How long does heroin stay in your system

How long does heroin stay in your system

In this article, you are going to find out how long does heroin stay in your system and how it can be tested.

We are also answering some questions like “What are the factors that affect how long does heroin stay in your system?” and “Is Heroin addictive?”
Keep reading to find out more.

How long does heroin stay in your system

What you need to know about heroin 

Heroin is an opiate with a strong sedative (‘downer’) and pain killing effects. It comes in powder form which varies in color from brown to white.

You can inject it, sniff it or smoke it on foil or in a tobacco-based joint.

It is also known as gear, H, smack, skag, junk, brown, horse, china white, dragon. 

Short-term effects

  • Effects can start quickly and last for several hours. This depends on how much of the drug you use and how you take it
  • Makes you feel warm and relaxed with a hazy feeling of security
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Pain relief
  • You can have nausea and vomiting the first time you use it
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Your breathing and heart rate slow down
  • Constipation
  • Higher doses cause drowsiness – ‘goofing off’
  • Injecting heroin causes more intense feelings

Long-term effects

  • You build tolerance, so you need to take more to get the same buzz
  • Chronic constipation
  • Irregular periods in women
  • High doses can cause you to feel drowsy all the time, fall into a coma or die from breathing failure
  • If you smoke heroin you risk lung and heart disease
  • You may stop eating properly and not look after yourself

Other dangers

  • Unplanned pregnancy due to irregular periods
  • Your risk of overdose is particularly high if you stop using heroin for a while and then start using again as your tolerance goes down
  • Heroin is more dangerous when you use it with other depressant drugs such as alcohol, tranquilizers, benzos or other opiates, such as methadone
  • Damage to veins if you inject it
  • You risk HIV and hepatitis if you share needles
  • You risk choking on vomit as your cough reflex is suppressed

Heroin is highly addictive, both physically and psychologically, so your body craves it and you feel you can’t cope without it.

If you use it regularly for 2 to 3 weeks you will build tolerance so you need to keep taking more to get the same buzz.

You may start to experience withdrawal after several weeks on high, frequent doses of heroin.

Withdrawals start 8-12 hours after your last use and include aches, shakes, sweating, chills, sneezing and yawning and muscle spasms.

These fade after about a week and are not life-threatening.

How long does heroin stay in your system

How long does heroin stay in your system – Urine

A toxicology exam can detect heroin in urine for one to three days after the last use.

Upon administration, the opioid is quickly converted into 6-MAM, which can be detected in urine for about eight hours after ingestion.

The presence of 6-MAM in urine confirms heroin use. Heroin also contains traces of acetylcholine, which the body converts into codeine.

Morphine and codeine in urine could indicate heroin use, and the ratio of morphine to codeine can help lab technicians confirm whether a person used heroin or codeine.

Individuals also like to know more about specific drugs, for example for ‘How long does cocaine stay in your urine?’

How long does heroin stay in your system – Saliva

Evidence of heroin can be detected in oral fluid for 24 to 36 hours.

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, researchers have found high levels of 6-MAM in saliva samples that have tested positive for morphine.

The report also stated that choosing saliva as the test sample increases the chances of detecting heroin use.

 How long does heroin stay in your system – Hair

Some hair tests can detect drugs for a much longer period of time than saliva or urine, in some cases up to several years after last use.

Traces of heroin use can usually be detected in your hair for up to 90 days depending on hair length.

The longer detection window of hair tests can reveal long-term heroin use.

Factors that affect how long heroin stays in your body

Opioids remain in the body of some people for longer periods of time than they do in others.

The length of time heroin stays in your system depends on a host of variables.

Factors affecting how long heroin remains in the body include:

  • Amount of the drug ingested
  • Length of drug abuse
  • Frequency of use
  • Severity of addiction

Physical factors also play a role in how long heroin stays in the body, including height, weight, age, body fat percentage and overall health.

Levels of stress and physical activity also affect the duration that heroin remains in the system.

How Long Do Heroin Effects Last?

Heroin produces a potent high followed by physical effects that last for several hours.

When people shoot heroin, the most intense euphoric effects begin within seven or eight seconds. Injecting the drug directly into muscle creates a high within about five to eight minutes.

Smoking heroin causes a surge of euphoria within 10 to 15 minutes.

Alongside the euphoric effects, heroin users experience numerous physical sensations, including a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the arms and legs.

