Norco a prescription drug for relieving moderate to severe pain. It contains two active ingredients: hydrocodone, a powerful opioid that works by blocking pain signals to the brain, and acetaminophen, a non-opioid pain reliever more commonly known as Tylenol.
With the current pain pill epidemic in the US, everybody must have heard of hydrocodone and oxycodone. There could be any number of reasons to find out how long does Norco stay in your system. You might have a chronic pain that you manage with Norco. With a job interview coming up that requires a drug test, you’re afraid that it might make you less competitive even if you have a script for Norco.
Before answering the burning question, let’s find out more about the drug.
More About Norco
Hydrocodone and acetaminophen are often combined in varying percentages for pain relief, with acetaminophen added to help prevent abuse, as hydrocodone on its own can be highly addictive. The most well-known of such drugs is, of course, Vicodin.
Norco, compared to its competitors, has a higher hydrocodone percentage. Therefore, it is often prescribed by doctors for arthritis and cancer patients, although sometimes doctors may also prescribe it for persistent cough and high fever. Because of their strength and potential for abuse, the DEA put all hydrocodone-based medicines under Schedule II drugs as of 2014.
How Does Norco Work?
To find out how long Norco stays in your system, it’s imperative to understand how it works in the first place. All hydrocodone/acetaminophen drugs come in tablet form.
The acetaminophen in Norco gets rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and begins to take effect as soon as ten minutes after taking in most cases. The hydrocodone, on the other hand, can take up to an hour for you to fully feel its effects.
Norco in Your System
The elimination of a drug from your system depends on its half-life — the amount of time it takes for half the dose of a particular drug to be eliminated from the body. Since Norco contains two different drugs, its complete elimination after taking depends on the half-lives of both hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Of course, nobody is going to care about the Tylenol so it’s all about the hydrocodone.
A 10mg hydrocodone Norco reaches peak concentrations in the bloodstream in a little over an hour following oral intake. The half-life of hydrocodone is four hours, which means that over half of the ingested hydrocodone isn’t yet eliminated in the liver and kidneys during that period. For comparison purposes, the half-life of acetaminophen is shorter and it would disappear from your system before the hydrocodone does.
As a general rule, four to five half-lives are considered a good timespan for a drug to completely disappear from your system. This translates roughly to 18-24 hours in the case of Norco.
Elimination of Norco
The hydrocodone in Norco is metabolized by the liver into its major metabolites, hydromorphone and dihydrocodeine. Nearly 80-90% is excreted through urination within 24 hours, mostly in the form of conjugates, with small traces of the unchanged drug also possibly excreted during the process.
The acetaminophen is also primarily eliminated by the liver, with the remaining traces excreted by the kidney as metabolites. Almost all acetaminophen leaves the body within 24 hours.
However, several other factors, such as age, genetics, and the frequency of use, affect how long a drug stays in your system. For example, someone who has a history of taking Norco over a long period of time is much more likely to have traces of the drug days after the last use. For someone who is taking it for the first time, chances are that the drug will disappear completely from the body within the first two days. This is down to pharmacodynamic tolerance, the term for a reduction in subsequent drug effect after repeated use.
Similarly, younger people have a faster metabolism and the Norco in their systems will disappear faster than older folks. Another factor to consider is whether the prescribed Norco is being taken in conjunction with another drug — prescribed or otherwise — such as benzos (Xanax and such) or antidepressants. They are known to increase the duration of hydrocodone through interaction.
Alcohol use along with Norco is never a good idea either. While the general symptom is a longer lifespan of Norco in the body, it could also lead to disastrous results including a fatal overdose.
The Answer, at Last, Is Blowing in the Wind
If one were to state in general, it would be fair to say that Norco is traceable in the blood for 24 hours after taking. But it stays much longer in the saliva and urine. It could take 3-4 days for Norco to become untraceable in the urine of a patient. It takes slightly shorter (36 hours after ingestion) for the saliva to not contain traces of Norco.
Even so, the traces of Norco do not completely disappear for nearly three months, during which hydrocodone is still detectable in the hair after the last use. These numbers are not set in stone but they give an overall understanding of how long it takes for Norco to disappear completely from the body.
Ultimately, the Life of Norco in a Person Depends on Other Factors
It is impossible to predict exactly how long Norco would stay in a person’s system but we could safely presume that the hydrocodone in Norco stays longer in the body than the acetaminophen, the non-opioid component. Hydrocodone is detectable for nearly 24 hours in the blood, 36 hours in the saliva, and 3-4 days in the urine after oral ingestion. Furthermore, it could linger in the hair for up to 90 days.
There could be slight differences based on other factors, including age, genetics, and whether or not the patient is using other drugs and substances in addition to Norco.