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How Long does Heroin Stay in Your System?

You may be wondering how long heroin stays in your system because you fear you have an addiction. Or, perhaps you have been abusing this drug, and you're worried about suffering any ill effects from that. Either way, it's important to get an answer to this question.

Heroin is a very powerful, illegal drug. It is an opioid, and its use is currently on the rise in the United States. How long this substance stays in your body will  affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms you might experience. This can be very scary for someone with an addiction. In fact, sometimes the fear of withdrawal will make people use the drug for several years.

Let's discuss how long this drug stays in the system, as well as what factors influence this. We'll also go over heroin addiction and abuse.

What is Heroin?

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin is an opioid drug. It is made from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy plant. These plants are grown in various locations around the world, including Mexico, Colombia and parts of Asia.

At one time, this drug was perfectly legal. It was originally called diamorphine, and a man named CR Alder Wright created it in 1874. At that time, he had been experimenting with combining morphine with different acids. Eventually, it would be marketed as diacetylmorphine under the trademark Heroin. It was sold as an over-the-counter medication that was used as a cough medicine. Bayer advertised it as a non-addictive substitute for morphine.

In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed in the United States. This allowed the government to control the sale and distribution of diacetylmorphine as well as other opioid drugs. In 1924, Congress banned heroin. It was made a Schedule 1 substance, and that makes it illegal.

There are many street names for heroin. Some are based on the drug’s appearance, while others pay homage to its effects or where it comes from. Some common slang names include:

  • Black Tar
  • Brown Sugar
  • White Stuff
  • White Junk
  • Dirt
  • Brain Damage
  • Chinese Red
  • Hell Dust
  • Holy Terror
  • Hard Candy
  • Mexican Mud
  • Joy Flakes
  • Sweet Dreams
  • Nice and Easy
  • Rush Hour

Heroin is usually sold as a white or brown powder. It’s generally cut with other substances as a way to stretch it out. People who sell it might cut it with sugar, powdered milk or quinine, among other powders. The only exception would be the Black Tar variety. This type is sticky, like its name suggests, or it can also be hard. It’s black because of the impurities left behind after it’s processed.

People abuse heroin in many different ways. When they first start using it, they usually smoke it or snort it. However, it usually doesn’t take too long before they realize that it produces a better high by injecting it. It can be injected into veins, muscles or just under the skin. This method gets the drug faster in the user’s bloodstream, allowing its effects to be felt more quickly.

What is Heroin’s Half-Life?

Heroin is a drug that has a very short half-life compared to other types of drugs. The half-life of this drug means that about half the drug has left the body in less than 10 minutes. So, when the high ends, half of the drug still remains in the body. This process will continue to occur until the entire amount of the drug has been eliminated.

Its half-life is only about 3 to 8 minutes long. Because of this, the high that it produces is very short. People tend to believe that this must mean that it can't be detected in the body for very long. This isn't true at all.

How long heroin stays in the system depends on a few different things. The amount that was used and the method of administration both play key roles.

A saliva test for heroin is probably the least reliable of all the different tests. This is why it really isn't used as often. In order for a saliva test to produce a positive result, it has to be done an hour after the last use. This can be very difficult to time, which means that the results can be skewed.

Some types of saliva tests will detect heroin use for a little over 20 hours after the last use. For this reason, some may consider this test to be a good choice. It's not as invasive as a blood test, and it's fairly easy to perform.

Hair tests are very reliable to determine long-term heroin use. However, if someone has only recently used the drug, the test will probably give a negative result. It takes more time before it will show up on a hair test. In fact, it can take up to a week, or even more in some cases.

Even so, hair tests will continue to give a positive result for 90 days afterwards. This might be good for outpatient drug clinics that only see patients periodically. It can help to give them a detailed history of a patient's substance abuse habits.

A urine test is the most commonly used test for heroin because it’s so easy to administer. The urine is analyzed carefully for the presence of the drug and its metabolites. The test might not show a positive result until as many as five hours after the last use of it. Urine tests will remain positive for about three days. However, some people may eliminate the drug in as soon as one day. This is all very individualized, and based on additional factors.

Blood tests for heroin aren't used very often. They are the most invasive test of all, and the results are quite unreliable. This is because the substance will leave the bloodstream within 2 hours. However, it does enter the bloodstream within a matter of minutes after one use.

How long heroin stays in the system is influenced by a number of different factors. Everyone is different, and no one eliminates it the same way.

Some of the factors that can influence how long heroin stays in the body include:

  • How much of the drug is being used. Higher dosages take longer to leave the body.
  • How often it is being used. If someone uses it more often, it will definitely take the body longer to eliminate it.
  • The age of the person using the substance. As a general rule, if someone is older, it may take their body longer.
  • The individual's BMI. People with higher BMIs may be able to eliminate it faster.
  • The person's liver and kidney function. Someone with healthy kidneys and liver might be able to eliminate the drug quicker.

