recreate the same high. You may also develop physical dependence, which will prolong side effects and withdrawal.
Using more than one substance can also affect the duration of certain side effects. The exact results would depend on the combination of substances.
With that said, mixing substances often makes side effects more intense, which is why polysubstance abuse is associated with a high overdose risk.
Weight, Age & Metabolism
All of these factors are important, but one of the hardest to account for is your own body. Every person processes drugs a little differently due to factors like size, age, and metabolism.
Specific Categories Of Drugs
Of all the factors that influence how long the effects of drugs last, the single most important is the type of drug.
The initial effects of alcohol can last two to 12 hours depending on how much alcohol you have had, how fast it was consumed, and whether you have had anything to eat or drink.
The acute withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol addiction last about three to five days. However, it takes an average of 90 days for your brain chemistry to regulate.
Learn more about how long alcohol lasts.
Amphetamines can be responsible for creating intense and prolonged highs, which is one of the reasons why drugs like meth are so addictive.
Adderall (Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine Salts)
Adderall is a prescription amphetamine used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with effects that last four to six hours.
On average, someone who is dependent on Adderall will experience withdrawal symptoms for up to a week. Severe Adderall abuse may cause symptoms to last up to two weeks.
Learn more about how long Adderall lasts.
Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant that is well-known for its six- to 12-hour high, prolonged crash, and extreme potential for addiction following a single use.
Methamphetamine use can be detected by a drug test for up to seven days using a routine urine test. It is detectable in the blood for just two days, while a hair sample can detect it for 90 days.
Learn more about how long methamphetamine lasts.
Vyvanse is a brand-name amphetamine that is used in the treatment of ADHD and binge eating disorders (BED). It can be habit-forming but may be less addictive than Adderall.
The effects of Vyvanse last up to 12 hours, but it is relatively slow-acting. If you quit using Vyvanse suddenly, you may experience a mild to moderate form of withdrawal.
Discover more about how long Vyvanse lasts.
Anticonvulsants are not the most common causes of addiction and withdrawal, but they often contribute to polysubstance abuse.
Gralise Or Neurontin (Gabapentin)
Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is most often used to treat seizures and nerve pain. It can take several weeks for the drug to build up enough in your system to produce results.
Gabapentin may be addictive, and withdrawal can last up to a week, especially if you engage in polysubstance abuse.
Learn about how long Gabapentin lasts.
Some antihistamines are known to produce hallucinogenic effects when taken in high doses or alongside other drugs.
You may not normally consider Benadryl a potentially dangerous drug, but diphenhydramine (DPH) can be an addictive substance when taken in large doses to produce hallucinations.
When you take Benadryl recreationally, you can expect the effects to peak around two hours after the initial use. The effects normally wear off around four hours but may last up to six.
Read more about how long Benadryl lasts.
Aside from opioids, benzodiazepines are the most frequently abused class of prescription drugs. These medications are typically used to treat generalized anxiety disorders and panic disorders.
Some are slow-acting and others are long-acting, a difference that can profoundly affect how long effects last but does not change the fact that you should not quit any of them “cold turkey.”
Ativan is considered an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine. Its effects last between six and eight hours, but the drug can stay in your system for over a week.
Drug tests can detect Ativan in your blood for about three days, in your urine for just over a week, and in your hair for over 30 days in some cases.
Discover more about how long Ativan lasts.
Klonopin is a long-acting benzodiazepine because its half-life is 30 to 40 hours. This drug usually takes one to four hours to kick in, and the effects last around 12 hours.
These same characteristics can make withdrawal from Klonopin a bit more complicated. Even with help, the acute phase of Klonopin withdrawal still lasts about two weeks.
Learn more about how long Klonopin lasts.
Xanax is a short-acting benzodiazepine. The relatively fast onset of its effects and duration of approximately six to eight hours drastically increase its potential for abuse.
The process of acute withdrawal takes a little over a week with the help of a medical detox program, but tapering down your usage to zero may take several months.
Read more about how long Xanax lasts.
Valium is a long-acting benzodiazepine with a half-life of about 48 hours. As a result, the effects of Valium can last up to two days with a peak high lasting about four hours.
As one of the longest-acting benzos, Valium can be found in your urine for up to six weeks following your last dose. Detection rates for blood and hair are relatively similar to other benzos.
Discover more about how long Valium lasts.
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that is abused for its euphoric effects. Depending on the method of abuse, a cocaine high will generally last 15 to 30 minutes with an extended comedown.
