How Long Does a High Last?Anna Ciulla
Getting high is a way for millions of substance users, abusers and addicts to escape from reality, to numb pain and avoid dealing with problems or issues. For some individuals with chronic, life-threatening illness, such as cancer, however, getting high is almost a by-product of taking the medication, as they literally need the narcotic medications in order to have some semblance of normal life functioning. Whatever the reason for wanting to get high or experiencing a high due to required medication, it’s important to know the facts about getting high, specifically, how long does a high last?
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE HIGH?
It depends on the substance used. To say you get high right after taking a certain drug or alcohol is inaccurate. Some highs come on slowly, while others take their time. Some illicit drugs have an instantaneous rush of euphoria, at least for some time until chronic use leads to tolerance. Other drugs, including painkillers used only as prescribed, may have noticeable euphoric effects as the body seeks to heal from pain, while long-term use may become addiction, with the user needing to take more of the drugs and more often in order to achieve the high. First-time marijuana users may have trouble immediately noticing they’re high, as they’re unfamiliar with the symptoms until they become so pronounced it’s impossible to ignore their altered state.
DURATION OF HIGH BY SUBSTANCE FOR 10 MOST DANGEROUS DRUGS
The length of time a user experiences a high is dependent on a number of factors, although there are some typical durations according to the substance used. Looking at the 10 most dangerous drugs (in decreasing order), according to a report in U.S. News & World Report, provides a snapshot of how long a high lasts.
The most dangerous opiate drug, with a reported 18,335 overdose deaths in 2016, fentanyl gives users a short-lived high that lasts only a few minutes, depending on how it’s used. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl overdose deaths reached a record high in 2017, believed to be involved in the majority of the nearly 30,000 opioid overdose deaths that year. Fentanyl is synthetic opiate that is roughly 50 times the potency of heroin. Relatively inexpensive and easy to make, fentanyl is often mixed with cocaine and heroin, adding to the risk of accidental overdose death.
Another highly-addictive opiate narcotic drug, illicit heroin accounted for 15,961 overdose deaths in 2016. Reports of duration of heroin high range from 45 seconds to several minutes, with intense peak effects at about 2 hours. Overall duration of high wears off some 5 hours after use, leaving users feeling drowsy, disconnected from the world, and relaxed.
In the category of stimulants, cocaine was associated with 11,316 overdose deaths in 2016, some three-quarters of which also involved other substances, such as fentanyl and heroin. A cocaine high, according to the Center for Substance Abuse (CESAR), provides an “immediate and intense” high lasting 15-30 minutes when snorted, and 5-10 minutes when smoking the substance. Residual effects from the high, however, can continue for 1-2 hours.
Another stimulant drug, methamphetamine was involved in 6,762 overdose deaths in 2016. Manufactured mostly in clandestine labs, meth is often laced with impurities and highly addictive and deadly fentanyl. A meth high can last from 6-24 hours when smoked. To experience prolonged euphoria, many meth users binge on the substance, consuming more before the high fades and crash ensues.
The fifth most dangerous drug is alprazolam, which is sold under the brand name of , a medication used to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine, considered responsible, in part, for 6,209 deaths in 2016. Experts say that almost all of the Xanax deaths involved another substance, such as heroin, fentanyl, or oxycodone.
The high from Xanax taken orally typically starts 15-30 minutes after use, lasts a couple of hours, peaks in 1-2 hours. Those who take Xanax to get high, however, typically crush and snort the medication. While this leads to a quicker high, the drug taken this way goes right to the brain, increasing overdose risks. Seeking to prolong the high, Xanax abusers take more and more of the drug, which leads to tolerance – needing more quantity, more often to achieve the high. Following a single dose of Xanax, the high usually lasts about 4 hours, but can extend up to 6 hours.
Another opioid narcotic, oxycodone, sold under brand names such as Oxycontin, accounted for 6,199 overdose deaths in 2016. Intended to provide pain relief for up to 12 hours, oxycodone is a frequent drug of abuse, and can lead to addiction. The duration of an oxycodone high depends on route of ingestion. Many addicts chew the medication, which gives a high lasting 3-6 hours. Cutting the pill is said to give users a high lasting about 2 hours. Crushing and snorting oxycodone produces a high that lasts between 20 minutes and 2 hours. Smoking oxycodone has effects similar to heroin, in that the chemical goes directly to the brain, with effects lasting 4-6 hours. Injecting oxycodone, while it produces a quick high, the euphoria typically lasts only a few minutes, although drowsiness lingers.
Classified as an opiate medication, morphine is prescribed to treat pain, most often following surgery or acute injury. Morphine was involved in 5,014 overdose deaths in 2016. Depending on the dose, the euphoric effects of morphine typically last 4-6 hours, with the onset of the effects in 15 minutes to 1 hour. Some users report that the morphine high comes and goes in waves.
