How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System – Do The Math

Dr. Kesi Aga MD

This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Kesi Aga MD

This article discusses how long does heroin stays in your system for a drug test.

  • It is a recreational drug as opposed to a drug used for medicinal purposes.
  • It is an illegal drug derived from morphine.
  • It falls under a class of medications called opioids and is classified as a Schedule I.
  • Various forms of heroin clear.
  • Most people are familiar with the white powder form of heroin, but brown, black, and black tar is the result.

Black tar heroin is modified, usually because extra acid or water is in it. Unlike other types of opioids, it is not medicinal but strictly recreational.


  • The half-life refers to how long it takes for half of a drug to clear the body.
  • For a medication to leave the body, it takes multiple half-lives.
  • Unlike other drugs in the opioid family, heroin has a half-life of around 3 minutes, much shorter than other opioids.
  • So, for most people, this opioid is eliminated from the human body very quickly.
  • In general, heroin clearance takes 8 to 9 hours after the last dose.


The problem with passing a heroin test is not the heroin itself. Instead, it is the production of telltale metabolites that the body uses to metabolize it. Therefore, drug tests often look for these molecular substances rather than heroin.

The most common heroin metabolite is known as 6-AM (6-Acetylmorphine). It converts heroin to morphine, also an opiate. In addition, it is adding the other Heroin metabolites in testing, such as morphine, morphine-glucuronides. Therefore, these types of tests will come back positive for opioids.

  • Metabolites, such as 6-AM, can be detectable in the blood for up to 12 hours.
  • In urine, for at least 2 to 3 days after taking the last dose.
  • Heroin lingers longest in the hair follicle. With hair follicle testing, traces of heroin can come up for up to 3 months after exposure.
  • Specific heroin metabolites, such as “6-AM“, may be detectable for 24 hours or more.

Other Factors

In addition, these substitutes can affect how potent heroin can be, how much the person is affected by it, and how long it can remain detectable.

Heroin dealers increase the batches volume with various substitutes, including sugar, caffeine, starch, baking soda, talcum powder, powdered pain meds, and rat poison. These substitutes can affect the body and how quickly it clears. How potent the heroin is and how much a person significantly affects how long it remains detectable.

  • The rate of clearance of heroin varies with its purity.

Age is another factor that can affect heroin clearance. Younger people usually have a faster metabolism than older individuals, and it will typically clear more quickly.

Genetics is also a factor. Some people have higher or lower enzymes that break heroin down, speeding or slowing down its elimination.

Factors like height and weight can affect the time heroin remains detectable. For example, a smaller, shorter individual is likely to retain it in their system slightly longer than a more prominent individual or someone overweight or obese.

Kidney and liver function also have an impact on heroin clearance. These are the organs that bear most of the burden of metabolizing and eliminating heroin.

  • One study found that impaired liver function due to liver disease had minimal effects on the clearance of heroin.
  • The kidney clears 90% of heroin metabolites, so the kidney usually has a more significant impact. The liver has a modest effect on clearance only by 10%.

The mode by which a person consumes heroin modestly impacts clearance as well. Snorting it leaves behind fewer detectable breakdown products than smoking or injecting it. However, the metabolites created by smoking hang around in the body slightly more extended than after injection.