How long does heroin stay in your system?

Heroin has a very short half life – only about 8 minutes, so it doesn’t stay in the system long. Learn more about drug detection time for heroin in blood, urine, and hair here.

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Heroin doesn’t stay in the body long.

The half life for heroin is only 3-8 minutes and it clears most systems in the body within a couple of days, even with heavy use. However, heroin drug detection times can depend on a number of factors – how the drug was taken, how often a person takes the drug, and the person’s body time and metabolism. We review drug testing for heroin here, and invite your question about heroin in the system at the end.

Main heroin uses

Unlike many other narcotics, heroin has no recognized medical use but is used for its characteristic heroin feeling. Instead, heroin is a Schedule I controlled substance and cannot be obtained by a doctor’s prescription. In the U.S., it’s a crime to use, possess, or sell heroin.

How do you take heroin?

Heroin can be taken in multiple ways. Heroin is sometimes snorted or sniffed in the form of a powder, allowing it to enter the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Smoking or inhaling heroin causes it to be absorbed by the lungs. Or heroin can be injected directly into the bloodstream.

Peak levels and half life of heroin

How quickly heroin hits peak levels depends on the method of administration. All methods of taking heroin release it into the bloodstream and deliver it fairly rapidly to the brain. But heroin is not a long-lasting drug, with a half life of only about 3-8 minutes. However, heroin is broken down by the body into morphine, which has a longer half life of about 3.6 hours.

Heroin drug testing: How long does heroin stay in the body?

Because of how quickly heroin is metabolized, it doesn’t stay very long in the body. Each person’s detection window is a unique combination of factors such as weight, body mass, amount of heroin taken, frequency of dosing, and personal metabolism. Still, drug screens can detect heroin accurately using a variety of methods. These include blood tests, urine tests and hair sample testing for heroin.

How long does heroin stay in blood?

Because of its very short half life, heroin does not stay in the blood for long. Blood tests would likely only be effective within a day of taking the drug, at which point a urine test might be more accurate.

How long does heroin stay in hair?

Heroin can be detected in hair for at least 90 days. Whether or not you can use a hair sample for evidence of heroin use depends on the length of someone’s hair and the amount of the drug they’ve taken.

How long does heroin stay in urine?

Heroin can be detected in urine for 1-2 days. However, heroin will show up in the urine for longer periods if taken in higher amounts, or if someone is a habitual heroin abuser. Sometimes heroin can linger in the body longer depending on factors like weight or body mass.

Heroin and addiction

Heroin is extremely addictive – more than one in five people who try heroin go on to become addicted to the drug.  Heroin addict stories are numerous. Addicts will develop a tolerance to heroin, so it will start taking more heroin to achieve any kind of high. This can lead to a host of issues –including nasty withdrawals when someone tries to quit heroin. Plus, heroin injection puts the user at risk for blood clots and infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis. It can cause serious heart conditions, and liver or kidney disease.

Problems with heroin?

If you struggle with heroin addiction, please see a doctor for help. In addition to therapeutic options, there are medical interventions which may be able to help you manage your addiction. Methadone, Clonidine, Buprenorphine or Tramadol for opiate withdrawal symptoms are just some possible drugs that can help you get off heroin. Staying open with friends and family about your struggles with heroin will help you build a support network that can help keep you accountable and away from relapse. And you can leave us your comments and feedback about heroin use here.

Heroin in the system questions

Do you still have questions about heroin’s detection or presence in the body? Please let us know. We try to respond to all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt response. So, ask your questions below!

Reference Sources: NIDA: InfoFacts: Heroin
DMME: Drug Free Workplace
PubMed Health: Comparison between self-report and hair analysis of illicit drug use in a community sample of middle-aged men
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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