How long does heroin last?

The most intense peak effects of heroin have a duration of about 2 hours and the overall “high” wears off about 4-5 hours after administration, leaving a feeling drowsiness, relaxation and disconnection. More on duration of heroin effects here.

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How long does a heroin “high” last? Usually, heroin lasts for a few hours, peaking after about 2 hours after administration. But what are the most common effects of a heroin “high” and how does heroin leave you feeling? Plus, how does heroin work on the brain?

Here, we review how long it takes for heroin to start acting, its effects on the body and brain, as well as the timeline for drug testing for this strongest of opiates. Then, we invite your questions and/or comments about the effects of heroin or getting help for heroin addiction at the end.

Heroin effects on the body and brain

Heroin is converted to morphine when entering the brain. Opioid receptors located throughout the central nervous system bind with morphine cells and act to affect pain perception and reward. However, heroin also affects areas that control automatic processes critical for life, such as blood pressure and respiration, and can lead to slowed breathing or heart rate.

Regular heroin use results in changes to brain functions. For example, repeated use of heroin results in tolerance, when more drug is needed in order to achieve the initial effect. Further, addiction (accompanied by physical dependence) is characterized by the psychological urge to use heroin and continue use despite negative life consequences. Heroin use can lead to changes in behavior, personality, and psychology…the hallmark symptoms of heroin addiction.

Heroin duration of action

Heroin’s duration of action depends on the route of administration. Even though snorting and injection are the most common way to take heroin, heroin metabolism differs when compared to ingested or smoked heroin.

For example, intravenous use of heroin onsets usually occurs within 20 seconds and the duration of effects would be around 4 hours. Furthermore, when smoking a dose of about 20mg of heroin, the peak onset of effects will take place about 10 minutes later, lasting only 5 minutes, while overall duration of effects is almost 5 hours.

How long do heroin effects last?

The most common effect of heroin is euphoric feeling and a subjective rush of vitality, accompanied by a physiological increase in body temperature. The euphoria may last as little as 45 seconds to as long as several minutes. The most intense peak effects have a duration of about 2 hours and the overall “high” wears off in about 5 hours after heroin administration, leaving a feeling drowsiness, ofrelaxation and disconnection to the rest of the world.

How long does a heroin high last?

The stages of heroin “high” are different for each individual, however users describe a similar process. At the beginning -only seconds after administration of heroin – comes nausea followed by the “hit”, also know as the “rush”. Depending on a user’s tolerance level, (the ability of the body to resist to heroin effects) the “rush” may last from 10 to 20 minutes. During this period, the user may have the strange feeling as if the body is made of liquid and the skin is burning hot, with heat coming from the inside. But when these effect wear off, the body starts to feel heavy, including the head, legs, arms etc. This stage, accompanied with dizziness may last from 30 minutes to 2 hours. The last phase does not have a clear end of heroin “high”, simply because it is different for each user.

Heroin high effects

In addition to euphoric effect, there are serious consequences to your health after heroin use. Breathing becomes shallow, problems with defecation emerge, concentration level drastically change, and perception and cognition are affected. The body temperature rises and you can lose sex drive.

If the heroin was injected, users may feel burning and itching feeling on the skin. Also a person who has just started taking heroin, may need to vomit or will feel nauseous. Following the “rush”, users have difficulties breathing, with big pauses between breaths. Users during this time may either become very alert and active or go into a latent sleeping state. The pulse rate becomes irregular and puts the user’s life into danger. This is the phase where overdoses of heroin can occur after concurrent use or repeated dosing, leading to unconsciousness, coma, or even death.

Heroin detection in the body

Heroin is an opiate that has the ability to accumulate in the human tissue and fat, slowly entering the blood stream over time. Heroin is detectible in hair follicles up to 3 months after use. In a tested urine sample, heroin will be present starting from 2.5 hours to 2 days after use. When it comes to heavy heroin use, morphine metabolites can be detected even as long as 7 days after last administration. Heroin metabolites remain in the blood for 5-6 hours in the saliva, again depending on the dose and chronic use.

How long heroin lasts questions

Do you still have questions about the duration of action of heroin? We invite your questions and comments about how long heroin stays in your system in the following section. We will try to provide ar personal and prompt response to all legitimate queries.

Reference Sources: National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration: Morphine (And Heroin)
Hazardous Substances Data Bank TOXNET: Heroin
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Heroin
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.
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