“How long does heroin stay in your system?” is a common question among recreational drug users hoping to pass a drug test for a job. It is also a common question for prospective employers, and for people worried about the health and welfare of loved ones who use heroin.
The short answer to the question is that the effects of heroin can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours but this drug stays in your system for much longer. Medical laboratory scientists have devised several types of drug screens that test urine, blood, saliva, and hair for the presence of heroin.
Three main factors affect the length of time that heroin stays in various parts of your system: your body mass, the quantity of drug in your system, and your metabolism.
Your height and weight
The size of your body determines how much heroin you need to consume to get high. Your body mass will also determine how long heroin and its metabolites will be detectable in your system. If you are a small person, for example, drugs may stay in your system longer than they do in a larger person.
Quantity and quality
Larger doses stay in your system longer than do small doses. The quality of the drug contributes to the length of time heroin stays in your system, regardless of the quantity you take.
Your individual metabolism affects the length of time heroin stays in your system. If you have a fast metabolism and exercise heavily, for example, heroin will leave your body much faster. This is because a good metabolism helps your body get rid of toxins at a fast pace.
Other factors, such as the frequency of use, age, overall health, drug tolerance and urine pH levels affect the rate at which heroin leaves your body.
How long does heroin stay in your system as metabolites?
Your body’s metabolism breaks large molecules down into smaller parts, known as metabolites. Your body breaks down heroin into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM), which is about 6 times stronger than morphine. Your body then breaks down 6-MAM into morphine. In other words, your body breaks heroin into 6-MAM and then breaks the 6-MAM down into morphine.
Heroin and its metabolites permeate your brain, blood, and other organs and body fluids. Traces of heroin even show up in your hair. Heroin leaves the brain, urine, blood, saliva, and hair at different rates. This means diagnostic laboratories can test your urine, blood, saliva, and hair for evidence of heroin use, but only for a limited time after you have used heroin.
Your body breaks down morphine into other metabolites, including hydromorphone. Heroin and each of its metabolites break down at a different pace, some clearing your system quickly and others lingering in various parts of your body for days – sometimes even months. Heroin itself has a very short half-life that is detectable in urine for only about 8 hours after use. Lab tests can detect metabolites of heroin in urine for two to four days after use, for example, but these tests can spot heroin in hair samples for up to 90 days after consumption.
The presence of 6-MAM in your system is conclusive evidence of heroin use – only heroin use causes 6-MAM in urine. 6-MAM is detectable in urine for less than one day. Laboratory urine testing can detect heroin’s metabolites morphine and hydromorphone for up to three days after administration.
How long does heroin stay in your system? This dangerous drug can stay in your system long enough to damage your physical and psychological health, or to get you into trouble with the law.