Heroin has a very short half-life of only two to six minutes. The intense effects of heroin only last a few minutes, and overall sedation may last a couple hours.
The drug is metabolized into morphine, and that stays in your system for much longer. Heroin use may be detected in a urine drug test for up to four days after use.
In the United States, heroin is a Schedule I substance, meaning there are no medically recognized uses for the drug.
In 2017, around 81,000 people in the U.S. used heroin for the first time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Approximately 494,000 people said they used heroin in 2017.
This drug has a depressant effect on the body, causing euphoria and deep relaxation.
Heroin is a type of opioid that is derived from the poppy plant seed pods. It comes in different forms, ranging from a sticky, dark substance to a bright white powder.
Once heroin gets to the brain, it binds to opioid receptors. Before binding to the receptors, heroin is converted to morphine, according to research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
The initial effects of heroin can be intense.
After the initial effects, heroin can cause drowsiness for several hours. This is due to how heroin works on the central nervous system. Other effects include slowed breathing and reduced heart function.
Long-term use of heroin can cause other potential health issues.
Those who inject this drug are at risk for blood-borne pathogens, such as hepatitis C and B and HIV, due to sharing needles.
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People can snort, smoke, or inject heroin. Injecting this drug causes the effects to occur the fastest.
On average, it takes seven to eight seconds to experience euphoria after injecting heroin. It can take up to 15 minutes to feel the effects when someone smokes heroin. It takes the longest to feel the effects when someone snorts the drug.
Smoking and snorting may not produce the intense euphoria that happens when someone injects this drug. However, the other effects of the drug still occur. Dependence, tolerance, and addiction are possible no matter how someone uses heroin.
People can start to detox from heroin within a few hours of their last dose. It takes about 24 to 48 hours for withdrawal symptoms to reach their peak, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
It may be a few months before all the withdrawal symptoms go away. Though the bulk of withdrawal will have passed within about a week, the first several months following detox are a vulnerable time for relapse.
Due to how challenging detox can be, it is best for people to seek help from an addiction treatment center. Frequently,, medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine is used to stabilize the withdrawal process.
The withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin are usually broken up into two categories, including early symptoms and late symptoms. Early symptoms may include the following:
Late symptoms may include the following:
When someone gets a drug test for heroin, a sample of urine, hair, blood, or saliva may be taken. Urine drug tests are most commonly used.
The half-life of heroin is very rapid, taking 2 to 6 minutes for it to metabolize to morphine and 6-acetylmorphine. Morphine has a half-life of 1.5 to 7 hours, and 6-acetylmorphine has a half-life of six to 25 minutes. For heroin to be fully eliminated from the body, it takes approximately four to five half-lives.
The body processes heroin rapidly, but different metabolite substances that remain in the body for varying amounts of time. The metabolites are what can trigger a positive drug test.
The following are estimates for how long heroin remains in different drug test samples:
Several factors can play a role in how long a drug is detectable when someone gets a urine drug screen:
Someone who uses heroin heavily is more likely to test positive for a longer period of time, in most cases.
Another factor to consider is kidney and liver function. When these organs are not working efficiently, it may result in heroin remaining in the body for a longer period of time. Using other drugs along with heroin, overall body weight, and age also play roles in detection time frames.
Even using a small amount of heroin can cause a positive drug test. A surefire way to pass a heroin drug test is to avoid taking the drug for at least a week. If a hair follicle test is used, however, avoid use for at least three months prior to the test.
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