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How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

May 4, 2022

Table of Contents

Heroin that is injected or snorted begins to act in the body within seconds to minutes. Heroin metabolites usually last in the body for a few days to a week after ingestion. 

Heroin will show up on almost all drug screening tests given by employers or law enforcement. Rather than looking for ways to cheat these tests and hide your use, it's best to get help. Medications can help to ease withdrawal symptoms and allow you to put heroin use behind you. 

What Does Heroin Feel Like?

Heroin attaches to opioid receptors within the brain, triggering a chemical chain reaction that alters how you feel. Each person's experience is different, but most follow a predictable timeframe. 

Your experience of heroin may differ due to the following:[1]

  • Dose: The more you use, the stronger the euphoric effects, or the more “high” you will feel 
  • Your body: The more opioid receptors you have in your brain, the lesser the euphoric effect Thus, people who use heroin chronically tend to require more and more of it to get the same “high”. This phenomenon is called “tolerance”. 
  • Your method of use: The quicker the heroin can get to your brain, the stronger the impact. This means injecting heroin tends to cause more euphoria than snorting or smoking. 

A typical heroin experience looks like this:[2,3]

Time Feeling
Immediately Rush of euphoria and clouded thinking
15 minutes Drowsy sensation, including a nodding
head and a feeling of dipping in and
out of consciousness
30 minutes Slowed breathing rate and heart rate
1 hour Gradual reawakening
2 hours Nausea, itching skin, and a clouded mind

Over time,  with an opioid use disorder (OUD),may not even be taking the drugs to get high. Instead, they're using heroin to avoid feeling sick from withdrawal. With repeated use, they need to take heroin just to feel “normal.”

Does Heroin Show Up on A Drug Test?

Many employers require urine or blood drug testing which almost always includes testing for opioids, including heroin. 

Your body size, overall health, and drug dosing can impact how long heroin stays in your system. But in general, this is how long heroin use will show up on a drug test:

Testing type How long heroin will appear
Urine 48 hours[4]
Saliva 4 to 48 hours[5]
Blood Varies, but just a few hours is common[6]

How Can You Treat a Heroin Use Disorder?

The hardest part of discontinuing heroin use is the withdrawal syndrome. Medications like Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) are approved by the FDA to help prevent withdrawal symptoms and to help people with heroin use disorder abstain from use, both during the acute withdrawal period, and long term. 

With proper support, you can effectively enter recovery, leave heroin use in your past, and move forward to a brighter, healthier future. Reach out to your doctor or to Bicycle Health for more information about Suboxone for OUD. 

Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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  1. Research Report Series: Heroin. National Institute on Drug Abuse. February 2014. Accessed April 2022. 
  2. Heroin. National Institutes of Health. Accessed April 2022. 
  3. Heroin DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. June 2021. Accessed April 2022. 
  4. Interpretation of Opiate Use Drug Screens. Health Partners. Accessed April 2022. 
  5. Comparison of Heroin and Cocaine Concentrations in Saliva with Concentrations in Blood and Plasma. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. October 1995. Accessed April 2022. 
  6. Levels of Heroin and Its Metabolites in Blood and Brain Extracellular Fluid After I.V. Heroin Administration to Freely Moving Rates. British Journal of Pharmacology. September 2013. Accessed April 2022.
  7. Ever Wish You Could. New York State Department of Health. July 2013. Accessed April 2022.

Imagine what’s possible on the other side of opioid use disorder.

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