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Medically Reviewed

How Long Does a Heroin High Last?

- 5 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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medically-verified

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Heroin is a powerful and highly addictive opioid drug that slows down the central nervous system, increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, and produces a strong, euphoric high. People who struggle with heroin addiction may wonder how long a heroin high lasts so they can predict when their withdrawal symptoms will begin. However, it can also be used by substance abuse treatment providers to determine when the withdrawal will start and when they can begin administering opioid-replacement medications like buprenorphine to patients. After all, taking buprenorphine too quickly after using heroin can lead to dangerous and painful symptoms.

The effects produced by heroin generally happen in two stages. The first is the initial rush of euphoria, warmth, and tingling users feel when the effects of the drug kick in. This stage only lasts a few minutes to hours depending on the method of administration (i.e. injecting, snorting, smoking, or swallowing). The second stage is the rest of the high where users feel pain relief, relaxation, sleepiness, and mild euphoria. The length of time this stage lasts depends on various different factors, but usually ranges between 2-5 hours.

Heroin

What Does a Heroin High Feel Like?

After heroin enters the brain it is converted to morphine. As a result, the effects produced by heroin are extremely similar to morphine. The main difference is that heroin is far more potent.[1]

Shortly after entering the body, individuals may feel a wave of nausea followed by a rush of euphoria, warmth, relaxation, and pain relief. Users may feel a heaviness in their arms and legs. They may also feel dizzy or lightheaded.

After the initial rush wears off, people experience slowed heart rate and breathing, sleepiness, calmness, shallow breathing, reduced body temperature, and reduced inhibitions.[1] If a person takes too much heroin, he or she may experience an overdose, leading to life-threatening symptoms like abnormal heart rhythms, unresponsiveness, blue or clammy skin, or a dangerously slow pulse.

Factors That Affect How Long a Heroin High Lasts

There are many different factors that influence how long the effects of heroin last, such as:

  • The method of administration – Snorting or smoking heroin will produce a longer-lasting high than injecting it will.
  • The potency of the drug – Heroin is not regulated and is manufactured in clandestine laboratories. The potency can vary greatly. The stronger the heroin, the longer it may last.
  • Amount of the drug taken – Taking a higher dose may lead to a stronger, longer-lasting high, but it also increases the risk of overdose.
  • Tolerance level – People who use heroin regularly will develop a tolerance. Tolerance means they need to take increasingly large amounts of heroin to feel the same effects. Someone with a high tolerance who takes a low dose may not feel the effects for as long as they would if they didn’t have a tolerance.
  • Combining heroin with alcohol or other drugs – Polydrug use can increase the effects of heroin and make the high feel like it lasts longer, but it can also increase the risk for overdose and adverse health complications.

How Long Do The Effects of Heroin Usually Last?

How long a heroin high lasts mostly depends on the method of administration used. The three most popular ways to use heroin are by injection, inhalation (smoking), and insufflation (snorting).[2]

How long the effects of Heroin last

  • Injecting heroin – If heroin is injected into a vein, a person will begin feeling the effects within 5-10 seconds. After 20-30 seconds, the strongest of the effects will set in. The initial rush of euphoria only lasts about 10-15 minutes, but the total high can last 2-3 hours depending on the dose taken and the person’s tolerance level.
  • Smoking heroin – If heroin is smoked, the effects begin within a couple of minutes after inhaling the smoke. They usually peak around 10 minutes after smoking and can last for 4-5 hours.
  • Snorting heroin – If heroin is snorted, the effects begin about 10 minutes after insufflation, peak between 20 minutes to one hour, and begin wearing off after 4-5 hours.

What Does it Feel Like When Heroin Wears Off?

The main reason why drug users may wonder how long a heroin high lasts is because they are counting down the minutes or hours until they go into withdrawal. Withdrawal occurs when someone who is physically dependent on heroin stops using the drug. Not everyone who uses heroin will go into withdrawal, though.

People who are not yet physically dependent on heroin may feel a little tired or fatigued after the drug wears off. They may even begin thinking about using the drug again. However, these individuals do not get sick in the same way people who are dependent on heroin do.

People who are physically addicted to heroin may experience flu-like withdrawal symptoms just hours after their last dose of heroin wears off. These symptoms may include:[3]

heroin withdrawal symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Drug cravings
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Goosebumps
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

These symptoms can last for a week or more depending on the severity of the person’s addiction. While heroin withdrawal is not life-threatening, it is best to detox at a licensed medical detox facility.

Find Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction

If you constantly find yourself wondering how long your next heroin high will last so you know exactly how long you have to get your hands on more heroin before you get sick, you’re not alone. Our team at Carolina Center for Recovery treats patients every day who are just like you–living for their next high, regardless of the consequences. The good news is our evidence-based clinical approach can help you overcome heroin addiction by introducing you to a way of recovery that really works.

Don’t wait any longer. The best time to get help is now. Contact us today to learn about our heroin treatment options in North Carolina.

References:

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-immediate-short-term-effects-heroin-use
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/heroinrrs_11_14.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/

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