How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your Urine?

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your Urine?

Heroin, or diacetylmorphine, is an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. It is an incredibly dangerous, and highly addictive opiate analgesic.

Despite the potency of heroin and the quick onset of the initial “rush”, the half-life is surprisingly short: the average half-life of heroin is about 30 minutes, with some studies suggesting as short as 3-8 minutes. This means that if a user takes a single dose of heroin, it will take 30 minutes for half of the drug in the person’s system to be flushed out. So, how long does heroin stay in your urine? Most of the time, heroin is no longer detectable in a person’s urine after just two days (American Addiction Centers).

The recovery process from heroin addiction is long and arduous, but it is possible. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about signs of heroin use and treatment for heroin addiction.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in the Body?

After initial ingestion of the drug, whether administered intravenously (injection into a vein), through insufflation (snorting), or inhalation (smoking), the user will experience an immediate rush, which comes on much more quickly and intensely via intravenous injection.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, users then typically experience “a surge of euphoria (accompanied by dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of the extremities, and clouded mental functioning.” Following the initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” which is an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Users who do not inject the drug may not experience the initial rush, but other effects are the same.

Within 2-6 minutes of heroin entering the body, it is metabolized into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM), a substance with 6 times the potency of morphine, and then further broken down into morphine within 6-25 minutes. When injected intravenously, heroin actually avoids first-pass metabolism, meaning none of the drug is metabolized before circulating throughout your system.

Want to read more about the effects of a heroin high? Check out our article here.

Upon ingestion of heroin, a person may remain “high” for a short-term (of minutes) or a long-term (hours). This depends on how the heroin was administered, and how large the dosage was. Most consider heroin a relatively short-acting substance because it has a short half-life.

This means that following ingestion of heroin, approximately 50% of the drug has been cleared from the body in anywhere from under 10 to 30 minutes (Mental Health Daily).

Due to the exceedingly short half-life of heroin, it exits the system fairly quickly. When the heroin “high” ends, up to 50% of the drug will have been eliminated from the body, but not all traces will be fully cleared. In fact, the actual time it takes for the drug to completely flush out of the body varies significantly by individual and specific factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Height and weight
  • Genetics
  • Body fat content
  • Quantity taken and quality of the drug
  • Other drugs or supplements taken
  • Liver and kidney function
  • Metabolism

Generally, it takes two days for heroin to no longer be detectable in a person’s urine, but these results are incredibly dependent on the type of test taken. In fact, certain tests have been known to have a positive result for this drug for up to seven days (American Addiction Centers).

Typical Tests Used for Heroin Detection

Most heroin tests fall under the category of toxicology tests or “screens.” According to Medline Plus, toxicology screens “refer to various tests that determine the type and approximate amount of legal and illegal drugs a person has taken.”

Toxicology screenings are most often done using a blood or urine sample, but when testing for heroin specifically, professionals typically rely primarily on urine tests. Urine tests are the most commonly-used method, since they are more inexpensive and easier to administer than other methods, as well as more effective with heroin-specific testing.

Most heroin drug tests will assess for the presence of “heroin’s (diacetylmorphine) metabolites including: 6-monacetylmorphine, morphine (MOR), M3G, and M6G.” Urine tests are able to detect the presence of heroin within a window of 2 to 5 hours post-ingestion (Mental Health Daily).

Blood and saliva tests aren’t often used for heroin toxicology screenings due to the fact that heroin has such a short half-life. It can take only 2-6 hours for the drug to become undetectable in blood and saliva. Since heroin leaves the bloodstream so quickly, it would be very difficult and unlikely for a blood test to reveal the presence of diacetylmorphine unless an individual had very recently ingested heroin. If a person is subjected to a blood test, it is typically because a law enforcement agent suspects that they are currently high on heroin.

The only test that works for longer than a week in finding traces of heroin usage is the hair follicle test, which can detect heroin for up to three months or more, and will give a better indication of past use (as opposed to what the subject did in the last week).

Although the time window is significantly longer for being able to test for heroin in the system, hair tests have other variable factors that may interfere with getting a clean result, and it’s much easier to get a “false positive” when a hair follicle test is conducted).

