How Long Does Heroin Stay in your System?

Generally around 1-3 days, but it depends on how it is tested which we discuss below.

Last updated: June 25, 2018
Abstract heroin effect

Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive derivative of the opium poppy pod. People have used opioids in various forms for centuries and has recently become a national epidemic in the United States.

Heroin is a powder-like substance that is only found on the streets and can be incredibly dangerous when used long term.

How Your Body Reacts to Heroin

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when heroin enters the brain, it is immediately converted to morphine and then binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. When you use heroin, you experience a rapid rush of pleasure from the brain’s rapid release of dopamine.

In addition to the rush, the physical effects often accompanied with heroin use include dry mouth, a warm flush of the skin, and a heavy feeling in the user’s extremities. According to research from Medline Plus, slowed breathing from heroin can often lead to sometimes life-threatening damage including permanent brain damage.

The high from heroin can typically last for up to five hours after the last hit, although the half-life of heroin is only around 30 minutes, but the amount of heroin the user takes will significantly affect the duration that the drug is present in the system.

How long does it stay in your blood?

Heroin stays in the body for a relatively short period when compared to other drugs. In the blood, heroin is present for around 12 hours after the last use. In some cases, however, tests can detect heroin in the blood for up to a day depending on the frequency of use and how much heroin the person used.

How long does heroin stay in your urine?

Heroin is detectable for a more extended period after last use through urine tests. In many cases, tests can detect the presence of heroin in a person’s urine for up to three days after the previous use of the drug. This is highly dependent on the amount of the drug that the person took including the method in which they consumed it.

Is heroin detectable in hair?

Heroin, like most other drugs like marijuana, is detectable in hair follicles for much longer than any other part of the body. For this reason, when testing for the use of drugs over an extended period or if testing for frequent use, most employers will use hair follicle tests.

With this test, it is possible to see heroin use up to three months after use. Keep in mind that the more frequently someone uses the drugs, the stronger presence it will have in the follicle. One-time use likely won’t show up in a hair follicle test because it has a weak presence.

Smoking vs. Injecting

Although the two methods of using heroin are different, because heroin still inevitably reaches the brain in one form or another, the symptoms are typically the same. With that in mind, when injected, heroin enters the bloodstream directly, and the full potency of the drug reaches the brain rapidly. This can be extremely dangerous and is often a cause of overdose.

When smoking, on the other hand, the drug must enter the bloodstream through the lungs. Some of the drug’s potency is lost in the smoke, and it must go through extra steps before it reaches the brain.

When injected, heroin is detectable in the system for longer because it has a higher bioavailability than when smokes. The metabolites of heroin will remain unchanged in most cases, which makes it more detectable in urine and other areas of the body.

On the other hand, when smoked, heroin loses much of its bioavailability through the smoke and is often around 52%. Because it is less concentrated, the body can metabolize it quicker, and it isn’t as detectable for as long as it is when injected.

Can you flush it out sooner?

The most effective way to beat a heroin drug test is to get completely clean through professional addiction treatment. Professional addiction treatment will also help curb many of the potentially harmful withdrawal symptoms.

Apart from getting clean, other ways to help clear the drug out of your system as quickly as possible include drinking lots of water, light exercise, eating healthy, and taking dietary supplements.

Drinking water will help hydrate your body and speed up the process as your system expels exogenous substances, toxins, and metabolites.

Light exercise including walking or slow jogging can help your body increase its blood circulation and boost your metabolism as the body expels toxins.

Supplementation of vitamins and minerals that support liver and kidney function can help prevent the drug from lingering around longer in the body by speeding up the person’s metabolism.

Types of Tests for Heroin

There are a few ways that employers or other agencies will test for the presence of heroin in a person’s body. The most common FDA approved drugs of abuse screenings include the hair follicle test, urine test, blood test, and saliva test. Because the signs of heroin will last longer in some areas of the body, the sensitivity of these tests can vary.

Most commonly, urine tests are the most affordable and fastest way to test for the presence of drugs in someone’s system. Even so, hair follicle tests will provide a broader picture of a person’s drug use history, going back as much as 90 days.


Although heroin doesn’t stay in a user’s system for quite as long as a drug like marijuana, it is still incredibly dangerous and dangerously addictive. If you or somebody you know is struggling with a heroin or opioid addiction, we strongly recommend that you seek help from a professional addiction counselor. Once clean, our sobriety tracker can help past users keep track of their days clean and stay on the road to full recovery.

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