How Long Does Heroin Stay In Your System

Heroin is an opioid drug (narcotic) synthesized from morphine. Heroin has potent analgesic effects that can make it an effective treatment for severe pain; but, it is banned in the U.S., and almost all countries, as heroin administration causes dependence (addiction). However, heroin is still marketed as an illicit drug.

Heroin powder ranges from white, brown to black. Heroin is commonly snorted, smoked, or administered intravenously. Being narcotic, heroin is taken for recreational purposes, such as euphoria, relaxation, and sedation. Common street names of heroin: Smack, Dope, Mud, Horse, Skag, Junk, Black tar, Black Pearl, Brown sugar, Witch hazel, Birdie powder, Dragon, Hero, White stuff, China white, Boy, and Number 2.

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How does heroin work

Being an opioid drug, heroin mainly targets the central nervous system. Heroin administration affects the body through fully binding to 3 types of receptors in the brain, including Mu, kappa and delta. Each of these receptors is responsible for specific functions in the brain. For example, heroin inhibits certain neurons known as GABA inhibitory neurons, which are responsible for prolonging the time of pain sensation. That’s how heroin administration relieves pain, causes euphoria, relaxation, and anxiolysis.

How long does heroin stay in your system

Up to less than 1-hour post-administration, heroin can remain in your system. The reason is that the half-life of heroin is <10 minutes, which means that within less than 10 minutes post-administration, 50% of the administered dose of heroin will no longer be active in your system, and so on till your body gets rid of the whole dose.

More importantly, heroin is transformed in the body into 2 other substances, including 6-acetylmorphine and morphine, which have 0.6 and 7.9 half-lives, respectively. Therefore, up to 3.6 hours and 47.4 hours post-transformation, 6-acetylmorphine, and morphine, respectively can stay in your system.

Other factors

Also, there are other factors that can significantly affect how long heroin and its metabolites can stay in your system, including:

  • your age
  • your body mass
  • whether you’re a light or a heavy Heroin consumer
  • The administered dose. For example, if you administer an overdose, heroin and its metabolites are much likely to stay longer in your system.
  • Your metabolic rate of drugs, which determines how quickly your system can get rid of heroin and its metabolites.

Will heroin show on a drug test?

YES, heroin will show on a drug test, as drug tests mainly check for certain substances, heroin is undoubtedly one of them. However, that significantly depends on the factors shown below, which can result in negative results.

  1. The route of administration
  2. the type of the tests you are required to undergo
  3. the time the test is performed. What a certain test can detect may not be detected by another test at the same moment, as the validity of each test is restricted within a certain time frame.
  4. Individual factors that differ from a person to another, as shown above, such as the functioning ability of your system to eliminate heroin.

How long is heroin detectable


Blood tests are rarely considered for heroin detection, as heroin is quickly eliminated from blood. Starting from 10-20 seconds post-administration, and up to 2 hours, heroin is likely detectable in blood. Heroin metabolites can barely stay longer.


Within minutes post administration, and up to 2-5 hours, heroin is much likely detectable in your urine; while that duration extends to 2-3 days because of heroin metabolites.

Hair, saliva and fingernails

Similar to other opioids, starting from 7 days, and up to 10 weeks post administration, heroin, and its metabolites are likely detectable in your hair; while in saliva, heroin and its metabolites are detectable within 1-21 hours after the last dose. Some users could pass saliva tests of heroin within just 5 hours post-administration. On the other side, fingernails are rarely considered for heroin testing.

What drug tests will show the presence of heroin in the system

  • Blood analysis
  • Urinalysis
  • Hair-based tests, including Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry,¬†ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays),
  • Saliva-based tests, such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)

How is heroin stored in the body

Within 10-20 seconds post administration, heroin rises in your blood till it reaches its peak plasma concentration. Then, depending on the route of administration, the bioavailability of heroin in your blood is determined, as shown below. Bioavailability means the amount of the administered dose of heroin that reaches your blood and affects your body.

  • Intravenously-injected heroin results in a 100% bioavailability.
  • Smoked heroin results in a 52% bioavailability.
  • Snorted heroin has a lower bioavailability, and produces a lower percentage of metabolites, which makes it less detectable.
  • Orally-administered heroin results in the lowest bioavailability, equating to only 35% of the administered dose, and thus the lowest duration of detectability.

Afterward, heroin is diffused via blood till it reaches the central nervous system where it mainly works. Then, within the previously-mentioned half-lives, the body eliminates heroin and its metabolites from your system.

Heroin and the resulting morphine-metabolite tend to be stored in hair more than they do in fingernails or saliva. That’s why the hair-based test can give an indication, showing whether you are a heavy or a light user of heroin. A little amount of morphine-metabolite can stay in your saliva for around 1 day post-administration.


How Long Does Heroin Stay In Your System
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Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller

Hey there! I'm Daniel, a 35 years old Ph.D. in pharmacology and a member of THC Detox. My research into cannabis shows how cannabis affects health, including how cannabinoids can be used in the treatment of various diseases. I've got a long list of scientific and medical publications that show the positive effects of cannabis clearly.

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