Cirque Lodge > Addiction > Heroin Addiction Treatment – Detox & Rehab Utah > How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your Body?

How Long Does Heroin Stay in the Body?

Heroin is an illegal semisynthetic opiate derived from the opium poppy.

The drug is a fast-acting narcotic with notorious addictive potential, and users can swiftly find themselves taking it repeatedly to maintain its high, intense euphoric effects. Heroin is extremely fast-acting and has a short half-life in the body before it breaks down into its metabolites. Due to this, heroin itself is sometimes not detectable in toxicology or drug screenings, but chemicals from its breakdown linger much longer in the body. Standard tests can generally detect metabolites between one and four days after use.

Once heroin and its first metabolite, morphine, have been eliminated from the system, physically addicted users will go into withdrawal. Noticeable withdrawal effects start within twelve hours after the last dose and last for a few weeks. This stage of recovery is often grueling and is occasionally dangerous.

At Cirque Lodge, our inpatient heroin treatment program alleviates withdrawal symptoms to make this transition as comfortable and safe as possible. Withdrawal should not be an obstacle, and we are here to help you through this part of the recovery process.

Opioid Metabolism

Opioid Metabolism

While heroin has a short half-life of only a few minutes, its effects are still felt for hours.

The reason for this lies in simple medical chemistry.

In pharmacology, metabolism is when a chemical compound breaks down into its constituent parts. Within the large umbrella of opioids, some need to be metabolized into other chemicals to affect the body, while others do not.

Many drugs, particularly when taken orally, are metabolized first by the liver. However, heroin largely bypasses this. Its chemical properties allow heroin to travel through the bloodstream and flood through the brain.

A Short Heroin Break-down

A Short Heroin Break-down

A Short Heroin Break-down

The experience of heroin use is often broken down into two stages: an initial rush of euphoria, followed by a longer drowsy high.

The rush does not last long. Once heroin enters tissues, such as the brain, your body promptly begins to process it down into smaller components.

Morphine is the compound responsible for the longer sedated high that users experience. Once heroin has broken down into morphine, it is much more effective at attaching to the natural opiate receptors in the central limbic system. At this point, dopamine washes over the brain and causes feelings of drowsiness, satisfaction, and comfort that last for a few hours after use.

How Long Does Heroin Last?

How Long Does Heroin Last?

Once heroin enters the body, it races to the brain’s opioid receptors, and your body begins to break down the heroin to restore homeostasis.

The exact rate at which heroin and its subsequent components are metabolized is different for every user.

The amount of time heroin will stay in the body is dependent on:

  • Overall bodyweight
  • Body fat content
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Dosage volume
  • Hydration
  • Quality and purity of the dose
  • Liver and kidney health

On average, heroin has a half-life of two to eight minutes, meaning that it has broken down to 50% of its initial volume in that period. It takes between four and five half-lives – somewhere between eight and forty-eight minutes – for heroin to be eliminated entirely from the system.

When it breaks down, this semisynthetic opioid becomes metabolized into morphine and 6-acetyl morphine (6-AM). Morphine has a longer half-life of the two, lasting up to seven hours. Once morphine breaks down, the high subsides, but the compounds it turns into are detectable in urine tests for days.

Methods of Use

Methods of Use

The method of heroin use impacts how quickly the drug reaches opioid receptors in the brain but does not change the rate of metabolization.

Heroin has an average half-life of three minutes starting from the moment of injection. When snorted or smoked, heroin reaches its peak blood volume after about five minutes. By the time it has reached peak volume, most of the initial dose has turned into morphine.

Users who inject this drug experience more of an initial rush simply because it reaches the brain faster and has not had the time to metabolize. Intravenous users often chase this desirable feeling by taking more heroin, which increases the risk of overdose as the previous dose has not entirely left the body.

Drug Testing for Heroin

Drug Testing for Heroin

The rate at which a specific individual’s body metabolizes heroin is a major factor in how long it takes for heroin to stop being detectable by mainstream tests.

That said, the drug is not present in detectable volumes in blood or saliva except for in the first one to two days after use.

In most types of tests, heroin is detectable for the following periods:

  • Urine testscan detect metabolites for up to sixty hours after the last dose. Urine tests are the most common form of heroin testing.
  • Blood tests the compound 6-AM can be tested for in blood; however, it is usually only detectable for a maximum of two days.
  • Saliva tests – rapid metabolism means that heroin metabolites are only detectable in saliva for up to an hour after injected use or five hours when it is smoked.
  • Hair follicle tests heroin is detectable in hair follicles for up to ninety days after one use. In certain instances, these tests can detect heroin for up to six months after heavy use.
After Heroin Leaves the Body

After Heroin Leaves the Body

The last time you take heroin is also the first step on your road to recovery.

However, the next steps can be incredibly challenging. As soon as heroin leaves the body, it swings out of balance and crashes into withdrawal.

Noticeable symptoms start within twelve hours after the last use. In most cases, they rapidly peak within the first three days before they begin to trail off over one to two weeks. In rarer cases, withdrawal symptoms can persist for over a month.

The symptoms of heroin withdrawal vary wildly in severity. However, in heavy or long-term users, they are often both physically and emotionally excruciating. Even in cases displaying moderate symptoms, it is difficult for many people attempting to recover to remain focused on sobriety while their body rebels.

Detox with Cirque Lodge

Detox with Cirque Lodge

If you are planning on stopping heroin use, Cirque Lodge can help.

Medical assistance can be the difference between success and relapse. Our heroin addiction treatment options can ease withdrawal and help pave the way to long-term sobriety.

We offer medically assisted detox for clients suffering from heroin addiction, as well as an extensive therapeutic treatment programme and follow-up support to help you treat your condition at its core.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your Body cta

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