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How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System – Less Than You Might Expect


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

  • It is a recreational drug as opposed to a drug used for medicinal purposes.
  • This drug is an illegal drug derived from morphine.
  • Does fall under a class of drugs called opioids and is a schedule I drug.
  • Various forms of heroin exist.
  • Most people are familiar with the white powder form of heroin, but brown, black, and black tar forms are also available.

Black tar heroin is modified, usually because extra acid or water is in the sample. Unlike other types of opioids, it is not used medicinally but strictly as a recreational drug.


The half-life of a drug refers to how long it takes for half of the drug to be removed from the body.

  • Unlike other drugs in the opioid family, heroin has a half-life of around 3 minutes, much shorter than other opioid drugs.

For a medication to be completely eliminated from the body, it takes multiple half lives.

This drug has an amazingly short half-life (about 3 minutes). So, for most people, the drug itself is eliminated from the human body very quickly.

  • In general, most of the drug is cleared by 8 to 9 hours after the last dose.
  • However, metabolites of heroin can be detectable in the blood for up to 12 hours.
  • In urine, it can be picked up for as long as 2 to 3 days after taking the drug.
  • Heroin lingers longest in the hair follicle. With hair follicle testing, traces of heroin can be detected for up to 3 months after exposure.
  • Certain heroin metabolites, such as “6-AM”, may be detectable for 24 hours or more.


The problem with passing a heroin drug test is usually not the drug itself. It is the telltale metabolites the body uses to metabolize it. Drug test 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. Most drug tests look for opiates, therefore these types of tests will come back positive for opioids.


In addition, certain factors can delay or speed up the clearance of heroin from blood and urine. Heroin is cut with a variety of substances. Some of these substances include sugar, caffeine, starch, baking soda, talcum powder, powdered pain meds, and, scarily enough, rat poison. What is added to heroin can affect how the impact it has on the body and how quickly it’s eliminated. How concentrated the heroin is and how much a person takes also impacts how long it remains in the body.

  • The rate of clearance of heroin from the body varies with the purity of the drug.

Age is another factor that can affect heroin clearance. Younger people usually have a faster metabolism than older individuals and they’ll typically clear the drug more quickly. Genetics is also a factor. Some people have higher or lower levels of enzymes that break heroin down and this can speed or slow down its breakdown and elimination from the body.

  • Factors like height and weight can affect the time heroin remains in the body. A smaller, shorter individual is likely to retain it in their system slightly longer than a larger individual or someone who is overweight or obese.

Kidney and liver function also have a modest impact on heroin clearance. These are the organs that bear most of the burden of metabolizing and eliminating drugs, including heroin. One study found that impaired liver function, due to liver disease, had minimal effects on the clearance of heroin. However, reduced kidney function slightly delayed heroin clearance from the body.

The mode by which a person consumes heroin modestly impacts its clearance as well. Snorting it leaves behind fewer detectable breakdown products than smoking or injecting it. The metabolites created by smoking it hang around in the body slightly longer than after injection. So, how it is consumed is a factor affecting its clearance as well.

References: “How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?”

Health Partners Institute for Medical Education. “Interpretation of Opiate Urine Drug Screens”

Current Clinical Pharmacology 1(1):109-18 · February 2006.

WebMD. “FDA Bans BPA in Baby Bottles”

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