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How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

How long does heroin stay in your system? The answer depends a few factors, but the generally agreed-upon time frame that heroin’s effects can persist is 4-5 hours after the last heroin dose. However, heroin’s half-life is estimated to be roughly 30 minutes long, which means the concentration of heroin in the blood is generally reduced to half of its original value only half an hour after consumption. Where this differs by person relates to their height and weight, how much they consumed, and how fast their metabolism is.

To find out if someone has taken heroin, you can do the following tests:

  • Hair follicle.
  • Urine.
  • Blood.
  • Saliva.

The unpleasant symptoms of heroin withdrawal typically peak at about 3 or 4 days after last drug use and begin to diminish at about 7 to 8 days after last drug use.

woman facing backwardsHeroin is a commonly abused opiate drug.

It is an illicit narcotic, and a Schedule I drug – meaning that it has no recognized medical use.

If you have been abusing this drug – or know someone who does – having a better understanding of how heroin functions in the body can help to inform your decisions about recovery.

Furthermore, if you are concerned that a loved one may be abusing heroin, understanding the various factors that determine the length of time that heroin remains in the body can help you overcome the inherent challenges of detecting the drug via screening or other testing conducted privately, by a rehab facility or by the justice system.

How Long Does Heroin Last in the Body?

While heroin’s effects can persist for 4-5 hours after the last heroin dose, heroin’s half-life is estimated to be roughly 30 minutes long.In other words, the concentration of heroin in the blood is generally reduced to half of its original value only 30 minutes after consumption.

That being said, the following factors can also play a role in how long the drug lingers in an individual’s body:

  • The heroin user’s height and weight. The size of a person partially determines how much drug consumption needs to occur before that individual gets high. It also determines how long the drug will be detectable in the person’s system. Smaller individuals may find that the drug remains in their body for longer periods of time.
  • The amount consumed by the heroin user. The more heroin you take, the longer it potentially remains in your system. The quality of the drug also factors in. Higher quality heroin will be more potent than lower quality heroin. However, lower quality heroin may also be cut with a variety of unknown additives – which may or may not affect how long the substances remain in the body.
  • The speed of an individual’s metabolism. An individual with a relative fast metabolism – such as someone who exercises heavily and regularly – may find that traces of detectable heroin diminish much faster following the last time it was used. This is because the body is able to detoxify itself of any toxins at a faster pace.

Detecting Heroin Through Drug Testing

If you suspect that your loved one is using heroin, it may be essential to carefully time the drug test – or to choose one of the more accurate testing methods – if you want an accurate result.

Heroin Testing Options

Heroin can be detected in the body by using the following tests:

  • Hair follicle test.
  • Urine test.
  • Blood test.
  • Saliva test.

The drug tests mentioned above have been approved by the 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 abuse for a far longer duration than others.

Hair follicle testing is considered one of the more revealing methods of testing for opiate abuse, as it can show that there’s heroin in a user’s system for up to three months after use. The length of time that blood and saliva tests can detect drug use is about equal – in that both test methods can detect heroin in the body for only about 12 hours after last drug use, at most.

Urine tests can detect heroin use slightly longer than blood or saliva tests, and are a simple, cost-effective method that is used quite often. Heroin may still appear positive on a urine test conducted up to 3 days after the last instance of drug use.

The Duration of Heroin Withdrawal

woman having trouble copingIf you are wondering how long heroin influences your system in terms of an early recovery timeline, there is no simple answer. The physical effects of heroin withdrawal are experienced when the body is suddenly deprived of the drug it has become accustomed to, and the precise progression of symptoms will vary from one individual to the next.

The unpleasant symptoms of heroin withdrawal typically peak at about 3 or 4 days after last drug use, and begin to diminish at about 7-8 days after last drug use. For severe, long-term heroin users, however, the duration of the full spectrum of opiate withdrawal symptoms can range from days to even months.

Keep in mind that the full recovery process can take much longer than than simply the physical withdrawal process. It takes time and often various types of therapy to effectively address and change the emotional and behavioral patterns that led to drug abuse in the first place.

Treating Heroin Abuse

If you’ve been looking for more information on how long heroin stays in your system because you’ve been hoping to pass a mandatory drug test, consider today your opportunity to instead explore the many heroin addiction treatment options that are available to you. Rather than trying to beat a test – merely prolonging the cycle of drug abuse – you could reclaim your life from the compulsive addictive struggle you find yourself bound by.

Prioritization of amenities

Changes in Priorities in Treatment PreferencesData were collected in 2016 by Recovery Brands that asked people leaving a recovery treatment center what clinic characteristics they saw as the most important aspects to consider when examining treatment programs. The top-rated priority was the clinic’s monetary policies, such as insurance accepted, payment options, and financial support. They also reported valuing the program’s offerings (comforts, quality of food, room quality, etc.) a lot more after treatment. Individuals new to treatment may want to look at a center’s financial options as well as facility offerings to help with their facility choice. Read more

Learn more about the following types of addiction treatment options:

Heroin Abuse Treatment Facility Types

  1. Luxury Treatment. This type of residential treatment provides users with privacy, and a wide range of addiction services alongside of resort-like amenities. Luxury treatment may come with a costlier price tag compared to more traditional treatment – but tending to your every comfort need may be just the ticket to help you follow through with your recovery plan.
  2. Executive Treatment. This residential treatment option is designed to provide users with quality inpatient treatment while also allowing them to maintain a daily, active presence in their demanding work and business spheres.
  3. Traditional Treatment. Traditional heroin addiction treatment can come in the forms of either inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment, and it tends to be less expensive than luxury or executive treatment programs.
    • Inpatient (non-luxury): Inpatient treatment provides users with a residential facility where users are tended to with 24/7 care from staff personnel. Inpatient facilities may either occur in hospital settings or in non-hospital settings (often referred to as ‘residential treatment’). Hospital settings avail around-the-clock services from healthcare professionals and access to medical resources, while non-hospital settings may provide intermittent care from healthcare professionals.
    • Outpatient: Outpatient treatment provides many similar elements to inpatient treatment except that patients are permitted to go back to their own homes at night. This option is usually more geared towards less severe cases of addiction, and/or ones in which there are no other coexisting medical or mental health problems.

What Happens in a Structured Heroin Treatment Program?

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 some combination of individual, group or family therapy. Many centers will provide medication assistance to help facilitate the stages of heroin withdrawal and recovery.


  1. Reisine, T., Pasternak, G. (1996). Opioid analgesics and antagonists. In: Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 9th. Hardman, J. G., Gilman, A., Limbird, L. E. (Eds), (p. 521). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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