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How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

If you suspect a loved one is using heroin, researching the facts about heroin is a starting point. The illegal and highly addictive substance produces an incredibly euphoric high. In addition, users can inject, snort, or smoke heroin, which is a factor in determining how long does heroin stay in your system. Determining if heroin is still in the body depends on several factors and the type of testing. 

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug derived from the seed pod of opium poppy plants. It is not a legal drug, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Schedule 1 drugs have no medicinal value and possess a high potential for addiction. The high produced from either smoking, injecting, or snorting heroin is euphoric. Many users wonder, how long does heroin stay in your system?  

A derivative of morphine, heroin is doubly potent. Several factors determine the answer to how long does heroin stay in your system. Metabolism, the amount of heroin, and the period of addiction to the drug are factors that determine this. To understand this process, you must understand how heroin processes in the body and the half-life. 

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

To answer the question of how long does heroin stay in your system, you must determine several factors. First, the short answer depends upon the type of testing used. For example, urine testing takes about 24 hours, blood tests 48 to 72 hours, and hair follicle testing up to three months. Factors that figure into the determination include:

  • The amount of heroin
  • Quality of heroin (Was it pure or cut?)
  • Drug tolerance or period of addiction
  • Individual metabolism
  • Genetics
  • Other drugs used in combination with heroin
  • How the user took the heroin

Addiction to heroin builds tolerance within the body. How the addict applies heroin to the body through injecting, snorting, or smoking can affect tolerance build-up. Switching methods of ingestion are common to alter tolerance levels. In determining how long does heroin stay in the system, one must consider this factor. 

Snorting Heroin: Heroin, in a pure state, is a white powder. Because of the powdered form of pure heroin, snorting is generally the choice of ingestion. Black tar heroin is darker in color and sticky. Sniffing heroin through the nostrils produces a peak high within three to five minutes. 

Injecting or Shooting Heroin: This method of ingestion is the choice of roughly half of heroin users. The addict mixes heroin with water and injects the drug into a vein. Injection sites can change because of collapsed and scarred veins. Injecting heroin produces a high-speed high of just under one minute. 

Smoking Heroin: The user smokes heroin in powder form using glass pipes. Another method is inhaling heroin by heating heroin with a flame off the aluminum foil. This method carries the label of chasing the dragon. It is not uncommon for smokers to switch over to injecting heroin. 

How Is Heroin Metabolized in the Body, and What’s Its Half-Life?

How long does heroin stay in the system? Heroin metabolizes in the central nervous system, breaking down into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM) and then, lastly, morphine.

The half-life of each of these properties varies. Half-life is the time required for a substance to be decreased by half. For example, the half-life of heroin is only three minutes after injection, which makes it challenging to test for. Therefore, professionals use drug tests to screen for 6-MAM, which has a thirty-minute half-life. 

Determining how long does heroin stay in the system using urine, blood, and saliva testing have similar results. Heroin is typically out of the system within three days of the last usage. Hair follicle testing is more precise and can test out up to ninety days from the previous use. Still, weight, length of addiction, the amount used, and how heroin is introduced to the body are all considerations in testing. 

What Are the Effects of Heroin?

Opioid drugs bind to the opioid receptors in the brain producing feelings of happiness, pain relief, and relaxation. How long does heroin stay in the system is a concern, but the short and long-term effects are alarming. However, after the euphoric rush, the user can experience heaviness in their arms and legs, dry mouth, and warmth of the skin. These effects are usually followed by nausea, vomiting, and feeling very itchy. Drowsiness for a few hours leads to a period of brain fog. 

The following signs and symptoms are typical of heroin addiction:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed heart and breathing rates
  • Immediate withdrawal symptoms once the high wears off
  • Extreme changes in appetite and sleep habits
  • Mental health issues
  • Organ damage producing disease or adverse effects

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are among several reputable organizations that endorse the appropriate use of medications during detox to help people manage the symptoms of heroin withdrawal and maintain recovery.

Find Help for Heroin Addiction and Treatment in Tennessee

Heroin addiction is widespread and dangerous. If you’re wondering how long does heroin stay in the system, you might also wonder how long detoxing will take. Tennessee Valley Recovery offers hope for recovery through well-established heroin detox programs. Our staff has answers to your questions concerning your decision to quit heroin. The process can begin after a brief assessment. Contact us today.