Abuse and Addiction Statistics You Should Know

Heroin abuse and addiction statistics are quite shocking. Individuals who abuse this drug rarely understand the scope of the problem in our country.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine:
  • In 2015, 20.5 million people ages 12 and older had a substance abuse disorder.
  • Of that number, 591,000 of them were addicted to heroin.
  • They estimate that about 23% of people who use this drug will eventually develop an opioid addiction.
  • During that same year, about 21,000 teens had used the drug at some point during the last year.
  • About 5,000 of them reported being current users.
  • In 2014, about 6,000 teenagers reported being addicted.
  • Women have been found to be more likely to be prescribed opiate pain relieving drugs.
  • Because of the fact that opiate use can lead to abusing heroin, women are more susceptible to this addiction than men.
Unfortunately, this is a problem that has only gotten worse as time has gone on. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health:
  • In 2016, around 948,000 people in the U.S. reported using the drug at least once in the last year.
  • This increase mostly included people between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • During the same year, there were 170,000 who had used it for the first time.
  • This is almost double the number of people who had used it for the first time in 2006.
  • Fortunately, past-year heroin use among teens is decreasing, with less than 1% in each grade.
  • The number of people who met the criteria for heroin use disorder went from 214,000 in 2002 to 626,000 in 2016.

Are You a Heroin Abuser? How Can You Tell?

Unfortunately, this is a drug that may people are curious about. Others turn to it because they were using prescription drugs. They chose to move on to heroin when they are no longer able to get their medications. Either way, any use of this substance – no matter the reason – means abuse.

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That being said, you are a heroin abuser if you have used the drug even once. The question is, where is the line between abuse and addiction?

Someone who is abusing heroin may use it sporadically. They may also just use it one time. No matter how many times they use, they don't feel that they need to use. They may use when they're with friends who abuse it, and then never think about it again. There are no withdrawal symptoms to suffer through at all with this type of occasional abuse.

Addiction, on the other hand, is a very different story.

Heroin is a very powerful drug. It is a substance that leads to addiction very quickly. For someone who is abusing it, each use brings them closer to becoming addicted.

If you have a heroin addiction, you feel a need to use it regularly. You probably use every day and you may even need to use as soon as you wake up in the morning. You probably don't feel normal unless you have had your regular dose. These are all indicators of addiction.

Are You a Heroin Addict? Take a Quiz and Learn the Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

You may be very confused about heroin addiction. If so, it can be helpful to take a heroin addiction quiz. This quiz will give you some more information and insight into your drug use behaviors. You'll even get access to your results right away.

You could also take a look at some of the more common heroin addiction signs. These include the following:
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bouts of constipation
  • Flushing of the skin
  • A dry mouth
  • Slower breathing than normal

The brain is also heavily impaired because of heroin addiction. People may frequently feel confused, and have difficulty thinking. It may be hard for them to make decisions. They can even suffer from memory loss.

If you’re regularly abusing heroin, you are most likely an addict. This addiction should not be ignored. If you feel you might be addicted, you need to find out for sure. The best way to do that might be to contact a rehab program for an assessment. This can usually be done right over the phone.

People use heroin for a variety of reasons, and it produces a lot of different effects. Many use it for the strong sensations of euphoria that it produces. Others use it because they are addicted to prescription opiates, but they may not be able to obtain them long-term. Heroin also has the ability to relieve pain. In this way, it’s being used as a form of self-medication.

After one hit, dopamine will flood the brain. This gives users an extreme sense of pleasure. Getting high on heroin will change your thoughts and the way you feel. People who tend to be sad or angry may experience an immediate mood shift. This can make it an attractive drug for someone who suffers from anxiety or depression.

Abusers also frequently report a warm and safe feeling while they’re high. This can make it appealing for people who live in unsafe conditions. With low doses of the drug, people may feel calmer and more accepting of other people. In higher doses, it allows people to disconnect from their surroundings. It puts them in a dream-like state that can feel like a welcomed escape.

When you’re addicted, you’ll notice that the good feelings you once got from being high don’t last as long. This causes people to dose again and again. Also, users can develop a tolerance to the drug very quickly, and as a result they must continually increase how much they use to get high (referred to as ‘chasing the high’).

The Physical and Mental Effects of Diamorphine

If you’re a regular diamorphine user, you may not think about how the drug is affecting you physically and mentally. There are consequences to using any type of drug, and this one is no exception. It’s important to know the impact it can have on your body and your brain.

