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Updated on July 29, 2021

How Long Does Norco Stay in Your System?

What is Norco (Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen)?

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination is also known as Norco, Vicodin, Lortab, Elixir, and Lorcet. It is a drug combination of two pain relief medications: hydrocodone (Vicodin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). 

Like Percocet, a narcotic analgesic, Norco contains acetaminophen, which is the non-narcotic constituent of the drug. Oxycodone is the opioid found in Percocet, while hydrocodone is the opioid component of Norco.

Norco has been indicated for relieving various degrees of pain, ranging from moderate to severe pain. It is classified under the drug categories analgesics, opioid combos.

According to reports from the Drug Enforcement Administration, physicians made over 136 million Norco prescriptions in 2013. They also showed that about 24 million people above 12 years of age had used the drug for non-medical reasons. 

Hydrocodone might be more beneficial for suppressing a cough than codeine. A study review showed that codeine is no more effective in suppressing cough caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or upper respiratory disorders. Hydrocodone is also as potent as morphine for relieving pain.

How Long Does Norco Stay in Your System?

Hydrocodone stays in the system for up to 45 hours. The length of time Norco stays in your system will depend on factors like the formulation and dose. While short-acting hydrocodone will take about 20 hours to be eliminated, long-acting hydrocodone might take as much as 45 hours to leave the body.

Even though the half-life of hydrocodone is about four hours, it typically takes about five half-lives for the body to get rid of a drug completely. One way to test for hydrocodone is to use different drug testing methods such as urine and hair tests.  

Testing methods for detecting Norco include:

Urine

This is the most commonly used and best-developed monitoring method in drug abuse treatment programs. With a urine test, clinicians can detect hydrocodone/acetaminophen for one to four days.

Hair

With a hair follicle test, hydrocodone can be detected for up to 90 days after the last dose. 

Blood

Blood tests are also typical testing methods for Norco. You can detect hydrocodone for up to a day with this method.

Saliva

A saliva test enables clinicians to detect hydrocodone for up to three days.

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Factors That Affect How Long Norco Stays in Your System

Different factors such as genetics, body fat, age, liver health, presence of other drugs in the system, amount of the last dose ingested, and frequency of use can affect how long Norco stays in your system.

  • Age: Age affects several body functions, such as metabolism. As you get older, your body takes longer to clear drugs.
  • The liver and kidneys: The liver and kidneys are important organs involved in processing and eliminating drugs from the body. Most drug metabolites are produced in the liver, and in the case of Norco, liver damage will cause the elimination process to take longer.
  • Genetics: Your genetic makeup may affect how your body reacts to, processes, and metabolizes Norco. Genetics is also a factor that can predispose one to addiction or substance abuse.
  • Frequency of use: If you have been using Norco for years or many months, your body will most likely take longer to eliminate it from the system than someone who has taken only a single or few doses.
  • Your physical health status: If you are physically fit and your body organs and systems are healthy, you will likely have a shorter detox time for Norco than unhealthy people.

How Long Does it Take for Norco to Work? 

After ingesting Norco, its effects develop in the body and brain within 30 to 60 minutes. The effects peak around 60 minutes and continue for about four to six hours.

The acetaminophen component of Norco also provides pain-relief and anti-inflammatory effects for about three hours. 

How Long Does it Take for Norco to Wear Off? 

The pain relief effects of Norco typically last for around 4 to 6 hours. However, it doesn't mean the last dose will be eliminated from the system after 6 hours, as traces of the drug can still be detected after a few days.

If an opioid use disorder (addiction) has developed, withdrawal symptoms will appear after about 6 to 12 hours. Withdrawal symptoms are physical and mental symptoms people with opioid use disorder experience when they abruptly stop drug intake. 

Some symptoms of Norco withdrawal include:

  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Muscle ache
  • Drug craving
  • Anxiety or agitation 
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting 
  • Fatigue

What is the Drug’s Half-Life?

Half-life means the amount of time it would take half of a drug dose to be flushed out of an average body. 

The half-life of Norco is about four hours. This means that after four hours, half of the Norco dose would be flushed out of the system. 

