Whether you’re looking to pass a drug test or are wondering when the worst of your withdrawals will begin, you might be wondering how long heroin stays in your system. In the end, this depends on a variety of factors. First, it’s important to understand what heroin is made from and how it is processed in the body.
What is Heroin and How is it Processed in the Body?
Heroin is a potent opioid drug that is derived from morphine. Morphine is a naturally-occurring opioid that is found in poppy plants that are grown in Mexico, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, and Colombia. The drug is typically sold in the form of a white or brown powder but may come in the form of a sticky substance known as black tar heroin. People may inject, snort, or smoke the drug.
The drug is a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse and addiction. When heroin enters the body, it does so rapidly and reduces pain sensations, breathing, and heart rate. Upon entering the body, heroin is metabolized into 6-acetyl morphine and morphine. Overall, heroin has an extremely short half-life of only two to six minutes, whereas morphine has a half-life of one to seven hours and 6-acetyl morphine has a half-life of only 6 to 25 minutes. As a result, the body breaks down heroin fairly quickly and the high fades fast. Then, it can take up to five half-lives for the drug to be completely eliminated from the system.
To explain, the euphoric effects of heroin tend to last for only about 1-45 minutes. Then, the drug’s metabolites are brown down in the system, therefore, being detectable on most standard drug tests for only 1-4 days.
Factors that Affect How Long Heroin Stays in the System
Even though heroin is a fast-acting drug with a rapid half-life, there are several different factors that affect how long heroin stays in a person’s system. These include:[2,3]
- Amount of drug taken
- The potency of the drug
- Rate of metabolism
- Body fat
- Liver and kidney health
- Method of drug administration
Furthermore, the rate at which heroin leaves the system depends on which type of drug test is in question. For example, newer and more advanced tests can detect heroin in the system for longer amounts of time, whereas older tests, such as urine tests, may find it more difficult to detect heroin metabolites. As a result, someone could still have traces of heroin in their system, yet be able to pass certain drug screenings.
How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?
Drug tests test for heroin metabolites; not heroin itself. This is because although heroin may leave the system quickly, the metabolites last far longer. So, how long does heroin show up on drug tests for? Let’s take a look at the breakdown:
- Urine: can be detected 1-4 days after the last use of heroin
- Blood: only detects heroin within hours of last use
- Saliva: only detects heroin within hours of last use
- Hair: heroin may be detected in hair for up to 90 days after the last use
Heroin and Urine Tests
Urine tests are, by far, the cheapest and most common type of drug screening used. Moreover, they are easy to use and minimally invasive. In most cases, heroin can be detected in urine between 1-4 days after a person’s last use.[2,3] However, this timeline may increase if a person has been abusing a lot of the drug over an extended period of time.
Heroin and Blood Tests
Blood tests are typically only used in the event of a medical emergency where individuals require immediate attention. Furthermore, heroin isn’t detected in blood for very long, so blood tests generally detect heroin for only 5-6 hours after the drug was taken. In rare instances, blood screenings may detect heroin for up to two days.
Heroin and Hair Tests
Hair tests have the longest detection window of all types of drug screenings. To explain, heroin can be detected in hair follicle tests for up to 90 days after a person’s last use of the drug. However, people who have been abusing the drug for an extended period of time may have far longer hair follicle detection windows.
Heroin and Saliva Tests
Saliva tests are similar to blood tests in the way that they cannot detect heroin in the system for very long. As a result, saliva tests are rarely used to screen for opioid drugs like heroin. However, saliva drug screenings may detect heroin for up to 5 hours after a person’s last use. However, saliva tests are very accurate at testing for heroin, so they are a common choice to use if someone suspects that a person has taken the drug in the last few hours.
Getting Heroin Out of Your System
If you’re wondering how long heroin stays in your system and is detected on drug tests, you are also probably wondering how to get heroin out of your system. Unfortunately, there is no pill you can take or drink you can drink to surely and safely flush heroin metabolites from your system. Instead, the only way to get the drug out of your system is to stop using it, give your body time to adjust back to normal, and let nature run its course.
The main problem with this is that when people stop taking heroin after becoming dependent on it, they experience withdrawal symptoms. These flu-like symptoms are not deadly but are extremely uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. Since the body has become dependent on opioids, the withdrawal period is an adjustment phase where the body and mind adapt to functioning without the drug. As the substance continues to leave the system, the withdrawals become less severe and the body returns to normal functioning.
That being said, going through heroin withdrawal alone is never a good idea. Waiting for the drug to clear your system and to feel back to normal can be a brutal experience. Instead, it is always recommended to seek help from an addiction treatment provider near you. By obtaining help, you ensure your safety and success while you let your body process and eliminate all traces of heroin.
Find Help for Heroin Addiction Today
Heroin is a highly addictive and deadly drug that is hard to stop using without professional help. If you’re trying to pass a drug test and flush the drug from your system rapidly, chances are you have a serious problem and could benefit from getting help.
At PAX Riverbend Recovery Center, our dedicated addiction professionals have the tools and resources you need to achieve sobriety. The pull from heroin addiction is strong, and it isn’t easy to break, but we’ll show you the way. Using a combination of medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapies, support groups, and extensive aftercare programs, we help patients stay sober. The first step is to pick up the phone and reach out for help. If you or a loved one are using heroin and are ready to get your life back on track, give us a call today.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.