Does heroin show up on drug tests?

Yes, heroin can be detected on drug tests. Learn about heroin drug testing, types of tests, detection times, and how heroin test results are verified. More here.

minute read

Yes, heroin does show up on drug tests.

When you take heroin, the effects may last from few minutes to several hours, but the drug can stay in your system for much longer than many users expect.

How is heroin detected, and what steps should you take in case you have a positive drug test for heroin? Find the answers to these questions and more in the following article. At the end, we welcome your questions or personal experiences about heroin drug testing. In fact, we try to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

Why order a drug test for heroin?

A drug test is a procedure during which a biological specimen taken from samples such as urine, hair, blood, or breath is used to determine the presence or absence of drugs in the system. Drug testing for heroin is usually performed for the following reasons:

  • Pre-employment testing
  • Random testing for work, legal, or school
  • Return-to-duty drug testing for illicit drugs
  • Reasonable suspicion or cause testing
  • Post-accident testing
  • Follow-up testing for medical reasons

Drug testing for heroin in work environments

Workplace heroin testing programs are designed to detect the presence of heroin. Drug testing is a method of prevention and a deterrent from illicit drug abuse, which is why it is often part of a comprehensive drug-free workplace program. Why do employers drug test?

First, heroin is responsible for a substantial loss in employee productivity. Naturally, employers and want to know what is affecting your work performance. Testing for heroin is a way to identify possible signs of heroin addiction. Further, drug testing aims to prevent employees from coming to work incapable of performing their work-tasks in a safe and responsible manner.

In some organizations. drug testing is required for all employees. In fact, both federal and non-federal workplaces are allowed by law to have drug testing programs in place. Still, any workplace drug-testing program should comply with applicable local, state, and federal laws.

There are several reasons why drug testing might be required, such as:

  1. Compliance with federal regulations, insurance carrier requirements, and/or with customers .
  2. Compliance with reinforcing the organization’s “no drug use” position .
  3. Identification of employees with substance use disorders and referring them for assistance .
  4. Establishing boundaries and rules for discipline or firing .
  5. Improvement of safety.

Types of heroin drug testing

Heroin can be successfully detected in the body of individuals who take the drug, using the following types of drug tests:

1. Hair follicle tests to detect heroin

Hair follicle testing is an effective way to detect heroin after many months since last use. Many drugs, especially heroin, remain in the hair for up to three (3) months, or longer (depending on the length of hair sample).

2. Urine tests for heroin

Heroin is detectable on a urine drug test from several hours after use up to 2-4 days after use. Heavy users can fail a drug urine test for as long as seven (7) days after using heroin.

3. Blood tests for heroin

Blood tests are another way to detect heroin drug use, but are considered to be the least reliable . Many opiates, like heroin, leave a person’s blood stream within 6 hours of dosing and are difficult to detect within this short window of time.

4. Saliva testing for heroin

Heroin has a short detection time when using saliva or oral fluid drug tests. After taking heroin, the averge detection period ranges from 5 to 48 hours.

Heroin detection in the body

Heroin stays in the body for a short period of time. It’s half-life is somewhere around 10 minutes, and it’s out of the the user’s system within 3-4 days. However, heroin may still be detected in the user’s body even after this period via drug test. The detection window for heroin greatly depends on the type of drug test.

  • Blood testing usually only detects use of heroin for up to 1 DAY after use.
  • Urine tests can detect traces of heroin from 1 – 4 DAYS after use.
  • Hair follicle tests may detect levels of heroin for up to 90 DAYS or longer.

Other factors that influence the detection period of heroin include:

  • the amount of heroin used
  • frequency of use
  • how long you have been abusing the drug
  • level of heroin purity
  • physical tolerance to heroin

Heroin might still be detectable in the user’s system for longer periods in cases such as:

  • Taking higher-dose of heroin
  • Daily heroin use or multiple use per day
  • Slow metabolism
  • Use of additional substances(medications) that cause slower heroin processing

Heroin cut-off levels

Different types of drug tests have different cut-off levels which vary by drug. A heroin cut-off should be optimized to detect the presence of the drug in any biospecimen or sample, but should also minimize the number of false positive results by being too sensitive. Here are some basic guidelines for heroin cut of levels for urine and hair screens.

1. Urine cut-off levels: The cut-off level for initial urine tests for heroin is 2000 ng/m.

2. Hair cut-off levels: The standard hair screen takes 1.5 inches of growth as a sample for testing. The detection period of 1.5 inches hair sample is approximately 90 days. If the persons hair is shorter than 1.5 inches, this detection period will be shorter as well.

NOTE: A negative test result doesn’t always mean the person has not used heroin or that s/he is drug free. In some cases, the drug may be present in the body with a concentration lower that the defined cut-off.

Positive drug testing for heroin

If your heroin drug test comes back positive, there are several things you can do:

  1. Ask if you can retake the test.
  2. Require the laboratory to retest your sample again.
  3. You can ask for a hair drug testing sample to be performed (usually you have to cover the costs).

Laboratories have the highest credibility when it comes to confirmation of urine samples for drug testing. Positive test results that indicate the presence of heroin might have to be double checked because of certain foods, food supplements, beverages, or medicines that may affect the testing results.

Heroin testing discussion

Do you still have questions regarding drug testing for heroin? Please share your questions and comments in the section below. We are interested in hearing from you and will do our best to respond to all legitimate enquiries with a personal and prompt response.

Reference Sources: NIH: What are the long-term effects of heroin use?
SAMHSA: Drug Testing
SAMHSA: Plan and Implement a Program
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?