Heroin addiction is an insidious and destructive disease and as heroin addicts become more addicted, they need to inject a greater dose of the drug to get the same high that they experienced the first time.

A brief history of heroin

Heroin, a powerful opiate-based drug, has been around since the 1870’s and has an interesting history. Opium poppies have been grown in the Middle East for thousands of years and opium, made from the seeds of the poppy plant, spread throughout the world more than five centuries ago.  In the 1800’s a French pharmacist named Friedrich Serturner was able to isolate one of the active ingredients of opium, morphine and turn it into a widely used medication for the treatment of pain. It was also used to treat opium addiction, before people realised how addictive the morphine itself could become.

In the 1870’s an English chemist named Charles Romley Alder Wright experimented with combining morphine and various acids. His work produced a chemical called diacetylmorphine, alternatively known as heroin.  It has a similar structure to morphine but is more than twice as strong. The drug that Alder Wright produced may be very effective for pain relieve but it is highly addictive and causes a multitude of health problems, including depression.

Drug testing for heroin

Opioids are metabolised differently by different people and will remain in some people’s systems for longer than others. Your weight, height, body fat percentage, age, overall health and levels of physical activity all play a role in how your body metabolises drugs. Besides your physicality, the time that it takes your body to metabolise heroin can also depend on a number of other factors, including the amount of the drug that you took, the length of time that you have been abusing heroin, the frequency of your heroin use and the severity of your addiction to heroin.

Heroin has an extremely short half-life and it only stays in your system for approximately 30 minutes or less. Heroin rapidly breaks down into morphine and 6-Monoacetylmoprhine (6-MAM). This makes drug testing for heroin difficult. But while it is difficult for tests to detect heroin in your system, the presence of heroin metabolites in the body is an indication of recent heroin use. Morphine and 6-MAM can be detected in the body by most standard drug test for up to three days. 6-MAM can be identified in a urine test for approximately eight hours after heroin was last administered. Heroin can be detected in saliva for 24 to 36 hours.

Heroin contains trace amounts of acetyl codeine and testing for a combination of morphine and codeine in your urine can be an indicator of recent heroin use. The ratio of morphine to codeine in the urine can help lab technicians ascertain whether an addict has taken heroin or codeine.

Hair samples are also used to test for heroin in a person’s system. Hair sample tests can detect long term drug use, and in some instances, heroin can be found in hair follicles years after it was lasted ingested. Typically, however, heroin can be detected in hair samples for approximately 90 days, depending on when last the hair was cut.

How long do the effects of heroin last?

Heroin is an extremely powerful opiate based drug that produces an intense high. The intensity of the high might not last that long but the physical effects of a fix can last for several hours. When you inject heroin directly into your body it produces a feeling of euphoria within seconds but when you smoke heroin the euphoric feeling takes about 10 to 15 minutes to develop.

Other than euphoria, addicts using heroin will experience a number of physical sensations like warm flushes, heavy limbs and a dryness of the mouth. As your heroin intake increases and your body becomes more addicted to the drug, you will need to take increasingly higher doses to experience the euphoric effects of the drug but if you take too much, you will overdose. Addicts who suffer from severe heroin addiction usually reach a point where their bodies are so physically dependant on the drug that they have to keep taking it not to feel euphoric but to avoid suffering from the terrible symptoms of heroin withdrawal.

Symptoms of heroin withdrawal

One of the hardest things about drug rehab is the detox and withdrawal process. Heroin withdrawal is extremely uncomfortable and the symptoms usually last for approximately a week. Heroin withdrawal typically follows a predictable pattern and since the drug has a short half-life, withdrawal symptoms are typically experienced within 6 to 12 hours of your last fix, they are at their worst within 2 to 3 days and can last between five and ten days. The severity of your withdrawal symptoms will depend on a number of factors like the length, severity, and frequency of your heroin addiction. During the detox process, your withdrawal symptoms can include; sweating, Muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia.

Heroin detox isn’t considered life-threatening but some of the psychological symptoms like depression and anxiety can have life-threatening consequences. Because detoxing from heroin is so difficult, it should never be done cold turkey or without some form of medical support. Most residential rehab facilities offer medically assisted detox for heroin addicts. During this process, you will be under 24-hour medical supervision and will be administered prescription medications to lessen the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and help wean your body off heroin. For most heroin users, medically assisted detox is the most effective way to start the rehab process.

Heroin abuse and addiction is highly destructive and life-threatening. The most effective way to overcome addiction is to seek professional help and enter a residential rehab programme. At Ocean Recovery& Wellness Centre we combine comfortable accommodation with a carefully developed therapy programme that has helped thousands of addicts rebuild their lives. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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Heroin Detox

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: December 14, 2021

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.