When does heroin peak?

Heroin peak concentrations are achieved fairly quickly any way administrated. More here on what heroin does to the body, with a section at the end for your questions.

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Heroin peak concentrations are achieved fairly quickly any way administrated. When injected, heroin peaks in about 2-5 minutes, whereas inhaling or snorting can bring on effects almost instantly.

More on what heroin does to the body and how it works here…with a section reserved for your questions at the end.

What’s in heroin?

Heroin is a potent opiate. A derivative of morphine, heroin is a natural substance extracted from certain types of poppy plants.

Today, heroin is classified as a Schedule I substance due to its high abuse potential and no medical purpose. Decades ago, it used to be sold over the counter as a medicine (morphine diacetate) for treating coughing. Currently, it is only obtained illegally and it usually sold as white or brownish powder, or in a black sticky form known as “black tar” heroin. Pure heroin is less common, but oftentimes it is mixed with substances such as sugar, starch, quinine, evaporated milk, or similar white powders.

Heroin peak levels

Depending on dose and the route of administration, the onset of effects is within 0-45 seconds to a couple of minutes. When injected, the peak levels of heroin are reached within 2-5 minutes minutes, while with inhaling it takes maximum 2 minutes. But how long does heroin last? The peak effects of heroin last for 1-2 hours while the overall effects diminish in 3-5 hours, depending on dose.

The Cmax of heroin

The peak plasma concentration (Cmax) of heroin depends on the route of administration. Intravenous heroin injection causes 3 to 5 times greater Cmax than heroin inhalation. Consequently, the concentrations of the mast cell mediator, “tryptase” increase after heroin is being injected, but, but not when it’s being inhaled.

Dangers of long term heroin use

There are plenty of long term dangers associated with heroin use. The very fact that it is a Schedule I substance speaks for itself. One of the greatest dangers of heroin use is addiction itself.

Addiction is a relapsing disease that occurs with regular use of the drug. It is characterized with compulsive drug seeking and inability to quit using, and is often accompanied by physical dependence which happens when the body gets adapted to the presence of the drug.

The risk of overdose resulting in death is another danger associated with heroin use and can happen not only to heroin long term users, but also when used occasionally or for the first time. Besides physical dependence and addiction, other possible dangers of long term heroin use include:

  • abscesses
  • collapsed veins
  • infectious diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis C
  • infection of heart lining and valves
  • rheumatic problems

How do I know if I’m addicted to heroin?

If you have been using heroin and want to find out if you are addicted, you can do so by trying to quit. If you are having a hard time quitting for good, unfortunately the odds of being addicted are high.

Further, heroin addicts experience cravings and other withdrawal symptoms which are common after a long-term heroin use. This is because the body of long term heroin users gets physically dependent to the presence of heroin and when off the drug the individual does not feel “well”. While dependence is not synonymous with addiction, the two often co-exist which makes physical dependence a probable sign of addiction.

To test if you are addicted to heroin and to get help, seek medical assistance. Doctors can prescribe medications and psychotherapy which, when combined, can help you stay clean for the long term. You do not need to suffer alone, or in silence.

Heroin peak levels questions

Still have questions about how heroin metabolizes and processed in the body?

Feel free to post your questions about the peak levels of heroin or related ones in the comment section below. We will try to respond to all legitimate quarries personally and promptly.

Reference sources: DEA: Drug Ino
DEA: Drugs of Abuse
NCBI: Opiate addiction
NHTSA: Morphine
NIDA: Director’s Report 8
NIDA: Commonly abuse drug effects
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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