Heroin is a relatively short-acting drug, and the substance itself doesn’t stay in a person’s system for very long. However, while processing the drug, the body breaks it down into several metabolites that can remain in the body for much longer. By detecting certain metabolites, heroin can be identified on most drug tests for as long as four days after the last use. It can also be detected for up to three months using a hair test.
Many factors can influence how long the drug will be present in a person’s system, including individual differences in rates of metabolism, the amount of the drug most recently used, a history of long-term use, urine pH and hydration levels.
When heroin is administered, the body metabolizes it relatively quickly. Depending on which source you believe, metabolic processing can clear as much as 50% of the heroin first introduced into the system (also known as half-life) in anywhere between 3-30 minutes.
Although heroin itself can be processed quickly, several metabolites can remain for a longer period. Estimates for the amount of time heroin and its metabolites can be detected on a drug test after the last use are as follows:
- Urine test: 1-4 days
- Saliva test: Minutes up to 48 hours
- Blood test: 6 hours
- Hair test: Up to 90 days
How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System? – Other Factors That Affect Heroin Detection
Other factors that can influence how long heroin will linger in the body and be detected on a drug test include:
Level of Hydration
If someone consumes a large amount of fluids, they may dilute the concentration of identifiable drugs present in their urine. Depending on the test’s sensitivity, this could affect the rate of a false negative result.
If someone uses a low dose or has a long period between doses, they are less likely to produce a positive result than if they use a higher dose closer to the time of testing.
Some people’s bodies process drugs more rapidly or slowly depending on metabolism, which could be a reflection of general health status as well as multiple genetic and environmental influences.
Length of Use
It will probably take more time for a long-term user to clear all the heroin from their system when compared to a shorter-term or occasional user.
Urine Acidity Levels
The acidity in a person’s urine can influence how heroin is excreted. It could either accelerate the rate of drug removal or lead to some urinary tract reabsorption of the drug, which would somewhat impede its elimination.
Over time, people who routinely use heroin often develop a physical dependence, which means the person’s body grows accustomed to a constant supply of the drug in their system. People who are dependent on heroin and discontinue use will experience withdrawal symptoms as their body adapts to a lack of the drug’s presence.
Symptoms of acute heroin withdrawal syndrome are often described as flu-like and can include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
Most heroin users encounter withdrawal symptoms within 6-12 hours after the last use. On average, symptoms peak between 1-3 days and begin to subside after 5-7 days. This timeline may closely follow those associated with more short-acting opioids such as Vicodin or morphine, but not so much longer-acting opioids such as methadone or OxyContin. For longer-acting medications, withdrawal symptoms may not onset until 12-48 hours and persist for 10-20 days.
The character and intensity of withdrawal can be influenced by many of the same factors that affect how long a drug remains in the body, such as the duration of use and amount consumed. Other factors may include age, health, and the use of other substances.
As with other opioids, heroin withdrawal is seldom life-threatening, but they can be quite unpleasant. Medical detox programs can help users navigate their withdrawal safely and with minimum discomfort with medication-assisted therapy.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
It is extremely dangerous to use heroin regardless of how the drug is administered or how often. Heroin is highly addictive, and users face an ever-present risk of overdose and death. The risks have been even higher in recent years as fentanyl and its analogs are being used as heroin adulterants with increasing frequency.
Fortunately, people can and do recover from heroin addiction. Evidence-based treatments, such as those offered by Harmony Recovery, involve medication, counseling, and behavioral therapies. In rehab programs, people learn how to modify the way they think about drugs and deal with other problems that may compel them to use.
If you’re tired of struggling with the cycle of addiction, seek help immediately and begin your path to a full recovery! Contact us today to find out how we can help you reclaim the fulfilling life you deserve!
Related: Why is Heroin So Addiction?