Site icon Beat Addiction Recovery

Recreational Drug Use: How Long Do Drugs Stay In Your System?

recreational drug use

Did you know that research shows teenage drug and alcohol use carries into adulthood? Nearly 60% of teenagers who excessively used drugs, alcohol, and cannabis had substance use problems later on.

Even recreational drug use can be a precursor to addiction and health issues. Have you wondered how long drugs can remain in the human body? Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer.

Luckily, we have put together a complete guide to address common recreational drugs, their half-lives, and how to start seeking help with drug or alcohol use today, so keep reading for more information!

What Is Recreational Drug Use?

Recreational drug use is not always illegal and can include substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis. When someone uses drugs recreationally, they are not doing it for medicinal reasons.

It is to promote a pleasurable experience and is often used for leisure or social gatherings. Other examples of recreational drugs are:

The reaction, risks, and length of time drugs remain in your system are dependent on the classification of drugs. Stimulants are drugs that increase central nervous system activity. Some examples of stimulants are:

On the contrary, depressants suppress central nervous system activity and lower arousal levels. Examples of depressants are:

Both can be addictive or misused and obtained via prescription or illicitly. 

Most Commonly Used Recreational Drugs

The most common substance use outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is marijuana. Some studies suggest that nearly one-third of marijuana users fall under the classification of a marijuana use disorder. The NIDA also lists other commonly used addictive drugs, including prescription medications.

Prescription medication misuse has increased in recent years, leading to addiction and a higher risk of overdosing. The most commonly misused prescription drugs are:

Alcohol is another substance, and the NIDA classifies it with other types of drugs. It is the most prevalent substance use disorder in the United States. Alcohol use disorder also poses a high risk for other drug abuse or misuse. 

Dangers of Recreational Drug Use

Recreational drug use can lead to addiction, health impairments, and psychosocial concerns. A recently published study looked at opioid misuse and its increasing prevalence. The study found a few key points that highlight the dangers of recreational drug use:

Prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, can lead to addictive behaviors and potentially increase one’s likelihood of using heroin or synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Using stronger substances such as fentanyl can depress your central nervous system too much. 

This can lead to a coma and death. Between 2020 and 2021, drug overdoses soared above 100,000 deaths. Compared to the year prior, this staggering amount is nearly 29% higher. 

Many of these overdoses were associated with prescription opioids and fentanyl use. Opioid overdoses accounted for nearly three-fourths of drug overdose deaths last year. 

Methamphetamine is becoming more popular. It is a stimulant that can remain in your system for longer than standard amphetamines. Nearly 15% of drug overdoses involve methamphetamine, and over 2.5 million people will use them in 2020. 

How Long Do Drugs Remain in Your System?

Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, can remain in your system for several days, depending on how frequently you use them. Fentanyl attaches closely to fat cells, and prolonged use can increase how long it shows up on drug screens. Typically, fentanyl can be detected two to four days after your last use. 

In isolated case studies, some fentanyl users tested positive for seven to 19 days afterward. Most studies examine the half-life of drugs, which is the amount of time it takes for a drug to be reduced to 50% of its initial amount in the body.

This gives medical practitioners a better idea of the average length of time most drugs remain in a person’s system. However, the determinants in a drug’s half-life are dependent on several factors, such as:

Hepatic and renal issues will increase the time to metabolize and excrete drugs, raising initial levels. For example, over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen have a relatively short half-life of two hours. 

Methamphetamine Half-Life

The danger of combining different drugs is that some remain in your system longer than others. For example, let’s use the methamphetamine example above. 

At the earliest time frame, people can start feeling the effects of methamphetamine after 15 to 20 minutes. The half-life of meth is around 10 hours, and it peaks between 2.5 and 3.5 hours on average. 

When getting a drug test, meth can be detected in your hair for up to 90 days. It can also remain in urine samples for nearly a week. While the initially ‘high’ may wear off well before then, increasing dosages and using other drugs can extend the amount detected in blood, urine, saliva, and hair. 

Meth is a powerful stimulant that causes the brain to release greater dopamine amounts. As a person becomes accustomed to increase dopamine levels, your body readjusts. Over time, you will need more of the same stimulant to achieve the desired effects. 

Often, this is what causes an overdose – using more of a drug than your body can safely manage. You may think that stimulants like meth will offset depressant drugs, such as alcohol. Instead, research has found that polysubstance abuse has greater health risks, including:

Researchers found that people were more likely to get behind the wheel of a car and showed greater signs of aggression.

