How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?

Teens who are learning more about drugs or even experimenting might not realize just how long drug effects can last, or how long drugs stay in their system. Here are some common drugs, how long their effects last and how long they stay in your system in quantities that can be detected by a drug test.


Teen Smoking

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While there are many ways to get marijuana in your system, no matter which way it happens, every organ in your body is affected. The drug’s high, along with physical affects such as dizziness, slowed reaction time, increased appetite and dry mouth can last 3 to 4 hours. However, it can be detected in your body by a drug test for as long as 30 days after taking it. Over the long term, marijuana can affect brain development, impulse control and overall mental health.


Depending on your weight, the amount of alcohol consumed and its strength, the amount of time alcohol you can feel the affects of alcohol and how long it stays in your system varies from a couple of hours to more than a day. Over the long term, however, alcohol can have significant impacts on your teen’s memory, attention span, decision-making abilities and emotional responses.


Cocaine’s affects are very quick, intense and very short-lived. They can appear almost immediately and disappear within minutes or an hour. However, the length of its effects depends on how the drug is taken. The faster the drug is absorbed, the shorter and more intense the high is. For example, the high from snorting arrives more slowly but it may last 15–30 minutes whereas the effects from smoking are more immediate but might only last 5–10 minutes. Once the effects wear off, cocaine can still be detected in your system for several days.

Long term cocaine use can lead to decreased natural dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for motivation, reward and pleasure.


Teen Party Drugs

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Ecstasy, or MDMA, starts to take effect in the body within 20 to 40 minutes. After this time, it produces little rushes of exhilaration that can be accompanied by nausea. The drug’s effects peak after 60 to 90 minutes, but they can last for 3 to 6 hours. It stays in the system for up to 5 days after use.

Once it’s in the body, MDMA interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize, or break down, the drug. As a result, taking additional doses of MDMA before it’s completely out of the bloodstream can produce unexpectedly high blood levels and increase the negative effects of the drug.


Heroin converts to morphine once it enters the brain and gives users a quick, pleasurable “rush.” This rush can be quite brief and after these initial effects wear off, users will usually feel drowsy for several hours. The drug can still be detected in your blood stream for about 12 hours after taking it.

Long term effects of heroin use increase the risk of constipation, liver and heart problems, malnourishment as a result of a decline in appetite, and menstrual irregularities in women.

Put simply, while a high might seem brief, the effects of drugs on the mind and body can be lasting. They impact overall mental awareness and the ability to pass a drug test, and have long-term physical effects. It’s important to educate your teen on the lasting risks of substance abuse.

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