Heroin is an opiate substance that is derived from morphine. It is not legally accessible by prescription in the United States, although it is available to treat heroin addiction on a limited basis in Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
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Heroin use is associated with a significant risk of overdose as well as harmful interactions with other substances and prescription medications.
Understanding the dangers and factors can be aided by knowing how long it could be active in your system.
Heroin is a Schedule I substance, which means it has no widely acknowledged medicinal purpose and a significant potential for abuse.
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Factors That Affect Detection Time
Like most drugs, the main way heroin is eliminated from the body is via the kidneys in urine, but it can also be excreted via sweat, tears, saliva, and feces.
How long heroin will show up on a standard drug test depends on several factors such as weight, body mass, and personal metabolism.
Overall health, including liver and kidney function, can also play a role in how quickly heroin is processed and cleared from the body.
Dosage and Frequency of Use
The main factor in how long heroin is detectable in a drug test is the amount of the drug taken.
Heroin will stay in the body only one or two days with light use, but with heavy, chronic use, it can remain detectable in a urine test for almost a week.
Drug Purity and Drug Interactions
Because heroin is illegal, there is little consistency in the purity of the substance.
Some doses may be purer and stronger, which will increase the amount of time the drug takes to be eliminated from the body.
Interactions with other substances can also affect how quickly heroin is metabolized.
How to Get Heroin Out of Your System
Heroin is metabolized quickly and is not detectable by most standard drug tests after about three days.
The only way to get heroin out of your system is to stop using the drug and allow your body time to metabolize and eliminate it.
Stopping heroin cold turkey can often lead to severe withdrawal effects, however, so talk to your doctor about your treatment options.
Staying healthy by getting regular exercise and drinking plenty of fluids may help you metabolize the substance more quickly.
Symptoms of Overdose
While heroin is in a person’s system, they are at risk of interactions with other drugs and substances as well as overdose.
Street heroin varies in purity from 26% to 47%,10 and it is often combined with other substances like ketamine, cocaine, diphenhydramine, alprazolam, and MDMA (ecstasy).
Heroin depresses the respiratory system and slows the heart rate, so there are risks of interactions that can lead to coma.
Dangerous interactions might happen with barbiturates, benzodiazepines, certain antidepressants, and antihistamines.
One of the main reasons to be aware of how long heroin remains in the system is the risk of overdose.
If you take more heroin because the effects of the last dose have worn off, but the drug is still in your system, it could cause an accidental overdose.
Symptoms of a heroin overdose include:
- Shallow, slow or difficulty breathing
- Extremely small pupils (pinpoint pupils)
- Discolored tongue
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Bluish-colored nails and lips
- Spasms of the stomach and intestines
- Uncontrolled muscle movements
The above symptoms are related to an overdose of heroin alone, but heroin sold on the street is often mixed with other substances or drugs that can cause their own set of symptoms.
Street heroin cut with the powerful painkiller fentanyl, for example, has caused a noticeable increase in overdose.
Heroin is highly addictive and both physical and psychological dependence on the drug can occur quickly.
If you want to quit using heroin, there are things that you can do to get through the withdrawal process and succeed in your recovery.
Acute heroin withdrawal can feel much like a bad case of the flu. Symptoms can begin six to 12 hours after the last dose and last for up to a week. Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
- Cold sweats
- Body aches
- Runny nose
- Drug cravings
Acute withdrawal symptoms can be effectively managed in a detox setting with appropriate medications.
After withdrawal, there are a number of different recovery options including outpatient and residential treatment.
Medication-assisted treatment options for opiate addiction include methadone, Buprenorphine, Naloxone, and Naltrexone.
Psychological treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management have also been shown to be effective in treating heroin addiction.
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