This combination medication is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It contains an opioid pain reliever (hydrocodone) and a non-opioid pain reliever (acetaminophen). Hydrocodone works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain. Acetaminophen can also reduce a fever.
Drugs that contain hydrocodone like Lortab are classified as Schedule II drugs, meaning they are considered to have a high potential for misuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.
How Long Does Lortab Stay in Your System?
Determining exactly how long Lortab is active or detectable in the body depends on many variables. The acetaminophen in Lortab has a half-life in the blood of about one and a quarter to three hours. This is the time in which half of it is no longer acting in your system. The exact half-life can vary depending on a number of factors, including how well your liver functions.
Hydrocodone has a half-life of about four hours; it takes five to six half-lives to eliminate most of the drug from your system. That said, hydrocodone can be detected in the urine for up to three days.
Blood: Up to 24 hours
Urine: Up to three days
Saliva: Up to three days
Hair: Up to 90 days
How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?
Lortab is taken as an oral tablet, so the drug must first pass through the digestive system before it takes effect. The acetaminophen component of Lortab is absorbed rapidly from the gastrointestinal tract and start having pain-relieving effects within 30 minutes.1 The hydrocodone in Lortab acts more slowly, but usually begins working within 30 to 60 minutes of ingestion.
The package insert for Lortab suggests that following a 10mg oral dose, the hydrocodone component reaches peak blood concentration levels 1.3 hours after ingestion.
Factors That Affect Detection Time
It is important to remember that the above detection windows are just estimates. There are a number of different variables that can influence how long Lortab will remain in your system.
The prescribing information for Lortab suggests that there is not enough research on whether the drug affects the elderly differently.4 However, since the drug is excreted primarily by the kidneys and because older adults are more likely to have decreased renal function, this may mean that the drug stays in an older person’s system for a longer period of time.
Liver and Kidney Function
Hydrocodone and acetaminophen are both processed by the liver and excreted by the kidneys, so decreased hepatic or renal function can extend how long these substances remain in your system.
Dosage and Duration of Use
The amount of Lortab you are taking and how long you have been taking it also plays a major role in how long it can be detected in your body. It takes longer for higher doses to clear your system. If you have been taking Lortab for a while, it may build up in the tissues of your body, making it detectable for a longer period of time.
Symptoms of Overdose
One reason that it is important to know how long Lortab remains in the system is its potential to interact with other drugs. If the pain-killing effects of Lortab wear off, but the drug is still in the system, an overdose is possible if you take more of the drug or another drug containing the same ingredients too soon.
The following are some of the symptoms that can occur with a Lortab overdose:
- Difficulty breathing
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Excessive sleepiness
- Spasms of the stomach or intestinal tract
- Limp or weak muscles
- Liver failure
- Narrowing or widening of the pupils
- Cold, clammy skin
- Slow or stopped heartbeat
- Stomach and intestinal spasms
- Blue color of skin, fingernails, lips
- Loss of consciousness or coma