Methadone is a prescription opiate narcotic used in the treatment of pain. The medication was involved in 3,493 overdose deaths in 2016. Methadone is one of three drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat dependence on opiates, as it helps to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings. It is important to note that when taken as prescribed to treat opiate addiction, methadone does not get you high. As for the duration of the methadone high when the drug is abused, it can last anywhere between 6-8 hours, although the drug remains in the body for up to 4 days. Effects with methadone include euphoria, sedation and drowsiness.
Sold under the brand names of Vicodin, Norco, and Lorcet, among others, hydrocodone, an opiate narcotic, was involved in 3,199 overdose deaths in 2016. The high from hydrocodone, such as Vicodin, can last 4-6 hours. Some of hydrocodone’s euphoric effects include feelings of extreme well-being, relaxation, heaviness, drowsiness, and numbness. Highly addictive, as are most opiates, hydrocodone can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms after chronic abuse, including powerful drug cravings. Combining hydrocodone with alcohol or other depressants puts the user at risk for overdose.
A prescription drug in the benzodiazepine class, diazepam – sold under brand name of Valium, and others, is used to treat anxiety, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Diazepam was involved in 2,022 overdose deaths in 2016. A Valium high may last 4-6 hours, depending on dosage, the user’s weight, height, other conditions, how long the individual has been using Valium, and other factors. Some users combine Valium with alcohol in an effort to optimize the effects of both substances, while others use the combination to alleviate the irritability and agitation that accompany a binge on cocaine.
HOW LONG DOES AN ALCOHOL HIGH LAST?
People drink to socialize, to relax, to celebrate – and to get high. The way alcohol affects people varies according to how much they drink, how often they drink, their age, health status, and family history, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. So, trying to give specifics on how long an alcohol high lasts is difficult. In general, though, alcohol, which is a depressant, enters the human bloodstream with the first sip. Its effects can start within 10 minutes. One of these effects is a feeling of reduced inhibitions, of being relaxed and carefree. Another way to describe this is a “buzz,” prized by many as a quick and socially acceptable high.
The more you drink, and as you continue to drink, however, the blood alcohol content (BAC) – which is the level of alcohol in the bloodstream — rises. The higher the BAC, the more impaired you become. Binge drinking – consuming 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in 2 hours – quickly raises the BAC. Drinking to sustain the buzz, then, can quickly escalate to the point where the drinker begins to experience the more serious consequences of drinking too much. These include confusion, motor impairment, slurred speech, problems with memory and concentration, and breathing problems. Very serious consequences of drinking too much include coma and death.
Long-term problem drinking can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), health problems and increased cancer risk, requiring alcohol rehab to overcome.
HOW LONG DOES A MARIJUANA HIGH LAST?
The active ingredient in marijuana (cannabis) that produces a high is THC (officially, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Smoking marijuana sends the THC right to the brain, where it releases a flood of dopamine to create the high. How marijuana affects the user depends on the person, the potency of the strain of marijuana, whether it is smoked or eaten. A marijuana high creates a sense of relaxation and well-being, heightened senses, and an altered sense of time. Marijuana can also produce feelings of anxiety, fear, panic, and hallucinations.
According to WebMD, a marijuana high can begin within minutes, peaking in about 30 minutes, and wearing off in 1-4 hours.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU COME DOWN OFF A HIGH?
No matter what drug or substance you use, eventually you’ll begin to feel the effects of the high fade. You’re coming down off the high – and it’s not always very pleasant. Since withdrawal symptoms occur when a drug starts to leave your system, many users up their dosage or take the drug more frequently to stave off withdrawal. This vicious cycle of using, going into withdrawal, using to get out of withdrawal, getting high and coming down again is part of the circular pattern of addiction.
WHAT IS THE DANGER OF COMBINING SUBSTANCES FOR A QUICKER OR BETTER HIGH?
Mixing or combining substances, whether prescription drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, even over-the-counter (OTC) medications can result in dire consequences to the user. Combining benzodiazepines, such as Valium, with opiate pain relievers, alcohol, or any other central nervous system (CNS) depressants can cause severe respiratory depression (slowed breathing) that can lead to other adverse conditions and overdose, sometimes proving fatal. Similarly, combining is a dangerous duo that could be life-threatening.
For more about drug and alcohol abuse, painkiller addiction, detox and recovery, check out these articles:
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. “Cocaine (Powder).” Retrieved from http://cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/cocaine.asp
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2017.” Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db329.htm
- Healthline. “How Long Does Xanax Last?” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-xanax-last#1
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Overview of Alcohol Consumption.” Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Benzodiazepines and Opioids.” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Heroin.” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Methamphetamine: How is methamphetamine abused?” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/how-methamphetamine-abused
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Nearly half of opioid-related overdose deaths involve fentanyl.” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/05/nearly-half-opioid-related-overdose-deaths-involve-fentanyl
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction.” “1. The action of heroin (morphine).” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/1-action-heroin-morphine
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Morphine.” Retrieved from https://drugfree.org/drug/morphine/
- U.S. News & World Report. “The Deadliest Drugs in America.” Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/slideshows/deadly-drugs-in-america-fentanyl-heroin-meth?onepage
- WebMD. “How Does Marijuana Affect You?” Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/marijuana-use-and-its-effects#1