This article reviews the pharmacokinetics of heroin after intravenous, oral, intranasal, intramuscular and rectal application and after inhalation in humans, with a special focus on heroin maintenance therapy in heroin dependent patients. In heroin maintenance therapy high doses pharmaceutically prepared heroin (up to 1000 mg/day) are prescribed to chronic heroin dependents, who do not respond to conventional interventions such as methadone maintenance treatment. Possible drug-drug interactions with the hydrolysis of heroin into 6-monoacetylmorphine and morphine, the glucuronidation of morphine and interactions with drug transporting proteins are described. Since renal and hepatic impairment is common in the special population of heroin dependent patients, specific attention was paid on the impact of renal and hepatic impairment. Hepatic impairment did not seem to have a clinically relevant effect on the pharmacokinetics of heroin and its metabolites. However, some modest effects of renal impairment have been noted, and therefore control of the creatinine clearance during heroin-assisted treatment seems recommendable.
Keywords: Heroin, Metabolism, Morphine-3-gluronide, Glucuronidation, Pharmacokinetics, P-glycoprotein, Drug Interactions