Heroin has a profound effect on the body, both in the short and in the long-term. You may experience the following:

  • A sensation of heaviness in your limbs
  • A dry mouth
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Itchiness all over the body
  • Slower heart function
  • Slower breathing rates or other complications
  • Collapsed veins
  • Infections or abscesses
  • Heart infections
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Chronic constipation
  • Possible bowel obstructions

Using this drug regularly is likely to have a profound negative effect on your mental health. You may quickly develop a psychological dependence on it, which will lead to a physical addiction. You could also experience:

  • Bouts of confusion
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor reasoning and judgment
  • Difficulties with making decisions
  • Difficulties with processing emotions

How Can You Tell if Someone is Abusing Heroin?

The issue with drug addiction is that many addicts are very good at hiding their substance abuse behaviors. This can make it very difficult for families to tell if someone they love is using heroin. Maybe this is a situation you’re facing right now.

It’s important to know what signs you should be looking for. If you notice any of these, it might be time to confront your family member. People who are abusing heroin may:
  • Leave drug use paraphernalia lying around the house. You should look for bowls that could be used to dissolve the drug in water. You may also find cotton balls, alcohol swabs and needles.
  • Have a hard time staying awake. Using heroin can cause people to become very sleepy, and they may nod off frequently. They may also have a hard time staying focused.
  • Have very small pupils. They can get as small as a pinpoint, which is a clear indicator that a person is high.
  • Have marks on their arms from injecting the drug. These are known as track marks, and users will often try to keep them covered. The person may also wear long sleeves when the weather is warm.
  • Suffer from serious health problems. Some examples might include blood infections, infectious diseases or abscesses.
  • Become isolated from the people who love them. They may stop having an interest in family or friends and prefer to be by themselves.
  • Occasionally experience withdrawal symptoms when they run out.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to say something. You may just save your family member’s life by speaking up about your suspicions.

If you’re still not sure, you may want to take a family member addiction quiz. This will help you understand the situation with some additional clarity.

Unfortunately, you can’t force someone to go to rehab or get any type of addiction treatment. It has to be something they decide to do on their own. However, there are ways that you can influence their decision. Our family member addiction guide offers you some great suggestions about how to do this.

The first step will be for you to bring the problem to their attention. This won’t be an easy conversation, but it’s something you need to do. Try to find a time when they’re not high on heroin. This will make it easier for your message to get through.

Take some time and research different options for treatment. If you can present some choices for your loved one, they may be more willing to get help. It’s also possible that they’ve wanted to quit using for a long time. They just didn’t know how to do it.

You may encounter a situation where your family member becomes defensive. They may say things like:

  • “I can quit using whenever I want to.”
  • “I’m not even addicted.”
  • “I plan on getting help after the holidays are over.”
  • “I promise I’ll quit. Right now just isn’t the right time.”
  • “I’ve tried to quit before, and it just didn’t work for me.”

These are all just excuses they’re using to be able to use longer. What they really want is for you to leave them alone and let them continue using. At this point, it’s a good idea to start thinking about having an intervention.

You can obtain intervention services from many drug rehab centers. This is a meeting involving your loved one, you, and other friends and family. An interventionist will be there to guide the process for you.

Fortunately, many heroin addicts will realize that they need to get help either during or after an intervention. Whenever possible, arrangements should be made ahead of time so that they can leave right away. Otherwise, it’s very likely that they’ll change their mind.

What Sort of Rehab Treatment is Available for Heroin Addiction?

The best way to recover from a heroin addiction is to go to a drug rehab center. It’s not enough for you to just stop using this drug. In fact, you may not be able to stop using it if you don’t have the right kind of support. When you go to an addiction treatment center, you’ll get all the help you need.

The staff has access to tools that can make you successful in your recovery. They also have the experience of helping others recover from their addictions. You will want to find a program that has a good track record and a higher than average success rate.

However, you also need to know that there are various types of programs. Recovering from addiction is not a one-size-fits-all situation. The key is to be sure that your needs are being met. This might mean you need a recovery center that is different from what someone else needs. This can even be true if you both suffer from the same addiction.

Experts tend to agree that going to an inpatient drug rehab facility is often the best way to treat an addiction. While you’re there, you’re going to get excellent care. Because it’s an inpatient program, you won’t have the opportunity to relapse. This is very important for most people with heroin addictions.

During your stay, you’ll have different types of therapy. This will mean meeting with your counselor on a regular basis. You’ll also work in various groups for peer counseling, and participate with other activities together.

An inpatient program may be something that you should consider for your recovery. It might seem scary to think about being away from home for a thirty-day period. However, if it gives you a better chance of recovering successfully, it’s definitely worth it.

