Heroin is a powerful and addictive opioid drug that is illegal in the United States. It is derived from morphine which is found in the seed pod of opium poppy plants, which grow naturally in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, Afghanistan, and Colombia.
People may smoke, inject, or shoot heroin to experience a euphoric and relaxing high, however, heroin use usually leads to heroin addiction, which can negatively impact every part of your life. Heroin is so addictive that you can get hooked after using it just a few times. How often you use heroin and how long you’ve been using heroin can affect how long it stays in your system.
For the average person, heroin stays in the urine for around 48 hours. Heroin can also be detected on a blood test, saliva test, or hair follicle test for varying lengths of time.
How Long Do the Effects of Heroin Last?
The initial effects of heroin produce a rush of euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief. Other side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Flushed skin
- Heaviness in the arms and legs
How quickly the effects begin and how long they last depend on the method of administration. If you inject or smoke heroin, the effects are felt almost instantly, and the high may last 30 minutes to one hour. But if you snort heroin or take it orally, the effects will take a bit longer to set in and may last around an hour or more. If you are addicted to heroin, you may have to take it every 6-12 hours to avoid going into withdrawal.
What is the Half-Life of Heroin?
The half-life of a substance refers to how long it takes half of a single dose of a substance to be eliminated from the body. Compared to other opioid drugs, heroin has a fairly short half-life of about 8 minutes. However, after it is taken it is metabolized into morphine, and morphine is further broken down to 6-acetyl morphine and other smaller metabolites. The half-life of 6-acetyl morphine is about 22 minutes.
Metabolites can stay in your system for a few days. They can also be detected by a drug test.
How Long Will Heroin Show Up on a Drug Test?
There are multiple factors that influence how long heroin stays in your system, but estimated detection times for the different types of drug tests are as follows:
The most popular type of drug test uses urine to screen for substances. Most urinalysis drug tests will only detect heroin in your urine for about a day, but if you have taken heroin more than once it could show up in your urine for 48 hours. Heavy heroin users may test positive for heroin on a urine test for up to 7 days.
Blood tests are rarely used to screen for heroin because of the drug’s short half-life. Heroin stays in your blood for 5-6 hours after your last dose. However, some advanced blood tests can detect heroin for up to 2 days.
Like blood tests, saliva is rarely used to screen for heroin because it can only detect the drug for about 5-6 hours. Some advanced saliva tests can detect heroin for up to 2 days after the last dose.
Unlike other types of drug tests, hair tests use a sample of the hair follicle to screen for illicit substances. Hair follicle testing can detect heroin for up to 90 days after the last dose.
Factors that Affect How Long Heroin Stays in Your System
Heroin detection times vary from one person to the next based on a number of factors, including:
- Scope of heroin use – Using heroin more frequently, in higher doses, and for longer periods of time can cause more of the drug to build up in your system, increasing the amount of time it takes for your body to eliminate traces of it completely.
- Height, weight, and body fat content – People who have larger bodies or higher fat content will test positive for heroin for longer periods of time than smaller individuals.
- Method of administration – Heroin will stay in the system longer if it is snorted compared to if it were injected or smoked.
- Metabolism and health of the liver and kidneys – People with healthy livers and kidneys as well as those with faster metabolisms will eliminate heroin from their system at a faster rate.
- Using heroin with other drugs or alcohol – Drinking alcohol or mixing heroin with other drugs can slow down or speed up the metabolism of heroin in the body.
How to Get Heroin Out of Your System Safely
Although there are many self-detox products or “cleanses” on the market, none of these are proven effective or approved by the FDA. The only true way to get heroin out of your system is to drink plenty of water, eat a healthy diet, and stop using heroin.
If you are addicted to heroin, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal 6-12 hours after you stop taking it. Heroin withdrawal can resemble a severe case of the flu accompanied by intense drug cravings. Heroin withdrawal can lead to dehydration, relapse, and other serious symptoms, so it’s important to detox under medical supervision.
At a heroin detox center, doctors can prescribe detox medications like methadone or Suboxone to reduce the severity of your symptoms, alleviate drug cravings, and make the detox process more comfortable. Nurses will also monitor your symptoms to ensure your safety and therapy sessions are offered for emotional support.
Find Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction Today
If you or a loved one are facing the challenges of heroin addiction, know that help is available. The compassionate team at ARISE Treatment Center is dedicated to assisting you throughout your journey toward recovery. Our experienced healthcare professionals offer a secure and nurturing atmosphere where you can heal, providing a comprehensive range of services from medical detoxification to rehabilitation and ongoing support. Learn more about our Southern California heroin detox center and take the first step towards overcoming heroin addiction by reaching out to us today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Heroin DrugFacts, Retrieved May 2023 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
- National Library of Medicine: Population pharmacokinetics of heroin and its major metabolites, Retrieved May 2023 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16584286/
- National Library of Medicine: Objective Testing – Urine and Other Drug Tests, Retrieved May 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920965/