How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?
Heroin use can lead to an immediate high, but while the effects are often short-lived, how long heroin stays in your system and how long it is detectable by a drug test can be a lot longer.
Heroin is an illegal opioid made from morphine, a natural substance derived from the seed pod of various opium plants.1 Heroin is taken either by injection, smoking, or snorting.1 People typically use heroin to feel good, to feel better, to do better, or because of social pressure.
Heroin is highly addictive. In 2020, more than 13,000 people died from a heroin overdose.5 And individuals who use heroin often develop a tolerance in which they require higher or more frequent doses of heroin to achieve the desired effects.1 Addiction, or an opioid use disorder (OUD), occurs with continued, compulsive use of heroin, despite negative consequences including failure to meet responsibilities at work or school and health problems.1
Duration of Heroin Effects
Individuals use heroin for many reasons, including its euphoric effects and the high that is experienced. The effect it has may be slightly for each person, and the effects may also differ depending how much is used, how long it has been used for, and the individual who is using the drug.
Some common effects include:6
- Constricted pupils.
- Respiratory Depression.
- Dry mouth.
- Flushing of the skin.
You may wonder, how long the effects of heroin last or how long a heroin high lasts, and the duration may vary. The routes of administration play a role in the differing timelines, with injection having the most immediate effect. If injected into a vein, effects may be felt almost immediately. Injected into the skin or a muscle brings on a slower effect, but only a few minutes.
How Long Does Heroin Stay in the Body?
Heroin’s effects last longer than some other drugs, including meth and cocaine, but it has a short half-life of only 30 minutes, which means that, if someone takes one dose of heroin, it takes 30 minutes for half of the drug to be flushed out of the person’s system. Some studies suggest that the half-life of heroin is as short as 2 to 6 minutes.2
When heroin is taken, it is metabolized to 6-acetyl morphine and morphine. This enters the brain and acts on receptors that are involved with pain suppression and euphoria, among other things. After the drug is broken down in the body, metabolites are produced that are detectable on standard drug screening tests. Heroin is eliminated from the body via the kidneys, in urine, as well as tears, sweat, saliva, and feces.
Drug Tests for Heroin & Detection Times
Heroin can be detected in the body through urine, blood, salvia, and hair follicle tests.3 These drug tests for heroin are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can detect heroin in the body at various points in time after last drug use. Testing sensitivity varies, however, and some tests will show a positive result for heroin for a far longer duration than others.
How long heroin stays in your system will vary, but general detection times for heroin from drug tests include:
- Urine- up to 3 days. How long heroin shows up on a urine test can vary, but it has a later detection time than blood and saliva drug tests.
- Blood- about 12 hours after last use. Heroin doesn’t stay in blood for long, so it is not often the best drug test for detecting heroin.
- Saliva- about 12 hours after last use. Heroin doesn’t stay in saliva for long either, so it
- Hair– up to 3 months. Because of how long heroin stays in your hair, hair follicle testing is considered one of the more revealing methods of drug testing for heroin.
Heroin may show up for varying amounts of times based on various factors including, body mass, weight, and personal metabolism, as well as overall health. The amount of the drug taken also impacts how long heroin is detectable. Those who use more of the drug on a regular basis may have it detectable for longer.
It is possible to have a false positive, although that typically doesn’t happen. Poppy seeds on and in foods could lead to a false positive, although the impact on the test is negligible. There are also certain medications, like rifampin, quinolones, and diphenhydramine, that could trigger a false-positive result.
If you are looking for how to get heroin out of your system, there is not an easy solution. There may be stories out there, but it is essentially impossible to beat a drug test. Instead of looking at how to quickly get heroin out of your system, you might want to consider getting help so that you can stop using heroin and no longer need to worry about taking a drug test.
Factors that Impact How Long Heroin Stays in Your System
Detection times and how long it lasts is different for everyone. Several factors can influence how heroin stays in your system including:
- Younger people often have higher metabolisms, which could mean that the drug moves through the body more quickly.
- Body composition. Body makeup could impact how much and how often the drug is used to have an effect, and this could also play a role in how long heroin stays in the system.
- Height & weight. As with body composition, height and weight could play a role in how detectable the drug could be.
- An individual’s personal genetics may impact how quickly, or slowly, a drug leaves the body.
- If an individual is more hydrated, the heroin may exit their body more quickly through urine, sweat, and saliva.
- A higher metabolism may move the drug through the body more quickly.
- Amount of heroin consumed. The larger the dose, the greater chance that the drug may stay in the system longer.
- Quality of heroin. The purity of the heroin, and whether it was cut with other substances, can impact the length of time.
- Type of detection method. Depending on the type of test that is used, smaller traces of heroin may be detected.
Getting Help for Heroin Addiction
If you are looking for more information on how long heroin stays in your system because you are hoping to pass a mandatory drug test, consider exploring the many heroin addiction treatment options that are available to you.
Treatment may be provided in an inpatient setting where you live at a facility, or an outpatient setting where you live at home and attend treatment during the day. Regardless of the treatment type you choose, treatment will typically involve a period of detox (when the body is allowed to rid itself of all substances) followed by a combination of family, group, or individual therapy. Many centers will provide medication assistance to help facilitate the stages of withdrawal and recovery.
Most insurance plans cover at least part of, if not all, heroin addiction treatment. You can call the number on the back of your insurance card or check your insurance coverage online by filling out the form below.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment services and is committed to supporting those struggling with addiction on their journey to recovery. If you are looking for information on treatment, you can contact us at or get a text to learn more.