While the high is quite short, cocaine’s initial effects and potential withdrawal are both dangerous due to the changes in your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
Read more about how long cocaine lasts.
MDMA is an empathogen stimulant that has effects lasting four to six hours. However, it is important to note that ecstasy and molly often contain little to no actual MDMA.
Ecstasy and molly are made up of a variety of drugs and fillers. Different batches could have entirely different effects with unpredictable duration.
Learn more about how long MDMA lasts.
The high caused by cannabis products can vary substantially based on the method of use. The effects of smoking weed typically last two hours, while the duration of edible effects can be up to 10 hours.
Marijuana and CBD are not usually associated with strong withdrawal symptoms, but mild symptoms, such as irritability, may last several days depending on your history of marijuana use.
Learn more about how long the effects of CBD last.
Muscle relaxants are frequently abused in coordination with other central nervous system depressants.
On its own, Flexeril is unlikely to cause addiction. However, the drug can be used in correlation with other medications to cause polysubstance abuse withdrawals.
The effects of Flexeril typically last four to six hours, longer if you use the extended form. The withdrawal timeline will largely depend on the other drugs you are using in addition to Flexeril.
Learn more about how long Flexeril lasts.
Opioids may be the most commonly abused class of prescription drugs. Their widespread abuse has led national health organizations to label the crisis the “opioid epidemic.”
All opioids share common characteristics due to their effects on opioid receptors in the brain, but these drugs vary widely in intensity and duration depending on the nature of the drug.
Heroin is an opiate that is often smoked or injected intravenously. The initial effects of heroin abuse can vary greatly from just 15 minutes to several hours depending on the method of drug use.
Heroin is highly addictive, and the effects of withdrawal can be life-threatening. With the help of a medical detox program, the worst part of heroin withdrawal only lasts three to five days.
Read more on how long a heroin high lasts.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. It is also a common adulterant used in illicit drugs since its extremely potent effects last four to six hours on average.
Fentanyl is highly addictive and likely to cause withdrawal symptoms quickly. These symptoms can last over a week and often require medical intervention at a professional detox center.
Learn more about how long fentanyl lasts.
Hydrocodone is a mid-tier opioid. When the drug is abused, it can produce a high characterized by a brief feeling of euphoria followed by four to six hours of intense drowsiness and pain relief.
Blood tests can detect hydrocodone for up to three days in some cases, while urine tests are reliable up to four days after your last dose. Hair follicles can be used to test up to 90 days later.
Discover how long hydrocodone lasts.
The effects of oral morphine are usually active within an hour and last four to six hours. If you are drug tested within three days of your last use, you are likely to test positive on most tests.
Withdrawal from morphine is severe and lasts three to four days, but the symptoms of acute withdrawal may be less extreme than those caused by stronger, fast-acting opioids.
Learn more about how long morphine lasts.
Oxycodone is one of the most commonly abused opioids. Its effects can last as long as six hours, but the high resulting from abuse may be significantly shorter if you have built a tolerance.
Withdrawal from oxycodone is likely following any long-term use or recreational abuse. Acute withdrawal symptoms typically last three to five days and may require medical intervention.
Read more about how long oxycodone lasts.
Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone that is commonly used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to reduce the effects of opioid withdrawal.
When Suboxone is used against medical advice, it creates a mild high that lasts a few hours. It is only a partial opioid agonist, but it will be detectable in drug tests just as long as other opioids.
Discover more about how long Suboxone lasts.
Tramadol is an opioid analgesic that is known by the brand names Ultram and ConZip. Using tramadol can create effects lasting four to six hours, but frequent abuse may reduce that range.
Typical urine drug tests can detect tramadol up to four days after your last dose. Blood is generally limited to a day, while hair can reveal drug use going back several months.
Learn more about how long tramadol lasts.
Prescription central nervous system (CNS) stimulants span several categories. In each case, these drugs have a high potential for abuse.
Ritalin is a CNS stimulant that is commonly used to treat ADHD in children. It can be abused, especially by people without ADHD, to create a euphoric high similar to stimulants like cocaine.
In normal use, the effects of Ritalin last between two and four hours. However, there are sustained and extended-use formulas that can last up to eight hours.
Read more about how long Ritalin lasts.
The popularity of psychedelics has fallen dramatically in recent decades, but drugs like acid and mushrooms are still used recreationally in some circles.
The properties of different psychedelics and hallucinogens vary widely depending on the substance, as does the duration of the drug high.
Acid, also known as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), can have hallucinogenic effects lasting as long as 12 hours with continued effects lasting up to a full day.