Ingesting too much of the drug can lead to heroin overdose.

People who are addicted to heroin need to take increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired euphoric effects.

However, many people who are dependent on the drug take it to avoid uncomfortable heroin withdrawal symptoms rather than to get high.

Those with a heroin use disorder should seek professional help at a rehab facility, where they can receive evidence-based heroin treatment to overcome their substance abuse problems.

A combination of medication-assisted detox, therapy, and ongoing support can assist people in quitting heroin and committing to a life of sobriety.

Is Heroin Addictive?

Is heroin addictive? Yes.

Although it is possible to recover from heroin addiction, it’s not easy. Many people who have tried to beat their addiction have relapsed or returned to it several times after a period of sobriety. 

Heroin works in the same way as other opioids in that it increases the amount of dopamine released to the limbic reward system, a part of the brain responsible for feeling pleasure.

The limbic reward system drives all intense pleasure, such as that related to eating, drinking, and sex. 

When a person uses heroin, however, the drug takes over the limbic reward system, producing a flush of dopamine and a rush of pleasure and euphoria.

Following this experience, many people report feeling like they need to seek out the drug again and again.

This repeated use of heroin is what drives heroin dependence very quickly. This is also what contributes to heroin addiction.

Detoxing from heroin and heroin withdrawal can be extremely difficult and potentially harmful to the body if not done under proper guidance.

It can be extremely difficult for those who abuse heroin to quit the drug on their own because it affects parts of the brain that control judgment, planning, and organization. 

Heroin abuse also hijacks the brain’s memory systems and motivational systems.

This could easily result in a relentless pursuit of the drug for the next high, at any cost, according to the Recovery Village Rehab Centre. 

Conclusions

In this article, you found out how long does heroin stay in your system. 

Most of the time, heroin is no longer detectable in a person’s urine after just 2 days. However, certain tests have been known to have a positive result for this drug for up to 7 days.

Blood and saliva tests aren’t often used for heroin due to the fact that this opioid, like many others, has such a short half-life.

It can, therefore, take only 5-6 hours for the drug to become undetectable in these fluids, though they can possibly be found for up to 2 days.

The only test that works for longer than a week is the hair follicle test, which can detect heroin for up to 3 months or more.

Please feel free to leave a comment or any questions you may have in the comments section below.

FAQ about How long does heroin stay in your system

What Does Heroin Do to You?

When you use heroin to experience euphoria, you also risk harmful heroin effects on the body, including extensive damage to your brain, organs, and normal bodily functions.

Are Heroin Overdoses Painful?

The simple answer to “are heroin overdoses painful” is no, they’re probably not.

However, heroin is the top killer among illegal drugs. As heroin use is on the rise, so are overdose deaths.

What Does Heroin Look Like?

In the purest form, heroin looks like a fine white powder, but it can appear as other colors. 

When additives, like sugar, are mixed in to dilute the heroin, it can take on a different color like brown, gray or even black color.

The additives drug dealers put in heroin are also one of the many dangers of using this drug.

While pure, unadulterated heroin is often a white powder, there are different ways of manufacturing and distributing it, so how it looks can vary.

What do Heroin Eyes Look Like?

Heroin eyes are when people who recently used heroin will often have very small pupils, and their eyes may appear to be droopy.

It may also make the eyes appear more red and bloodshot.

What Happens When You Get Caught with Heroin?

If you are caught possessing heroin, you could be arrested, spend time in jail, be sentenced to prison, and face legal and financial consequences.

How to Taper off Heroin?

Tapering off heroin is seen as a feasible alternative, or in some instances, a stepping stone to prepare for full medical detox and treatment.

Taking less and less of the drug allows the body and nervous system to self-correct and, ultimately, heal itself.

By keeping withdrawal symptoms at bay, it is more likely that an individual will continue the recovery process.

This is one of the primary reasons replacement therapy is used as well.

Recommendations

  1. Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions
  2. I Am a Heroin Addict
  3. Heroin Addicts: How to Help a Heroin Addict Before It’s Too Late
  4. Ben Diary of A Heroin Addict
  5. The Addiction Recovery Workbook: Powerful Skills for Preventing Relapse Every Day
  6. Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior

References 

  1. Drug and Alcohol Information Support – drugs.ie
  2. Advanced Recovery Systems – DrugRehab.com

How long does heroin stay in your system

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.