When does heroin kick in?

The time it takes for heroin to kick in depends on the way it is taken. Heroin effects are usually felt within seconds after you take it. Find out more about heroin metabolism here.

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Heroin got its name from the Latin word “heros”, which means something with a heroic power. This name was given because it best describes the effects of heroin. When taken, heroin creates an euphoric rush in the user’s brain and body, and causes feelings of relaxation, sense of security and empowerment.

But how quickly are heroin effects felt? How long do they last? After 3-5 hours the effects wear off and users feel compelled to use heroin again to reach the same effects. This is how people end up tolerant and addicted to heroin. We explain more about how heroin is metabolized in this article, and invite your questions in the section at the bottom of the page.

Heroin active ingredients

Heroin is an opiate painkiller, narcotic, and an illegal drugderived from morphine which is extracted from the natural seed pod of the Asian poppy plant (Papaver somniferum). Heroin usually takes the form of granules or powder, and can range in colour from white to brown. It is classified in the group of Schedule I drugs according to the FDA’s Controlled Substance Act. This means that heroin is a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

People use heroin mainly in three ways: injecting it, smoking it in a pipe, or snorting it ( there less popular other ways of consuming heroin, as well). These ways of taking heroin send the drug to the brain very quickly and can cause extremely visceral states of euphoria, or well-being; this is the main reason why heroin is so addictive.

When does heroin start working?

After a person takes heroin, the effects can be felt almost instantly and may last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the mode of administration. Here is how long it takes heroin to start working, based on how it’s used.

  • SNORTING – When you snort heroin it takes about 30-120 seconds for the first effects to kick in and the full duration of effects is 3 to 5 hours.
  • INJECTING INTRAVENOUSLY – When heroin is taken intravenously, the onset of action is somewhere between 10-20 seconds, effects usually lasting from 4 to 5 hours.
  • SMOKING – Smoked heroin produces its first effects within 5-10 seconds, which end up lasting for 3 to 5 hours.
  • SUBCUTANEOUS INJECTION – This mode of administration typically lacks the initial wave of intense euphoria, and causes feelings of sedation that can last from 3-5 hours.

Heroin is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant andit affects opiate receptors connected with pain, movement and emotion. When a person takes heroin, the metabolism first converts it back into morphine. The chemical morphine then affect endogenous opioids (endorphin and enkephalin), the brain’s natural and specialized receptors which affect pain and mood. Since heroin stimulates many more receptors than the brain uses in the normal cycle of endorphin and enkephalin release and uptake, the result is a massive amplification of opioid activity. Thus, the extreme good feelings.

Factors that influence heroin onset

Several elements have an impact on the profile of any drug onset, including:

  1. Variability in drug distribution
  2. Drug-receptor interactions
  3. The influence of other drugs

Heroin onset is mainly determined by heroin formulations and mixtures. The purer the heroin, the stronger the effect. However, the combination of heroin with other substances has a significant influence over heroin’s onset time. Heroin users often use this drug combined with other drugs such as: alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis, and some even combine it with stimulants-known as “speed balling”. However, using stimulants and depressants together can have severe effects accompanied by physical risks and very serious addictions.

When does heroin peak?

Before talking about heroin peak levels it is important to point out the meaning of the term “PEAK LEVEL“: A drug peak is the highest blood concentration that a substance reaches after which the effects decline.

So, when does heroin peak? When snorted, heroin peak levels are reached after 10 to 30 minutes. If you smoke heroin you will likely feel it’s peak after 10 minutes of using it. Peak plasma morphine concentrations occur within 5 minutes following intravenous injection.

When Does Heroin Wear Off?

The effects of heroin usually wear off somewhere between 3-5 hours, depending on the taken dose. The effects of injected heroin wear off within 4-8 hours after dosing.

Risks of heroin addiction

The feelings of extreme pleasure and euphoric rush of a heroin high is what keeps users coming back for more heroin, despite being fully aware of the risky and dangerous consequences. Even a single dose of heroin can get you ‘hooked’. Long term heroin addiction has many risks and side effects, including lung damage, heart dangers, and negative effect on your mind and ability to think.

Heroin addicts can be recognized by some of the following signs and symptoms of heroin addiction:

  • experiencing pain in muscles and bones
  • feelings of disturbance
  • having constant chills and throwing up
  • inability to sleep
  • needle marks and bruises all over the body
  • strong cravings and urges for heroin

When does heroin kick in questions

Did you find all the info you were looking for? In case you have additional questions, we welcome you to post them in the designated section below. We try to answer all legitimate questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: Medline Plus: Heroin
NIH: Heroin
CESAR: Heroin
NCBI: Determinants of drug onset
NIDA: Drug Neurotransmission
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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