The half-life of acid is fairly short, so blood tests are not useful for detecting LSD beyond a day or so. Urine tests may work up to four days later, while hair can track up to 90 days of use.
Learn more about how long acid lasts.
DMT is a natural psychedelic with effects that can last 45 minutes to four hours depending on whether it is smoked or drunk in the form of ayahuasca.
While DMT is not likely to create a physical dependence, using the drug has many potentially dangerous side effects, and the comedown can be very similar to withdrawal.
Learn more about how long DMT lasts.
Ketamine is primarily abused for its hallucinogenic effects. The drug is fast-acting, but the high is also fleeting. Depending on the method of abuse, it may only last between five and 30 minutes.
The half-life of ketamine is short, about 45 minutes. As such, blood tests are not a practical method for detecting ketamine use, but they can be found in urine for up to a week.
Learn more about how long ketamine lasts.
PCP abuse is relatively uncommon today because the results of using PCP can be unpredictable and even unpleasant for the person using the drug. When PCP is abused, the high can last up to six hours.
The comedown from PCP can be harsh, but the drug is not usually associated with withdrawal. With that said, long-term abuse may lead to additional negative side effects.
Magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, an organic compound that has hallucinogenic effects. These effects can last up to six hours and can be unpredictable in some cases.
As with other psychedelics, shrooms are not technically addictive. Any perceived withdrawal past the initial comedown is likely the result of polysubstance abuse or a co-occurring disorder.
Learn more about how long shrooms last.
Serotonin modulators influence receptors in your brain to affect the concentration of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates your mood and produces feelings of happiness.
Trazodone is an antidepressant with effects lasting up to seven hours. It is not technically addictive, but trazodone may factor into polysubstance abuse alongside other prescription meds.
Drug tests do not normally screen for trazodone, but some people who use trazodone may get a false positive for amphetamines on a urine test up to a week after their last dose.
Read more about how long trazodone lasts.
Sleep aids are not intended to be addictive, but many of the drugs used to treat insomnia have the potential to be habit-forming.
Ambien is a habit-forming sleep aid that can be used to provide eight hours of sleep. However, there is an increased risk of addiction if you take higher doses or use it for longer periods.
Quitting Ambien suddenly can cause withdrawal with symptoms that can last several weeks. It is common for physicians to prescribe a tapered approach to reduce this risk.
Read more about how long Ambien lasts.
Knowing When To Get Help For Addiction
Drug addiction is a complex health condition that requires medical attention. If you or a loved one is addicted to one or more substances, then you should not hesitate to get help.
When using any one substance begins to degrade the most important aspects of your life, you know it is time to ask for help by contacting your local addiction rehabilitation center.
FAQs For How Long Drugs Last
With all of the factors that can affect how long certain drugs will stay in your system, there are countless questions.
To help ensure that you have all of the information you need, we have gathered some of the most common questions below.
Can Eating Or Drinking Water Reduce Detection Time?
Eating or drinking water may reduce the potency of some drugs that are orally administered when these actions precede drug or alcohol use.
Hydrating and eating will not generally affect detection times, and these actions will not mediate the effects of drugs administered through inhalation, plugging, or injection.
Will Polysubstance Abuse Increase How Long Being High Lasts?
Polysubstance abuse is less likely to cause a longer-lasting high than it is to cause a more intense high of a similar duration with a heightened risk of fatal overdose.
Polysubstance abuse may also result in a longer withdrawal timeline and necessitate specialized treatment options during your inpatient detox and addiction treatment.
Does Chronic Drug Use Increase Detection Time?
Yes, someone who uses drugs daily or has used drugs over a long period will test positive for drugs for a much longer period following their last dose in most cases.
This is due to the drug slowly building up in your system if you are using again before fully metabolizing the previous dose.
What Happens When You Go Off Drugs?
What happens when you quit using drugs will depend on whether you have developed a dependence and how severe that dependence is.
If you are addicted to a substance, you can expect to experience a withdrawal period lasting between one and four weeks depending on the substance in question.
Does Drug Duration Affect Detox?
How long a drug lasts can affect your experience with detox because drugs with a longer half-life are more gradually removed from your system, causing withdrawal to be less intense.
Your withdrawal timeline may not be greatly affected, but you can generally expect less severe symptoms compared to withdrawal from drugs with similar potency and shorter half-life.
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We can help you find the perfect inpatient or outpatient treatment center for your individual needs to ensure you receive the best possible care for your substance abuse disorder.
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- Journal of Analytical Toxicology
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- National Library of Medicine
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Substance Abuse Rehabilitation
- The Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment