Heroin is an illicit opioid drug that is categorized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no legal medical use.
Although the effects of heroin can begin to wear off within 45 minutes to a few hours, this doesn’t mean heroin can’t still be detected in a drug test.
Heroin use can be detected through the following tests:
- urine tests (enzyme immunoassay (EIAs)
- blood tests
- oral fluid (e.g. saliva tests)
- hair tests
Clinicians can find positive results for heroin use for up to one to three days on average, or up to 90 days with hair testing.
Drug purity, polysubstance abuse, and a range of other personal factors may affect heroin detection times.
How Long Heroin Can Be Detected Through Drug Tests
Not all types of drug tests screen for common drugs of abuse the same way or can detect heroin for the same amount of time.
Average drug detection times for heroin are:
- urine tests: one to three days
- blood tests: up to six hours
- saliva tests: up to 24 hours
- hair tests: up to 90 days
How Is Heroin Use Detected?
Heroin has a very short half-life, which means that the body metabolizes it very quickly. However, like the illicit drug cocaine, heroin metabolites may be detected in a person’s system after the heroin has already processed through a person’s system.
Following use, heroin is metabolized into morphine, a natural opiate derived from the seeds of the opium poppy plant. Street heroin can also contain acetylcodeine, which is metabolized to codeine in the body.
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Therefore, detecting morphine or codeine in the body may be considered a sign of illicit heroin use. Heroin use can also be detected if a specific heroin metabolite, 6-monoacetylmorphine (6MAM), is found in a drug screening.
Saliva tests, also known as oral fluid tests, can detect high levels of the heroin metabolite 6-acetyl morphine for a short period of time after using heroin.
How Long Do Urine Drug Screens Detect Heroin Use?
Urine tests are one of the most common types of drug tests. Heroin use may be detected in urine samples for one to three days after last use.
The cutoff for detection in the urine is typically 2000 ng/ml for opiate detection, or 10 ng/ml for heroin metabolites.
How Long Does Heroin Stay In The Blood?
Research has found that the heroin metabolite, 6-monoacetylmorphine (6MAM), can be detected in the blood for up to six hours after ingestion through a 6-AM assay test.
How Long Can Heroin Be Detected In Hair Tests?
Hair testing involves collecting samples of a person’s hair follicles. Heroin may be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days after your last dose.
Chronic heroin use may extend this window, causing the drug to be detectable in hair samples for longer than people who use heroin irregularly or infrequently.
Factors That Can Affect Heroin Detection Times
Heroin detection times can vary from person to person based on a range of factors. The timeframes shared on this page refer to the average detection times.
How long heroin stays in your system may depend on:
- frequency of heroin use
- how long you’ve been using heroin
- method of use (route of administration)
- polysubstance abuse (using multiple drugs)
- drug purity
- body composition (e.g. body fat, height, weight)
- level of hydration
- heroin dependence
If you’ve been using heroin for a long time, heroin may stay in your system longer. The amount of heroin you’ve used can also affect how long it remains detectable.
Can You Get A False Positive From Heroin Drug Tests?
The short answer is: Yes. Testing for specific drugs like heroin can be tricky because heroin use is detected by metabolites that can also be found when screening for morphine or codeine use.
Research has also shown that eating an excessive amount of poppy seeds can also cause false positive test results for opiate use. This is because poppy seeds contain trace amounts of morphine and codeine.
Why Are Heroin Drug Tests Used?
Drug screenings can be ordered based on suspicion of illicit drug use, as a condition of employment, or through random testing.
Generally, drug tests are used to determine whether someone has used drugs, although the accuracy of drug tests can vary.
Common reasons for drug screenings include:
- pre-employment screening
- drug-free workplace programs
- testing professional athletes
- legal and forensic purposes
- prescription drug monitoring
Heroin is an illegal, addictive drug that can take over a person’s life. If you’re concerned about having heroin show up in a drug test, it’s time to consider seeking professional help.
Finding Treatment Options For Heroin Abuse And Addiction
Millions of people in the United States report misusing drugs such as heroin, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and amphetamines each year.
Heroin is involved in an increasing number of fatal drug overdoses in the United States, which can devastate the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
Many rehab centers across the country offer treatment programs for heroin addiction.
Heroin addiction can be treated through:
- medical detoxification (detox)
- inpatient rehab
- outpatient rehab programs
- medication-assisted treatment (e.g. methadone, buprenorphine)
- substance abuse counseling
- aftercare programs
Call us today to learn more about treatment for heroin addiction and how to find an addiction treatment program near you.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—Drug Scheduling
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—Heroin
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Drug Testing
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Drug Testing
- Mayo Clinic Laboratories—Drug Testing: Opiates
- Redwood Toxicology Laboratory—Laboratory Testing Reference Guide
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—Pilot Test of New Roadside Survey Methodology for Impaired Driving