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How Long is Norco Detectable in a Drug Test?

You might have to undergo a drug test if you have a history of drug use. Drug tests detect the presence of opioids. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) noted six main drug testing techniques. However, the most common ones for testing drugs like Norco are hair, saliva and urine tests. 

Norco has a larger window for detection as it stays in the system longer than some other opioids. A saliva test can detect Norco for up to about 36 hours, while a urine test detects it for up to about three days. 

It takes at least ten days to detect hydrocodone in a hair test; however, its presence in the hair follicles will last for up to 90 days.

How to Get Norco Out of Your System 

Norco remains detectable in your system for a while, but what can you do to eliminate it from your system? Here are things you can do to get Norco out of your system:

  • Stop taking Norco
  • Give your system some time to get rid of it
  • Consult a physician
  • Work with your doctor to reduce and stop drug intake

Symptoms of Norco Addiction

Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid, unlike natural opiates like codeine and morphine. People can get addicted to Norco, and misuse of this prescription drug can cause overdose or death.

The Drug Enforcement Administration moved hydrocodone combination products from schedule III to schedule II in 2014 to combat the increasing number of prescriptions for this narcotic analgesic. However, this caused a dramatic increase in alternative narcotics like tramadol and Tylenol. 

Norco abuse and misuse can cause symptoms or side effects such as:

  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Fear and depression
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Euphoria
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchy skin
  • Reduced breathing rate
  • Slow heartbeat

Effects of hydrocodone vary from person to person. If your loved one shows symptoms of addiction to this opioid, convince them to seek medical advice or treatment. 

Also, the National Center for Biotechnology Information warns that long term use of Norco can cause liver damage and liver failure.

Treatment Options for Norco Addiction 

Since drugs like Norco expose users and patients to the risk of substance abuse, opioid use disorder (addiction), and overdose, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for them. This is to ensure that the benefits of drug use outweigh the risks.

Seeking help from a psychotherapist is among the first line of action for Norco addiction treatment. Treatment options might include:

  • Inpatient treatment: Depending on the addiction case, your healthcare provider might suggest you get admitted fully into a mental health facility for comprehensive treatment and constant monitoring.
  • Outpatient Treatment: With this treatment option, you won’t be admitted fully into the mental health facility; rather, you visit on regular appointments. This treatment option helps keep you on track and makes for accountability too, which is an important aspect of your addiction treatment and recovery journey.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a type of therapy where you are taught how to control your urges and thoughts. It teaches you to be in control of your cravings.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): This uses medication to assist your opioid addiction treatment. It helps eliminate any cravings for Norco, reducing the risk of relapse.

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Resources

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“Acetaminophen and Hydrocodone.” Michigan Medicine, university of Michigan, 22 Jan. 2020, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/d03428a1

“Appendix B. Urine Collection and Testing Procedures and Alternative Methods for Monitoring Drug Use.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration US, 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64092/

Bolser, Donald and Davenport, Paul. "Codeine and Cough: An Effective Gold Standard." Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol 7,1 (2007): 32-36. Doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3280115145, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921574/

“Hydrocodone (Trade Names: Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet-HD, Hycodan, Vicoprofen).” Drudge Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Division, Oct. 2019, https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/hydrocodone.pdf

Milone, Micheal. “Laboratory Testing for Prescription Opioids.” Journal of Medical Toxicology vol 8,4 (2012): 408-416. Doi: 10.1007/s13181-012-0274-7, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3550258/

National Center for Biotechnology Information. “PubChem Compound Summary for CID 5284569, Hydrocodone.” PubChem, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Hydrocodone

“Opioid Analgesic Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS).” US Food and Drug Administration, 27 Sept. 2018, https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/opioid-analgesic-risk-evaluation-and-mitigation-strategy-rems

Seago, Susan et al. “Change in Prescription Habits after Federal Rescheduling of Hydrocodone Combination Products.” Proceedings (Baylor University Medical Center) vol 29,3 (2016): 268-270. Doi: 10.1080/08998280.2016.11929431, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4900766/

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