close-up of abdomen and digestive system on a plain background. 3d illustration

Lean is one of the street names for a concoction of prescription cough medicine, soda, and candy. The mixture is consumed in particularly large amounts, and the psychoactive effects from the prescription cough medicine is the primary motivation for using the drug. The majority of cough medicines used in lean contain codeine, an opiate drug, as a primary ingredient.

Codeine (3methylmorphine) is a controlled substance classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and can only be obtained legally with a written prescription from a physician. The information in this article regarding the metabolism and detectability of codeine comes from the journals Mayo Clinic Proceedings and the European Journal of Pharmacology as well as from the National Institutes of Health.

How the Body Processes Lean

Since lean is used orally, the substance is processed through the digestive tract, and most of the drug is eliminated via the kidneys. The half-life of codeine—the amount of time that it takes the body to reduce the amount of the drug in half due to normal metabolism—ranges from 2.5 to 4 hours for most people. This means that the drug is eliminated relatively quickly for most people.

There are some factors that can affect elimination of the drug and the detectability of codeine in a person’s system, including:

  • How much of the drug has been taken.
  • The person’s gender, age, and overall health.
  • Use of codeine with other drugs (e.g., alcohol, which would be metabolized before codeine).
  • Individual differences in metabolism.

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Detection Windows

The detectability of codeine in a person’s system depends on the factors listed above. It also depends on the mode of detection.

  • Under most normal circumstances, codeine is detectable in a person’s urine for 1–2 days.
  • Saliva tests can usually detect codeine relatively quickly after its use and for as long as 1–2 days following discontinuation.
  • Codeine is typically detectable in a person’s blood for 24 hours. After this, it may not be detectable at all using a blood test.
  • Testing hair follicles for codeine is probably the best method to detect past codeine use. This method may be able to detect the presence of codeine in a person’s system 90 days after use.

Again, it is important to note that the amount and frequency of use of the drug can affect the time the drug remains in a person’s system. Some people may find that they test positive for drugs like codeine beyond the limits mentioned in this article. As with any drug, there aren’t finite windows since personal factors affect variability greatly.