How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System

Gabrielle Applebury
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
drug paraphernalia

Heroin effects may last anywhere from a few minutes to hours, but the drug can stay in your system for much longer. Many people are surprised when they hear the end of a heroin high doesn't necessarily mean it's out of the body. In fact, this drug can remain in the body for much longer than many people expect it would.

Effects of Initial Administration of Heroin in the Body

Heroin can be administered by snorting, injecting, plugging, swallowing, or smoking it.

  • Effects
    It causes a high effect once it crosses the blood brain barrier, which can occur within a few seconds of taking it up until 30 minutes depending on how it was taken.
  • An intense euphoric feeling can last anywhere from 45 seconds to several minutes.
  • The next phase of the high is typically described as a warm, comforting feeling that lasts for about 20 minutes. The comedown can lead to drowsiness, slowed breathing and heart rate, unconsciousness, and confusion.

Timing by Method of Administration

You'll feel the effects of heroin within the following time frames based on administration method. After the initial high, timing will proceed as noted above.

  • IV injections are felt within seven seconds.
  • Intramuscular injections are felt within five to 10 minutes.
  • Subcutaneous injections are usually felt within 20 minutes.
  • Snorting heroin can be felt within about 10 minutes.
  • Smoking heroin can be felt within 10 minutes.
  • Inserting heroin anally can be felt within about 10 minutes.
  • Orally ingesting heroin can be felt within 30 minutes.

Heroin Leaving the Body

Blood samples

Heroin is an opiate. Opiates enter your bloodstream easily and will accumulate in fat tissue. Drugs that remain in fat tissue will continue to enter the bloodstream slowly over time. This is why you may feel the high from opiates longer than other drugs. However, this also means your system holds on to the drug longer, but it doesn't always show up on drug tests.

Hair Follicles

Heroin will likely show on a hair follicle test for up to three months. While a urinalysis is the most popular way to test for drug use, testing hair follicles is also increasing in popularity because of its ability to detect heroin use after many months.

Urine

Generally, heroin can show up on a urine test for as little as two and half hours or as much as two days, according to MedlinePlus. However, heavy users can fail a drug urine test for as long as seven days.

Blood

Blood tests are another way to detect drug use, but it's the least reliable. Many opiates, like heroin, leave a person's bloodstream within 6 hours, according to a drug treatment center.

Saliva

Saliva also has a short detection time. Depending on how the drug was consumed, it can be detectable for as little as an hour or for as long as 24 hours. It takes longer for it to be undetectable when the person has been using heroin for a while and has taken a large dose.

Heroin Tolerance

Heroin tolerance can build up very rapidly. Because this drug has such a short half life, withdrawal symptoms can be felt within hours of the drug leaving your body. These uncomfortable symptoms can make wanting to use again very tempting. Physical dependence on heroin can develop within two to 10 days of regular use, making it incredibly addictive. With more heroin needing to be used to get that same high, a build up of heroin can be found stored in your body's fat supply. This can take years to flush out of your system, depending on your overall health and activity level, even after you've quit using.

Factors That Affect the Duration of Drugs in Your Body

The lengths of time it takes for heroin to leave a person's body are averages. Every individual is different, and certain factors influence how long the drug stays in the body:

  • Height and Weight: Your size can impact how quickly the drug hits you, as well as how long it takes to leave your body.
  • Metabolism: Depending on how quickly someone is able to metabolize heroin, it may stay in the body for too long, which can lead to potentially toxic results.
  • Amount of consumption: Typically the more heroin used, the longer it may take to be processed out of the body. This also increases the risk for physical dependence as well as an addiction to develop.
  • Quality of drug: Some heroin is mixed with crack or cocaine to cause a more intense effect. This can also slow down how the body processes these drugs out of your system.

Speeding Up the Body's Processing of Heroin

jogging

While there is no fail-safe way to ensure that any drug gets out of your system quickly, there are plenty of theories about how to speed the process up. If you're trying to speed up your body's processing of heroin, consider the following theories.

Drink Water

Water will flush your system out, according to Beverly Potter and Sebastian Orfali. The idea is that since heroine is water soluble, the water will soak up the drug and you will eliminate it quicker through your urine.

Exercise

Potter and Orfali also suggest exercise. Exercising helps speed up your metabolism, which helps detoxification. It also burns fat, which is holding some of the drugs. You should do aerobic exercise twice a day for at least 30 minutes a day.

Detox

To completely rid your body of heroin after being dependent on it, you'll likely need detox. There are many withdrawal effects that could make you very ill. It's important to seek medical supervision while detoxing from heroin, in case of any complications during the process.

group therapy

Get Help

There is help for those who struggle with heroin and other drugs. Reach out for help within your own community or contact the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hopeline at (800) 622-2255.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System