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How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Jan 14, 2024 • 9 cited sources

Heroin has a short half-life of about 15 minutes, which means that heroin stays in your system for just a couple of hours.[1]

How long heroin can be detected on drug tests depends on the type of test. Here are the detection timelines for heroin:[4]

  • Urine: 1 day
  • Blood: Up to 6 hours
  • Saliva: Up to 36 hours
  • Hair: 90 days or more

Many people who are searching for how long heroin stays in their system are doing so because they struggle with heroin addiction or opioid use disorder. Know that quality treatment is available, including online Suboxone through Bicycle Health.

Key Points

Key Points

  • Heroin half-life: Between 6 and 15 minutes
  • Heroin detection window: Heroin can be detected in urine for 24 hours, blood for 6 hours, and saliva for 36 hours and hair for 90 days
  • How long it stays in your system: A few hours, possibly even one hour

Heroin Half-Life and Effect Duration

Heroin’s half-life—the amount of time it takes the amount of heroin to be reduced by 50% in the body—is extremely short compared to many other substances.

Some research indicates that it is between 6 minutes and 15 minutes.[1,3] Another study determined it to be 7.6 minutes.[9]. Heroin’s effects come on almost immediately, are very intense, and last only a short while—this is especially true if someone snorts or injects heroin. 

A person who uses heroin intravenously might experience a euphoric rush or intense high within a few seconds and this high may last for a few minutes whereas the full heroin effects may last for three to five hours.[3]

Heroin Metabolism Explained

When someone uses heroin, a semi-synthetic derivative of morphine, it enters the body and is rapidly turned into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM). This metabolite is then transformed into morphine. [5] Morphine is then finally metabolized into morphine-3-glucuronide and morphine-6-glucuronide before it is excreted from the body.[6]

A positive test for 6-MAM signifies heroin use, but once heroin has been metabolized into morphine, which can be detected for longer, certain basic drug tests like a five-panel will fail to detect heroin specifically—this is because morphine is a metabolite of other opioids like hydrocodone and codeine.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

Heroin does not stay in your system for very long—because of its short half-life, heroin only stays in your system for a couple of hours. It may even be cleared from your body within one hour. [1],[2]

However, the amount of time it takes for your body to process heroin and excrete it depends on many factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Amount of heroin used
  • How frequently you use heroin
  • Genetics
  • Height and weight
  • Individual physiology and metabolism
  • Hydration
  • Body fat content
  • The heroin purity
  • Liver and kidney functioning

Older individuals may have slower metabolisms, which means heroin will stay in their system for longer than a younger person’s.

How Long Can Heroin Be Detected on A Drug Test?

Heroin has an unusually small detection window, often only detectable in someone’s blood or urine within the same day of their last use of the drug or perhaps the day after.

It can potentially be detected in a person’s saliva for up to 36 hours and their sweat for up to 14 days, although the exact detection window for a given individual’s drug use will depend on a number of factors.[4]

Hair can potentially carry signs of a person’s heroin use for up to three months, although this window can be shortened with frequent, short haircuts, a practice some people who use drugs intentionally engage in to hide their drug use. Hair follicle tests tend to be more expensive and are not commonly used in most clinics. 

Heroin Detection Windows

Type of Drug TestDetection Window
Urine1 day
BloodUp to 6 hours
SalivaUp to 36 hours
Hair90 days or more

Factors That Affect Heroin’s Detection Window

Common factors known to sometimes impact a person’s detection window for heroin use include the following:

  • Type of test used
  • The patient’s health, specifically regarding their ability to process drugs
  • The quality of the patient’s nutrition
  • Certain medications
  • Method of administration (e.g. injecting or snorting)

Generally speaking, long-term, heavy heroin use will be detectable for longer compared to light drug use. Similarly, a person who regularly uses opioids may have their drug use detectable for longer compared to someone who doesn’t regularly use opioids.

Further, injecting heroin reduces the heroin detection window considerably. For example, heroin can only be detected in the blood of someone who used it intravenously for between 10 and 45 minutes.[5]

Regardless, heroin detection windows can vary considerably from person to person, and if you are seeking healthcare advice, contact your doctor.

Heroin’s Short Half-Life and Addiction Potential

Heroin (and similar opioids like fentanyl) last a particularly short time compared to other opioids, especially when injected. The intense euphoric rush associated with its use may only last 10 to 15 minutes, with its lesser effects lasting a few hours. 

This is part of why heroin is so addictive: as a general rule, drugs that act quickly and reach a peak in the body quickly tend to be more addictive than drugs whose effects occur more slowly. 

If you have been using opioids including heroin and are trying to quit, there are many things that can help, including evidence-based treatments, such as Suboxone and methadone. You don’t have to quit heroin cold turkey on your own—reach out to your doctor or to a Suboxone doctor here at Bicycle Health to get more information about Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) options like Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone).

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Heroin. Drug Enforcement Administration. November 2022. Accessed December 2022.
  2. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. World Health Organization. 2009. Accessed December 2022.
  3. Drug Plasma Half-Life and Urine Detection Window. ARUP Laboratories. September 2022. Accessed December 2022.
  4. Opioid Testing. September 2022. Accessed December 2022.
  5. Milella MS, D’Ottavio G, De Pirro S, Barra M, Caprioli D, Badiani A. Heroin and its metabolites: relevance to heroin use disorder. Transl Psychiatry. 2023;13(1):120. Published 2023 Apr 8. doi:10.1038/s41398-023-02406-5
  6. Keary CJ, Wang Y, Moran JR, Zayas LV, Stern TA. Toxicologic testing for opiates: understanding false-positive and false-negative test results. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2012;14(4):PCC.12f01371. doi:10.4088/PCC.12f01371
  7. Suboxone: Rationale, Science, Misconceptions. The Ochsner Journal. 2018. Accessed December 2022.
  8. The Effectiveness of Medication-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder. Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Saves Lives. Accessed December 2022.
  9. Population pharmacokinetics of heroin and its major metabolites. Clinical pharmacokinetics. January 2013. Accessed January 2024.

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