“How long does Norco stay in your system?” has probably crossed your mind at least once if you’re taking this medicine, and it’s not without good reason.
Whether you’ve just been prescribed Norco or have taken it for some time, you should be aware of how this drug affects your body and how long it stays in it.
So, how long does Norco stay in your system?
Well, there’s no simple question, as this varies from person to person.
This article will cover several points you need to answer this question, including how Norco works and which factors determine how long it takes for your body to eliminate it.
What Is Norco?
Norco is the brand name of a pain medication consisting of two active ingredients:
- Hydrocodone, an opioid used to relieve pain and cough
- Acetaminophen, an over-the-counter non-opioid medication used to alleviate pain and reduce fever
Since Norco is an opioid-based pain reliever, it is usually prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain when other painkillers don’t help or can’t be used.
Norco is available only in tablets containing 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, or 10 mg of hydrocodone and 325 mg of acetaminophen. Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate dosage based on age, condition, medical history, and other relevant factors.
Like other opioids, Norco has a high potential for abuse and addiction. It’s not unheard of for people to snort, inject, and otherwise abuse the drug to achieve stronger effects, even though this significantly increases the risk of opioid overdose.
Given how addictive Norco is, you should always take it strictly for medical purposes, precisely as directed by your doctor.
How Does Norco Work?
As with any opioid medication, Norco works by mimicking the natural endorphins your body produces, thus helping alleviate pain.
This drug alters your response to pain by binding to opioid receptors in the central nervous system and preventing the brain from receiving pain signals from the body.
At the same time, Norco also interacts with your brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine and inducing euphoric feelings and deep relaxation.
Since people are naturally hardwired to chase a dopamine rush, this is one of the reasons why opioids, including Norco, can be very addictive.
Norco’s pain-relieving and euphoric effects aren’t immediate. It takes between 10 and 30 minutes for the drug to start working, as it only enters your bloodstream after being digested.
That said, it may take up to an hour for Norco’s effects to peak, and they usually subside within eight hours following ingestion.
Norco has a half-life of roughly four hours. In other words, it will take your body more or less four hours to eliminate half a dose of Norco. However, it may take at least five half-lives (at least 20 hours) for your body to clear out the drug completely.
How is Norco Regulated?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the distribution of Norco and categorizes it as a Schedule II Controlled Substance.
Although Norco is approved for medical use, the FDA controls its distribution because it contains hydrocodone, a potent opioid.
For this reason, the use of Norco can lead to opioid abuse, dependence, and addiction. It can also cause an overdose, especially when mixed with other substances, such as alcohol.
On top of that, the FDA also regulates the amount of acetaminophen in all drugs, including opioids such as Norco. The approved amount for a single dose is no more than 325 mg, as larger quantities of acetaminophen can damage the liver.
How Long Does Norco Stay in Your System?
Although the half-life of Norco is just around four hours, it can still be detected in your system for much longer than that.
The answer to the question “How long does Norco stay in your system?” depends on various factors, including the type of drug test you’re taking.
With that in mind, let’s see how long different drug tests can detect Norco in your system.
Norco in Blood
A blood test can detect Norco in your system for up to 24 hours following your last dose.
Although blood tests are highly accurate, they aren’t frequently used to detect Norco, primarily because of their high price and invasive nature.
Norco in Hair
Hair follicle tests can identify the presence of Norco in your system for up to 90 days since your last dose.
These tests are relatively expensive but have the longest time frame for detecting drugs, so they are most commonly used to check if you’ve used drugs recently. The test is performed on a 1.5-inch hair sample containing the hair follicle.
Norco in Saliva
Norco can be detected in saliva for 36 hours after the last time you’ve used it.
Saliva tests are relatively common since this drug screening method is fairly accurate and less invasive than some others. Most often, this type of drug test is used by law enforcement.
Norco in Urine
Urine tests can accurately detect Norco within three days since you’ve last taken it.
Urine testing is performed quite often, as it is among the least invasive drug testing methods. Also, these tests can pick up on the traces of Norco for a longer period of time than other drug tests, excluding hair follicle tests.
Factors That Determine How Long Norco Stays in Your System
As mentioned above, there’s no one right answer to the question “How long does Norco stay in your system?” since it depends on several factors.
Besides the type of drug test, certain individual factors can affect how quickly your body eliminates Norco, including:
- Age. Since our metabolism slows down as we age, older people may need more time to eliminate Norco from their bodies.
- Liver function. People with impaired liver function will need more time to clear out Norco from their system than those without liver problems. Other health problems can also affect the time it takes for the body to break down medication.
- Dosage. The longer and more frequently you take Norco, the more time it will take for you to eliminate it. Also, higher doses of this drug tend to stay longer in your system.
- Body composition. As a general rule, the higher the fat percentage, the more time it takes for Norco to be eliminated.
- Use of other drugs. Certain medications can make it harder or easier for the body to clear out Norco.
Given that Norco contains hydrocodone, anyone who uses it risks developing opioid use disorder (OUD), commonly known as opioid addiction.
It’s possible to minimize the likelihood of developing Norco addiction by taking the drug according to the doctor’s instructions. However, you may still become addicted to it even if you take it responsibly, as opioids alter the brain’s function.
The risk of addiction is especially high if you’ve been prescribed Norco for long-term pain management. That’s because the body can eventually become accustomed to the drug and require higher amounts to achieve the same effects, which is a sign of tolerance.
In turn, people who develop tolerance to Norco might abuse the drug by taking it in higher doses than prescribed to induce the desired effect.
In fact, the 2021 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that hydrocodone and its products, including Norco, were the most frequently misused prescription painkillers in the United States among people over the age of 12.
Since Norco abuse can lead to physical dependence and addiction, it goes without saying that you should never increase the drug’s dosage or use frequency without your doctor’s approval.
Norco Withdrawal Symptoms
If you’ve been taking Norco for an extended period of time and suddenly stop or reduce its use, you might experience opioid withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening, depending on:
- Your Norco consumption (how long you’ve been taking the drug for, how frequently, and at what dose)
- Your overall health
- Use of other medications
People dependent on Norco usually experience the first withdrawal symptoms 12 hours since their last dose. The symptoms peak within the first two days and normally begin to subside within 3–5 days following their peak. However, some mild withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks or even months.
While Norco withdrawal symptoms vary from one person to another, the most common ones include:
- Intense drug cravings
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Sleeping problems
Since some Norco withdrawal symptoms can be potentially lethal, you should never quit this medication “cold turkey.” To minimize the intensity and potential harm of these withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse, it’s in your best interest to seek professional help.
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By now, you should have a better understanding of how long Norco stays in your system and which factors determine that.
Here’s a brief overview of the key points we covered in this article:
- Norco is a prescription pain reliever containing acetaminophen and hydrocodone, a potent opioid with a high potential for addiction.
- Due to its highly addictive properties, Norco is regulated by the FDA and should always be taken as instructed by a doctor.
- Urine tests, which can detect Norco in your system for up to three days, are most commonly used to test the presence of this painkiller.
- Some individual factors that determine how long Norco stays in your system include age, body fat percentage, and liver health.
- ANR is a groundbreaking opioid dependence treatment that can help you overcome addiction to opioids, including Norco, in a matter of days.