Heroin is an illicit opioid drug derived from morphine. The drug is not available by prescription in the United States, but it can be attained on a limited basis in the Netherlands, Canada, and the United Kingdom to treat heroin addiction.

The use of heroin may lead to an overdose and dangerous interactions with other prescribed medications and drugs. Knowing how long it stays in the body can help you understand the variables and risks that come along with it.

In 2015, heroin claimed the lives of more victims than gun violence. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has reported that at least 517,000 people in the U.S. are battling heroin addiction. Heroin has always been viewed as one of the most deadly drugs in human existence, but the rise of the poisonous synthetic opioid fentanyl has exaggerated this issue. Fentanyl is cheaper to make, and it is much more potent.

Other research has pointed out that first-time users make heroin their drug of choice. One such study shows that 9 percent of nearly 6,000 first-time opioid users started with heroin in 2005. That same number in 2015, however, showed that first-time opioid users who started heroin jumped 33.3 percent. The study also highlights that opioid users prefer heroin over oxycodone or hydrocodone.

Testing for Heroin Use

Many of those in recovery are asked to submit a sample for drug testing. It may be a required step before entering a program, or it could be a condition of future employment. There are ways to test for heroin despite its short half-life.

  • Urine test
  • Hair follicle test
  • Blood test
  • Saliva test

Urine and follicle tests are the most reliable means to detect heroin in the system, even when longer periods have passed. The urine test is most commonly used to determine if heroin is being used, and there are different types of tests. A five-panel urine test will test for five drugs while a 10-panel drug test screens for 10. The urine test for heroin will show up positive for two to four days after the drug was taken.

A hair follicle drug test will detect signs of heroin use up to three months after the drug was consumed. The use of heroin can be revealed after an analysis of a tiny hair sample because our bloodstream feeds hair growth. During a hair test, a person must provide a hair sample of three to six centimeters. It isn’t the most common means of testing for the substance but can be useful in determining someone’s past.

How Heroin Acts in the System

Heroin that you may buy on the street is made illegally. It will vary in strength and purity, and it may be cut with various substances, from baby laxatives to fentanyl. Nonmedical users of the drug will ingest it in many different ways, each of which will determine how soon and how long the effects will be felt. Heroin is either smoked or snorted, but it is most commonly injected.

Heroin has a rapid half-life of two to six minutes and is metabolized into 6-acetylmorphine and morphine. The half-life of morphine is 1.5 to seven hours, and the half-life of 6-acetylmorphine is six to 25 minutes. It takes nearly four to five half-lives for a drug to exit the body.

The effects of heroin are felt immediately. Depending on the dose consumed, intense euphoria

can last anywhere from 45 seconds to a few minutes. The other effects of the drug, often referred to as the peak, can last one to two hours. A majority of the side effects typically wear off in three to five hours, but sedation might last longer.

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs that is accessible to the public. Once someone is addicted, they risk going into withdrawal if they can’t access the drug. Withdrawal symptoms may emerge six to 12 hours after their last dose and last anywhere from five to 12 days. In some cases, heavy users may develop Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which is a set of symptoms that may last for months or years.

The Dangers of Heroin Overdose

When heroin is present in our body, the user puts themselves at risk of interactions with other drugs. Heroin ranges in purity from 11 to 72 percent, and it is most commonly cut with cocaine, ketamine, and MDMA. The most important reason to know how long heroin stays in your system is the risk of overdose. If you use more heroin because you’ve developed a tolerance and the effects have worn off, it may still mean a lot of the drug is in your system. It could cause an overdose.

Heroin Overdose Symptoms Include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Shallow or difficulty breathing
  • Discolored tongue
  • Blue colored nails or lips
  • Constipation
  • Spasms in the stomach or intestine
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma
  • Disorientation
  • Delirium
  • Drowsiness
  • Uncontrolled muscle movements

You must call 911 if you think someone has overdosed on heroin. It is possible to survive an overdose from heroin with the right help. Those who wait too long to get help risk permanent damage and death. Do not play Russian roulette with your life. Get help immediately.

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