If a doctor or employer suspects that someone is using heroin, they may order a drug screening to test for illicit drug use.
One way that heroin use can be detected is by collecting a hair sample. Hair follicle tests can detect heroin use for up to 90 days after a person’s last dose. This is known as the detection time.
Heroin can also be detected through screening samples of urine, blood, or saliva. Hair tests, however, can detect drug use for the longest amount of time.
While urine tests—the most common drug testing method—can detect heroin for a few days, hair follicles can contain traces of heroin for months.
How Hair Testing Works
Hair tests can be conducted at home or in a hospital or medical laboratory setting. If you visit a lab for testing, a medical technician will need to obtain 90 to 120 strands of hair, usually from the scalp, to be analyzed.
If you don’t have hair on your head, the technician may take a sample of body hair. At-home test kits for drug use require that you take your own sample and mail it off to be tested in a laboratory.
Dying, styling, or washing your hair will not affect drug test results. If you’re getting a hair test due to workplace drug testing orders, supervision during hair collection may be required.
How Is Heroin Detected In Hair?
Hair tests can show positive results for heroin use by screening for heroin or heroin metabolites. Metabolites are the substances that drugs can be broken down into as they’re metabolized in the body.
Heroin has a very short half-life, which means the body metabolizes it very quickly. For this reason, heroin use is generally detected by the presence of its active metabolites.
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Heroin is an opioid drug. Chemically, this makes it very similar to codeine and morphine, which are opiates that can be prescribed for the treatment of severe or chronic pain.
When used, heroin is metabolized to morphine and sometimes codeine, although the proportion of morphine will be higher than the amount of codeine.
Can You Get A False Positive For Heroin?
It is possible to get a false positive result for heroin. Heroin is already difficult to detect in drug tests because it can also be mistaken for morphine or codeine use.
With hair tests, there can be external factors that can influence the accuracy of the test results, such as mere exposure to heroin versus actual drug use.
In addition, some research shows that eating an excessive amount of poppy seeds can also result in a false positive for heroin, morphine, and codeine. This is because these drugs come from the seeds of the opium poppy plant.
Factors That Can Influence Heroin Detection Times
How often you use heroin and the dose can be influential factors in how long it takes for the body to get rid of the heroin in your system.
In addition, a wide range of biological, hereditary, and personal factors can also result in a longer or shorter detection window.
These factors can include:
- level of hydration
- history of drug or alcohol abuse
- overall physical and mental health
- family history of drug use
- body fat percentage
Using multiple drugs can also affect how long heroin stays in the system.
Much of the heroin that is sold on the street is mixed with adulterants, such as sugar, flour, and other drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. This can affect drug detection times.
Why Are Hair Drug Tests Ordered?
Drug screens can be ordered by healthcare providers, employers, and judges. Workplace drug testing is common, and a doctor may order a drug test if they see a patient showing signs of drug use.
Common side effects of heroin use can include:
- slurred speech
- tiny pupils
- track marks
- chronically runny, red nose
- mood swings
Heroin is a very addictive drug. Although you can’t become addicted after one use, some people who use heroin may continue to use it for its euphoric effects.
This can become a pattern of drug abuse and can lead to addiction over time.
How To Get Heroin Out Of Your System
There’s no reliable, quick hack for getting heroin out of your system quickly. Getting heroin out of a person’s system takes time.
If you’re addicted to heroin, this can be a problem. Heroin addiction, and dependence more specifically, can cause the body to go through withdrawal if you try to stop using heroin all at once.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from nausea to strong drug cravings, diarrhea, and insomnia. Stopping heroin cold-turkey can cause dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, and can often end in relapse without medical support.
If you have been using heroin for a long time, don’t try to stop taking heroin alone. Consider talking to your doctor or an addiction specialist about finding a heroin detox program.
Finding Heroin Detox And Addiction Treatment
Getting sober from heroin is only the first step on the road to recovery from heroin addiction.
If you’ve been abusing heroin, or are addicted, beginning a substance abuse rehab program is the best way to find the help you need to stop heroin for good.
Types of rehab programs for heroin addiction include:
- drug detox
- inpatient treatment
- partial hospitalization
- intensive outpatient
- outpatient rehab
- medication-assisted treatment
Many rehab centers in the United States offer rehab programs for heroin abuse and addiction. Call our helpline today to learn more about heroin addiction and to find heroin addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one.
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. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Drug Testing
- Mayo Clinic Laboratories—Drug Testing: Opiates
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Drug Testing
- LabCorp—Hair Drug Testing