How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

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how long does heroin stay in your systemHeroin is a powerful and illicit opioid drug that has been leading to severe addiction and rising overdose deaths for decades. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), 9,173 people died from a heroin overdose in 2021.[1]

People who abuse heroin might smoke, snort, or inject it directly into their veins. This substance is extremely fast-acting, causing a drowsy and euphoric high that can be incredibly addictive.

If you or a loved one misuses heroin, you might be wondering how long it remains in your body. How long heroin stays in your system depends on a variety of factors, including how long you have been abusing the drug, the method of administration, and your overall health.



How Long Do the Effects of Heroin Last?

When someone abuses heroin, they will experience two stages of effects: an initial rush of euphoria and a longer-lasting feeling of relaxation or drowsiness. This occurs because heroin is broken down into morphine in your body. The initial rush is caused by heroin, while morphine is responsible for the long-lasting feelings of relaxation.

The effects of heroin may include:[2]

  • A rush of euphoria
  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A heavy feeling of arms and legs
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchiness
  • Drowsiness or relaxation
  • Clouded mental functioning
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate

How long the effects of heroin last will depend heavily on the method of administration (i.e. smoking, snorting, or injecting).

People who inject heroin will experience effects within 20 seconds with symptoms lasting up to 4 hours. Smoking or snorting the drug will cause the effects to begin in about 10 minutes, lasting about 4 to 5 hours in total.

However, it is important to note that this is dependent on a wide range of personal factors as well. For example, someone who has a tolerance for heroin might not experience effects as long as someone who is a new user.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

To understand how long heroin stays in your system, you must be aware of the drug’s half-life. A half-life explains how long it takes your body to eliminate half of the substance. Typically, it takes 4 to 5 half-lives for a substance to be completely removed from your body.

The half-life of heroin is between 2 to 8 minutes.[3] This means it can take from 8 to 48 minutes for heroin to be completely removed from your system.

However, the substance does leave behind metabolites that remain in your system longer. Heroin breaks down into a metabolite known as 6-monoacetylmorphine, which has a longer half-life.[4] These metabolites are what drug tests look for to determine if you are abusing heroin.


Urine tests are the most popular form of drug test because they are minimally invasive and relatively inexpensive. Typically, urine drug tests can detect heroin in your system for 1 to 4 days after you last used it. However, individuals who have been using large amounts of heroin for an extended period may test positive longer than others.


Saliva tests are not used as commonly as urine because they are considered to be less accurate. This is because metabolites of drugs like heroin do not remain in your saliva for very long. With that being said, saliva drug tests can detect heroin in your system for a few hours after your last dose.


Blood tests are less common because they are invasive and often expensive to use. However, they might be used during emergencies to determine what kind of drug you abused. Like saliva tests, blood tests can only detect heroin in your system for a few hours after you last consumed it.


Hair follicle tests are the most reliable, however, they are not used often because they can be expensive. With that being said, hair follicle drug tests can detect any substance in your system for up to 90 days (including heroin).

Find Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one suffers from heroin addiction, it’s time to seek help. Long-term abuse of heroin can lead to a variety of life-threatening medical emergencies, including overdoses. Attending a professional drug rehab program can provide you with the tools and support you need to maintain long-term recovery.

At Archstone Behavioral Health, we can provide you with a wide range of evidence-based addiction treatment programs to offer you a strong foundation for recovery. To learn more about our heroin rehab program, contact us today.


  1. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): Drug Overdose Death Rates, Retrieved August 2023 From
  2. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): What are the immediate (short-term) effects of heroin, Retrieved August 2023 From
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Population pharmacokinetics of heroin and its major metabolites, Retrieved August 2023 From
  4. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Heroin, Retrieved August 2023 From