Many people are more drawn to the idea of going to an outpatient drug treatment program. Maybe you feel the same way. You like the idea of being able to live at home, and you’d rather not be away from your family. One criticism against conventional outpatient programs is that they may not provide enough support. This is especially true for those who are new to treatment.

You may only be able to see your counselor on a weekly basis. Some programs might not even be able to offer you appointments that are that frequent. You will probably find that you need more support, and an outpatient clinic can’t provide it at this point.

On the other hand, an intensive outpatient treatment program, or IOP, might work very well for you. This is a type of rehab that allows you to live at home while you get the care you need. You can still go to work or school, and you’ll attend your appointments in the evening.

Research suggests that IOPs may be just as beneficial as inpatient rehab. Their flexibility makes them a very attractive option for people with jobs or families at home.

Perhaps you have tried to quit using heroin in the past, and failed. Maybe you’ve been to many inpatient treatment centers, but none seemed to work for you. If this is the case, or even if you’ve been an addict for a long time, you may need long-term care. This is why residential treatment centers exist.

A residential heroin treatment center will give you even more supportive services. They often allow their patients to stay for several months at a time. Some offer their own in-house rehab services while others require people to attend local IOPs.

It can seem like you’re giving up your entire life if long-term rehab is recommended for you. We want to encourage you not to think that way. It could just be that you need a higher level of care for a period of time to recover.

Detoxing From Heroin

Regardless of how long you’ve been an addict, a heroin detox will probably be recommended for you. In fact, this will be the first step in your recovery, before you go to rehab. Detoxing is a very important part of the healing process.

When you go to rehab, you’re going to be addressing the mental part of your addiction. The detoxification process is very different. You’ll be treating the physical part of your dependence on heroin. The treatments you receive will specifically deal with your withdrawal symptoms, such as:
  • Intense heroin cravings
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Hot and cold sweats
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bouts of diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps

There are many ways to treat opioid withdrawal. You may be given a medication such as Vivitrol or Suboxone. This is called medication assisted treatment, or MAT. You may also be treated non-medically as well. Holistic detox is a part of many programs today, and it’s important to get you as healthy as possible. This might involve a good exercise routine and certain dietary changes.

Contrary to what many people believe, there really isn’t a safe way to detox from drugs at home. If you’re a heroin addict, then you know how powerful this drug is. You may even be afraid to stop using it, and there is a good reason for that. Going through withdrawal can be extremely painful, both mentally and physically.

You can find a lot of detox products on the market today. You may come across vitamins, supplements, drinks, cleanses and other items that promise great results. You should use caution before trying them.

If you’re not ready to commit to an inpatient heroin detox program, please talk with your doctor. They need to know that you want to quit using, and they might be able to help.

The Dangers of Quitting Diamorphine on Your Own

Quitting the use of diamorphine on your own carries a lot of risks. The biggest one is the risk of overdosing.

So many heroin overdoses occur because people thought they could attempt to stop using it themselves. Quite often, people will quit cold turkey, not thinking of what the consequences might be. When the withdrawal gets to be too much for them, they go back to using. Unfortunately, they don’t realize the dangers in this.

When heroin users relapse, they usually don’t give a second thought to their changing tolerance levels. Because of this, they just go back to using the same amount they were before. Sometimes people will even increase that amount slightly because they’re so desperate for the high. They don’t realize that this amount is now too much for them, and the result is an overdose.

When you overdose on heroin, you put your life at risk. You need to get immediate medical care; otherwise, the overdose can be fatal.

As you might expect, as heroin use has gone up in the United States, the number of overdoses has also increased. According to the CDC:

  • In 2014, there were more than 11,000 heroin-related poisonings that led to hospitalizations.
  • Between 2010 and 2016, the number of overdose deaths has increased fivefold.
  • The number of overdose deaths between 2015 and 2016 increased almost 20%.
  • This meant that in 2016, close to 15,500 people died.
  • During that same year, men between the ages of 25 and 44 had the highest death rate.
  • 15.5 men per every 100,000 suffered fatal overdoses from this drug.
  • That was a 17.4% increase from 2015.
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Heroin Addiction Treatment is Available for Your Recovery

After going over the above information, you may have come to realize that you have a heroin addiction. If you do, this fact might scare you. You might be afraid of what the next step is. Like many people, this might be the first time you've ever thought about getting help.

Here at Northpoint Washington, our heroin rehab program is excellent. We've had the pleasure of working with many addicts whose strongest desire was recovery. If you're like them, you never meant to become addicted to this drug. Now that you are, you need the right tools to equip you stop using successfully. We can provide those for you.

Have we answered your questions about how long heroin stays in the system? Do you need to know more about rehab and recovery? Contact us today so we can help you further.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist Today

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

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