Heroin is an illicit drug that is illegal for use and possession in the United States. Heroin is chemically similar to opiate drugs such as morphine and codeine.
One common concern of people who use heroin is how long their drug use can be detected through a drug screening.
Urine drug screenings are a leading drug testing method approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to detect heroin use.
Heroin use can also be detected through:
- oral fluid (saliva tests)
- blood tests
- hair follicle tests
Heroin use can be detected in urine samples for up to three days after a person’s last use.
The average timeframe for heroin detection can vary based on the frequency of heroin use, the amount used, and other factors.
How Do Urine Tests Screen For Heroin?
Urine tests can identify whether someone has used heroin by screening for the heroin metabolite, 6-monoacetylmorphine.
Heroin itself has a very short half-life, which refers to the amount of time it takes for half of a substance to be excreted from the system.
Detecting heroin use can be tricky in part because it is chemically similar to morphine and codeine.
Heroin is metabolized into morphine in the body. In addition, heroin can also contain acetylcodeine, which metabolizes to codeine.
Because of this, people who use heroin may test positive for morphine and codeine use. Generally, heroin use causes higher levels of morphine, which can be an indication of heroin use.
What To Know About Urine Drug Tests
Urine screenings can be ordered by a healthcare provider, employer, or through the courts to test for drug use.
Common uses for drug tests:
- employee hiring
- drug-free workplace programs
- monitoring prescription opioid use
- court-mandated drug testing
Urine tests are most often conducted in a doctor’s office or medical laboratory setting. Supervision by a medical technician during a drug test may be required to ensure the accuracy of test results while acquiring a urine sample.
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Although heroin can show up in a urine screening for up to three days on average, there are a range of biological, hereditary, and personal factors that can influence drug detection times.
What Factors Can Affect Drug Detection Times?
Heroin doesn’t remain detectable for the same amount of time for everyone.
People who use heroin once, for instance, are likely to excrete it faster than people who are addicted and use it very often.
The following are factors that can influence how long heroin stays in the system:
- frequency of heroin use
- amount of heroin used
- polysubstance abuse (abusing multiple drugs)
- level of hydration
- overall health
- body composition (body fat, weight, height)
- hereditary factors
- history of substance abuse or mental illness
Drug abuse and addiction can influence how long drugs stay in a person’s system.
This is in part because people who become addicted to drugs can’t go without them for long, as this can trigger withdrawal symptoms.
How To Tell If Someone Is Using Heroin
Heroin is an addictive drug that can affect both the brain and body. This drug can be found in the form of a white or brownish powder or dark, tar-like substance (black tar heroin).
Heroin is primarily used for its euphoric effects, which can set in within seconds to minutes after use. This can cause a powerful sensation of relaxation and happiness.
Signs of heroin use can include:
- slow or slurred speech
- track marks on the arms
- tiny pupils
- mood changes
- changes in blood pressure or heart rhythm
- withdrawal symptoms (e.g. fatigue, diarrhea, muscle and bone pain)
People who use heroin may become secretive or withdraw from the people they love. Heroin can quickly become addictive. Once addicted, it can be difficult to stop taking it alone.
Treatment For Heroin Abuse And Addiction
Heroin addiction can make a person unrecognizable from who they were before. It can change how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.
Many rehab centers across the country offer treatment programs to help people overcome heroin addiction and begin the path towards recovery.
Heroin addiction is primarily treated with medications such as buprenorphine and methadone alongside behavioral therapy.
- detox programs
- inpatient rehab programs
- residential rehab programs
- outpatient rehab programs
- medication-assisted treatment programs
- aftercare programs
Heroin can have dangerous effects on physical and mental health. If you’re concerned about heroin showing up on a drug test, it may be time to seek help.
Call our helpline today to find heroin addiction treatment options 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
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—Heroin
- Mayo Clinic Laboratories—Drug Testing: Opiates
- Redwood Toxicology Laboratory—Laboratory Testing Reference Guide