Answering the question “how long does heroin stay in the human body?” starts with understanding the substance itself, and its effects. You may be wondering, “how long does a heroin high last?” or “how long will someone be able to detect the drug in my body?”
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In this article, we’ll provide an overview of heroin and the short and long-term ways that it changes the body and brain.
Table of Contents
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a substance in a class of drugs called opioids. Opioids bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, which are responsible for feelings of pain, pleasure and relaxation. Because of their powerful effects on the brain, opioids are highly addictive.
Heroin comes from the seed pod of opium poppy plants, generally traveling to the U.S. from Columbia, Mexico and Southern Asia.
Heroin is often sought out because its effects happen quickly. It has no legal uses in the U.S, and is therefore a Schedule I Drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Heroin typically comes in powdered form and can be injected, smoked, snorted, sniffed or mixed with crack cocaine.
It is often cut with other substances like sugar or powdered milk. It is also often cut with other, cheaper drugs.
What Are The Effects Of Heroin?
Heroin has many short- and long-term effects that are less than appealing. However, an addiction will often lead a person to dismiss the negative side effects for a temporary high. The following effects can characterize heroin use:
- Feelings of pleasure or relaxation;
- A dry mouth;
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Limbs feeling heavy;
- Intense itching;
- Warm skin;
- Difficulty thinking or focusing;
- Trouble remembering things;
- Fading in and out of consciousness;
- Slow heart rate;
- Slow breathing;
- Withdrawal after the high wears off;
- Changes in sleep;
- Changes in appetite;
- Heart infections;
- Digestion issues;
- Kidney disease;
- Liver disease;
- Difficulty breathing;
- Mental health issues;
- Disruption to sexual performance and menstruation.
This list is by no means extensive — there are potentially endless side effects that will manifest differently for each heroin user.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll experience every side effect, you’ll likely come across a good number of them.
Moreover, these side effects are merely physical. The social, financial, legal and spiritual consequences are just as severe and wide-reaching.
Sadly, the reality of heroin use is that overdose is also a side effect — one that’s more common than many in society would like to believe.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 14,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2019 were due to heroin alone.
How Long Does Heroin Stay In The Body?
The effects of heroin and their duration will differ based on several factors. These can include:
- The amount of substance taken;
- The quality of the drug (whether it was pure or cut with other substances);
- Whether a person has taken the drug before and his or her level of tolerance;
- A person’s metabolism;
- Genetic factors;
- Other drugs, alcohol or medication that was also taken.
If you’ve wondered how long heroin stays in the human body, here’s the short answer: Heroin can be detected in urine for around 24 hours, in blood for 48 to 72 hours and in hair follicles for up to three months.
Wondering how long a heroin high lasts? The initial high can begin within minutes after taking heroin, depending on how the substance is taken.
A heroin high typically results in depressed breathing and a slowed heart rate, inducing a trance-like state.
According to the University of Michigan Medicine, this trance lasts around four to six hours.
When you decide to quit heroin, you’ll want to know the approximate times for detox, too.
Withdrawal generally starts within a day of your last use, peaks between one and three days and recedes within a week, according to the American Addiction Centers.
The physical and emotional side effects of heroin can last much longer. Damaged relationships, criminal records and even neurological issues could linger for years, so the sooner you stop using, the better.
How Do I Know If I’m Addicted To Heroin?
If you’re wondering how long heroin stays in the human body, you might also wonder if your heroin habit has spiraled into something worse.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an addiction is a chronic disorder that manifests by compulsively seeking drugs despite disastrous consequences.
While some individuals are able to use drugs on a casual and recreational basis, that’s rarely the case with opioids.
If you’re wondering about the extent of your substance use, see if you can avoid heroin use for a month.
If the task is impossible, it’s likely you’re struggling with an addiction and need professional help.
How Is Heroin Addiction Treated?
Even though healing might feel out of reach right now, heroin addiction can be treated. With the right medical and mental health interventions, aided by lifestyle supports, anyone can overcome an opioid addiction.
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