Opioid Half-Lives

On the other hand, opioids affect serotonin pathways. It dulls senses (such as pain) and can improve mood. 

Many prescription opioids have very short half-lives compared to methamphetamine. Oxycodone has a half-life of between three and five hours. Extended-release opioids’ average half-life is around one to three days. 

Methadone – a common treatment for opioid addiction – has a half-life between eight and 60 hours.  

Cannabis Half-Life

THC is another lipid-soluble compound that can be stored in fat cells. Inhaling THC can achieve effects in as little as six minutes. 

While most THC components are eliminated quickly, THC half-life is around one to three days with occasional use. Long-term users may test positive for up to nearly two weeks. On the contrary, CBD’s half-life is within 18 to 32 hours. 

Unfortunately, this becomes more complicated when comparing saliva, hair, and blood tests. Blood and saliva have shorter drug detections than urine or hair tests may have. 

Blood tests can give highly accurate measures for immediate drug use. THC is only detected within the blood for up to four hours versus urine samples, which can detect THC levels for up to one month (depending on the extent of use). Hair tests have a higher risk for false positives but could show cannabis use for up to three months afterward. 

Alcohol Half-Life

Although the effects of alcohol may wear off a couple of hours after your last drink, it can be detected via blood tests for up to six hours. Breathalyzer tests can detect alcohol for up to one day afterward, and urine tests within three days. 

Alcohol breaks down quickly, and nearly 90% is processed within a reasonable timeframe. The last ten percent is not digested but excreted through your sweat, breath, or urine. The four primary considerations that affect how quickly a person processes alcohol are:

Females metabolize alcohol almost 20% slower than males. Additionally, people with higher percentages of lean muscle mass may have a shorter detection window than those with higher body fat percentages. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

Now that you better understand the half-lives of popular recreational drugs, it plays a critical role in withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal syndromes occur after the discontinuation of a substance. The amount and duration of drugs or alcohol used will affect the severity of symptoms. 

The counter-effects that occur after discontinuation are considered ‘withdrawals’ and vary between drug types. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to one of the two things:

The difference between the two is delirium tremens occur with suddenly stopping drinking, kicking your central nervous system into overdrive, and creating a medical emergency. Delirium tremens can cause tachycardia, hypertension, and seizures.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrom (or ‘wet brain syndrome’) is a thiamine deficiency caused by long-term alcohol abuse and can lead to psychosis and other medical complications.

It happens when a person does not stop drinking or seek help. Both symptoms require intensive medical and therapeutic care.

Opioid withdrawals are extremely uncomfortable but are usually not as emergent as severe alcohol withdrawals. Some examples of common opioid withdrawal side effects include:

Cocaine or amphetamine withdrawals can cause severe depression, lethargy, and hunger. Most treatments for opioids and alcohol withdrawals are effectively managed through medication-assisted treatment. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment

As the name sounds – medication-assisted treatment programs use research-based medications to help opioid and alcohol use disorders. Most treatments facilitate other therapeutic interventions such as:

It can help safely treat withdrawals and addictive behaviors. The three most commonly used medications are naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone.

Methadone and buprenorphine have the potential for abuse and addiction, although the risks are less than abusing other prescription opioids. Naltrexone is approved for treating opioid and alcohol addictions and has fewer addictive qualities. 

How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

For starters, it is essential to note that qualified drug treatment clinics should use other treatment forms outside of medication. CBT is an excellent starting point and can help treat any underlying mental and emotional factors contributing to addiction.

CBT helps facilitate positive thinking patterns and addresses:

Counseling and therapy should also be implemented at this stage.

What Do The Studies Show?

Recent studies looked at patients receiving medication to help with addiction over six months. The goal was to reduce opioid-related overdoses and improve mental and physical health outcomes. The researchers found that patients who participated in the study showed improvements in:

In this cohort, more research is needed to show long-term outcomes. However, this is a good starting point that can show the immediate and positive benefits of using medication. The clinics in this study used methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. 

Finding Help for Recreational Drug Use

Recreational drug use can lead to dependence and addiction. If suddenly stopped, a person may experience debilitating withdrawal symptoms that lead to using them more. 

Many of these drugs remain in your system for days to weeks after use. Simple blood, urine, or saliva test can give employers or rehabilitation specialists an accurate idea of when someone last used drugs. 

Medication-assisted treatment can help curb addictions and promote better health and wellness. For help getting started on the road to recovery, contact a provider today!

Exit mobile version