Heroin or diacetylmorphine, categorized as a Schedule I drug in the United States, is considered the most addictive drug in the world. Besides being highly addictive, because of which it is not approved for medical use, it inflicts life-threatening damages on both physical and mental health of the users. This fast-acting drug is generally smoked, snorted or injected directly into the veins, which causes instant euphoria. It is also a short-acting drug with an estimated half-life of 30 minutes, which means that a user is likely to take half an hour to flush out half of the drug from his or her system.

However, some studies suggest that its half-life can be as short as three to eight minutes. The duration of the half-life depends on a range of factors, such as body mass index (BMI), amount of drug consumed, metabolic rate, age, diet and hydration, etc. Compared to a tall person, drugs usually stay longer in the system of a short individual. Moreover, people who exercise vigorously and possess a fast metabolism tend to expunge heroin at a faster pace.

With the increased focus on drug testing and screening, there has been a marked rise in the level of inquisition among individuals who have recently used heroin and have to pass a drug test for a job about how long the drug remains in their system. Such information is also of great benefit for employers and those who are concerned for their loved ones using heroin. The immediate effects of heroin are reliably short; however, its residue can be detected in the body long after the user's last use.

Detecting heroin use through laboratory tools

When heroin reaches the brain, it is deacetylated into several metabolites and is even reconverted into morphine that binds to mu-opioid receptor sites, which cause euphoric sensations along with pain relief and anxiolytic effects. As a drug that rapidly metabolizes and expunges from the system, its metabolites can be detected for long durations.

A number of advanced tests can detect heroin in the system for a longer period of time since the last dose. With the emergence of many tests having the potential to identify heroin metabolites, the detection of heroin has become far easier.

Although factors, such as frequency of use, age, overall health and drug tolerance, can affect how long it takes for heroin to be ejected from one's system, some of the common laboratory tests are mentioned below:

  • Heroin in the blood: Due to its short half-life, heroin can only be detected in blood samples if the user is tested on the day he or she had used heroin.
  • Heroin in the hair: Hair sample testing can detect the tracks of heroin for up to 90 days. However, results can vary depending on the length of the hair sample and the amount of heroin a person has taken.
  • Heroin in the urine: Urine tests can only detect heroin within the first two days after the user's last dose. Depending on factors, such as amount of drug, frequency of use, weight, body mass, etc., one can also find the traces of heroin in the urine samples beyond the first two days.
  • Heroin in the body: Given its short half-life and other factors, such as weight, body mass, amount of heroin taken, frequency of use and metabolism, heroin is ejected out of one's system within hours or days. However, heroin metabolites that are created when the liver metabolizes the drug, remains in the system for a much longer period than heroin.

Take the rational step to seek help

Heroin is a drug generally procured from the streets, which runs the risk of being mixed with other dangerous chemicals that can get stored in a person's body. As one of the most potent drugs known to man, heroin can lead to dependence from the first use itself. Therefore, it is important to undergo the process of detoxification to remove toxins from one's system before the administration of other medical interventions.