Last updated: May 29, 2023
Norco is the brand name for a well-known prescription pain medication that combines hydrocodone, a synthetic opioid, with acetaminophen. This medication can be detected on drug tests even after someone stops taking the drug. Exactly how long does Norco stay in your system?
Synthetic opioids aren’t identified using a normal opiate test panel on a company drug test. In an effort to combat the opioid crisis plaguing the nation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) added the synthetic opioid panel to its employee drug test in January 2018.
The panel identifies four synthetic opioids. They are oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone.
Norco can be identified using the synthetic opioid panel on all types of drug tests. The amount of time that it can be identified, however, varies.
Urine drug test
The majority of employers use the urine drug test and it’s currently the drug test that the DOT requires. Norco, or any medication containing hydrocodone, is detected in urine within two hours of taking the drug. It is identified by the urine test for three or four days after discontinuing use.
Hair follicle drug test
It takes about three days for drug metabolites to grow out into the hair shaft so that’s the soonest that you would be able to detect that someone used hydrocodone. However, once the metabolites are in the hair, they create a permanent history of drug use.
Drug tests identify all drug use for a period of 90 days.
Employers who want to identify habitual users find the hair test to be very effective.
It’s also worth mentioning that the DOT has requested to switch from using the urine drug test to the hair follicle drug test. The request is currently moving through the chain of command and isn’t expected to meet with any resistance.
Saliva drug test
The saliva, or mouth swab, drug test detects hydrocodone in about 15 minutes after ingesting it. A high concentration of the drug remains in the saliva for up to 24 hours. Metabolites can be detected for up to four days after the last dose.
Blood drug test
Blood tests are very invasive, must be performed in a medical setting, and are very expensive.
For these reasons, employers often reserve the blood test for post-accident situations. Time is of the essence because blood tests identify the parent drug as well as its metabolites, but the window of opportunity is pretty short.
Narco hits the bloodstream in as little as 15 minutes and identified by a blood test for about 24 hours after discontinuing use.
Why do detection periods vary?
There are several factors that play a part in the amount of time that drugs, such as Narco or marijuana, remain in the body. The overall reason is that we all metabolize things differently.
We can list the things that affect our metabolism though.
- Age because young people tend to metabolize things faster than older adults.
- Liver or kidney problems can mean it takes longer to metabolize Norco.
- Frequency of use—if you’ve been using the drug for an extended period of time, it will take longer to rid yourself of it.
- Higher doses equal longer excretion times.
- Weight affects the process with people who are taller and heavier possibly metabolizing the drug more quickly than someone who is shorter and lighter.
- Alcohol use in conjunction with using hydrocodone can result in retaining the drug metabolites for longer periods of time. There is also a danger of the alcohol reacting with acetaminophen which can cause severe liver damage.
Additionally, taking in more fluids make it more difficult to detect hydrocodone because it dilutes the number of metabolites that are present in the urine. Of course, this also poses a risk of an inconclusive test result.
It is extremely dangerous to mix alcohol or other medications with opioids of any type. It greatly increases the risk of death due to overdose.
Of course, mixing other medications such as amphetamines or street drugs like cocaine are included in the above statement. Some not-so-common medications can have serious results, as well, including respiratory depression.
- Macrolide antibiotics, such as azithromycin or clarithromycin
- Azole antifungal agents, used for treating fungal infections such as ringworm or athlete’s foot
- Protease inhibitors
Methods of ingestion
When you take Norco by mouth, it begins to take effect in as little as twenty or thirty minutes. Peak concentrations occur in the bloodstream between one and two hours after taking it.
Drug abusers crush the drug and mix it with water to “shoot up.” It allows them to experience the effects of the drug almost immediately.
Over time, the body builds up a tolerance to hydrocodone so it makes more of the drug to obtain the desired effect. This, of course, increases the risk of overdose.
Side effects and withdrawal symptoms
Illicit drug users expect to experience the following when taking Norco or other medications that contain hydrocodone:
- Relaxed, calm feeling
Other side effects may include:
- Changes in mood
- Fear or nervousness
- Hearing loss or impaired hearing
- Chest pain below the breastbone
Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following signs of overdose are apparent:
- Bluish-colored lips or fingernails
- Breathing problems
- Cold, clammy skin
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle twitches
- Pinpoint pupils
- Stomach or intestine spasms
- Weak pulse
Even if you are taking this medication as directed, your body may develop a dependence on the drug. It doesn’t mean that you’ve become an addict, it just means that your body has grown used to hydrocodone and is missing it.
Withdrawal symptoms typically last between five and seven days and include:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms after taking Norco, your physician can prescribe medications to help you cope. It’s best to wean yourself off of this drug and your physician will help you develop the best plan for that process.