In general, hair follicle testing is considered one of the more revealing methods of testing for opiate abuse, as it can detect heroin in a user’s system for up to three months after use (Rehabs.com). It is also significantly less invasive and less expensive than taking a blood sample.

Signs of Heroin Use

If you suspect someone you love may be using heroin, there are certain signs and indicators to be watchful for. Immediate symptoms of coming down off a recent high, such as nausea, vomiting, itching, and dry mouth, may not be as immediately indicative that something is wrong.

This is why heroin addiction can be easy to overlook if you are not familiar with the signs. You may notice that something is wrong or “off” with the person you’re concerned about, but it’s important to know the difference between a cold or a bout of negativity, versus true addiction.

According to Narconon.org, a heroin addict (or any addict) will “typically make excuses to justify his or her behavior and to cover up what is really going on.” Very often, the addict will become quite skilled at lying, and the excuses that the person uses may indeed be very convincing. Narconon suggests using the following ten signs, some more direct than others, to uncover a hidden heroin addiction:

  1. Inexplicable weight loss – Heroin often causes nausea and loss of appetite in users
  2. Wearing long-sleeved clothing, even in warmer weather, in attempt to cover injection sites
  3. Extended sleeping schedule – At its core, an opiate is a sleep-inducing drug
  4. Needles – If at any point you discover needles in a loved one’s living area, seek help
  5. Severe changes in mood or behavior
  6. “Rollercoasting behavior,” which is characterized by periods of euphoria, followed by periods of moodiness or sadness
  7. Chronic runny nose – Heroin use suppresses the immune system, which leaves the user more likely to fall victim to colds
  8. Dry mouth (although this is also a side effect of many medications)
  9. Abscesses or skin infections, specifically at the injection site
  10. Marred or bent spoons in the house – Spoons are commonly used to facilitate heroin consumption

In addition to the above, there are also specific physical use signs to keep an eye out for. With continued use over a period of time, the person abusing heroin may exhibit needle marks and bruising on the injection sites, disease in organs including the liver and kidneys, and/or collapsed veins from repeated injections (DrugAbuse.com).

If someone is abusing heroin, they may exhibit specific telltale social signs as well, like troubled relationships, disinterest in normally enjoyed activities, financial problems, and issues with their place of employment.

Heroin use is also linked to many several long-term health consequences, such as increased risk of infectious diseases (especially HIV/AIDS), mental health issues (including depression), and reproductive health problems.

What Does Treatment for Heroin Addiction Look Like?

For those who have fallen victim to heroin addiction, there are multiple treatment options available. Treatments such as behavioral therapies, medications, and support groups are effective at helping patients stop using heroin and return to stable, healthy, and productive lives.

Most of the time, inpatient or residential treatment will be the basis for recovery. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right treatment facility for you. Treatment programs will utilize both individual and group counseling sessions to provide a foundation for recovery success. Following counseling in an inpatient treatment facility, those in recovery will continue treatment in an outpatient facility that provides similar counseling and therapy in a less supervised environment.

Considering the physiological damage done to the body, detoxification and counter-acting medications will often be a necessary part of the process. This is because opiates like heroin act primarily on a brain chemical known as dopamine, which creates the euphoric state experienced by users.

As dopamine levels become repeatedly and artificially spiked through heroin use, the brain eventually adjusts natural production of the neurotransmitter to compensate for the presence of drugs. Due to the over-activation of dopamine during periods of opiate intoxication as well as long-term changes in brain chemistry, natural dopamine levels become increasingly depleted. When opiate use suddenly stops during detoxification, the brain detects a sharp chemical imbalance, which results in strong cravings to start using again (Rehabs.com).

This is where the use of medical supplements comes into play. For example, medications like buprenorphine and methadone, both of which work by binding to the same cell receptors as heroin but more weakly, which helps a person wean off the drug and reduce craving.

Drugs that block cell receptor sites are known as “antagonists,” and they play a significant role in the rehabilitation and recovery process. Another drug called naloxone is sometimes used as an emergency treatment to counteract the effects of heroin overdose. (DrugAbuse.gov).

From treatment for addiction to knowing the signs of heroin abuse, the best way to help someone who may be struggling with this life-threatening drug is to educate yourself.

For more information on how to seek treatment for heroin addiction for you or a loved one, contact HARP Palm Beach today.

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