Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Drug test

Drug test

Overview
A drug test is a technical analysis of a biological specimen – for example urine, hair, blood, sweat, or oral fluid / saliva – to determine the presence or absence of specified parent drugs or their metabolite
Metabolite
Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules. A primary metabolite is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. Alcohol is an example of a primary metabolite produced in large-scale by industrial...

s. Major uses of drug testing are to detect the presence of performance enhancing steroid
Steroid
A steroid is a type of organic compound that contains a characteristic arrangement of four cycloalkane rings that are joined to each other. Examples of steroids include the dietary fat cholesterol, the sex hormones estradiol and testosterone, and the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone.The core...

s in sport or for drugs prohibited
Prohibition (drugs)
The prohibition of drugs through sumptuary legislation or religious law is a common means of attempting to prevent drug use. Prohibition of drugs has existed at various levels of government or other authority from the Middle Ages to the present....

 by laws, such as cannabis
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

, cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 and heroin.

The following chart from LabCorp
LabCorp
Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings , more commonly known as LabCorp, is an S&P 500 company headquartered in Burlington, North Carolina. It operates one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the world, with a United States network of 36 primary laboratories. Before a merger with...

 gives approximate detection periods for each substance by test type.

The detection windows depend upon multiple factors – drug class,amount and frequency of use, metabolic rate, body mass, age, overall health, and urine pH.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Drug test'
Start a new discussion about 'Drug test'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
A drug test is a technical analysis of a biological specimen – for example urine, hair, blood, sweat, or oral fluid / saliva – to determine the presence or absence of specified parent drugs or their metabolite
Metabolite
Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules. A primary metabolite is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. Alcohol is an example of a primary metabolite produced in large-scale by industrial...

s. Major uses of drug testing are to detect the presence of performance enhancing steroid
Steroid
A steroid is a type of organic compound that contains a characteristic arrangement of four cycloalkane rings that are joined to each other. Examples of steroids include the dietary fat cholesterol, the sex hormones estradiol and testosterone, and the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone.The core...

s in sport or for drugs prohibited
Prohibition (drugs)
The prohibition of drugs through sumptuary legislation or religious law is a common means of attempting to prevent drug use. Prohibition of drugs has existed at various levels of government or other authority from the Middle Ages to the present....

 by laws, such as cannabis
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

, cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 and heroin.

Detection periods


The following chart from LabCorp
LabCorp
Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings , more commonly known as LabCorp, is an S&P 500 company headquartered in Burlington, North Carolina. It operates one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the world, with a United States network of 36 primary laboratories. Before a merger with...

 gives approximate detection periods for each substance by test type.

The detection windows depend upon multiple factors – drug class,amount and frequency of use, metabolic rate, body mass, age, overall health, and urine pH. For ease of use, the detection times of metabolite
Metabolite
Metabolites are the intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules. A primary metabolite is directly involved in normal growth, development, and reproduction. Alcohol is an example of a primary metabolite produced in large-scale by industrial...

s have been incorporated into each parent drug. For example, heroin and cocaine can only be detected for a few hours after use, but their metabolites can be detected for several days in urine. In this type of situation, we will report the (longer) detection times of the metabolites.
  • NOTE 1: Oral fluid or saliva testing
    Saliva testing
    Saliva testing is a diagnostic technique that involves laboratory analysis of saliva to identify markers of endocrine, immunologic, inflammatory, infectious, and other types of conditions. Saliva is a useful biological fluid for assaying steroid hormones such as cortisol, genetic material like...

     results for the most part mimic that of blood. The only exceptions are THC (tetrahyrocannabinol) and benzodiazepines. Oral fluid will likely detect THC from ingestion up to a maximum period of 6–12 hours. Low saliva:plasma ratio continues to cause difficulty in oral fluid detection of THC and benzodiazepines
  • NOTE 2: Rapid oral fluid products are not approved for use in workplace drug testing programs and are not FDA cleared. Using rapid oral fluid drug tests in the workplace is a violation of many state and federal laws.
    Approximate values for detection periods
    Substance Urine Hair Blood / Oral Fluid
    Alcohol
    Ethanol
    Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

    6–24 hours Note: Alcohol tests may measure EtG which can stay in urine for up to 80 hours up to 2 days 12–24 hours
    Amphetamines (except methamphetamine) 1 to 5 days up to 90 days 12 hours
    Methamphetamine
    Methamphetamine
    Methamphetamine is a psychostimulant of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of psychoactive drugs...

    3 to 5 days up to 90 days 1–3 days
    MDMA (Ecstasy) 72 hours up to 90 days 24 hours
    Barbiturates (except phenobarbital) 1 day up to 90 days 1 to 2 days
    Phenobarbital
    Phenobarbital
    Phenobarbital or phenobarbitone is a barbiturate, first marketed as Luminal by Friedr. Bayer et comp. It is the most widely used anticonvulsant worldwide, and the oldest still commonly used. It also has sedative and hypnotic properties but, as with other barbiturates, has been superseded by the...

    2 to 3 weeks up to 90 days 4 to 7 days
    Benzodiazepines Therapeutic use: up to 7 days. Chronic use (over one year): 4 to 6 weeks up to 90 days 6 to 48 hours
    Cannabis
    Cannabis
    Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre , for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a...

    2 to 7 days, up to >30 days after heavy use and/or in users with high body fat up to 90 days 2–3 days in blood, up to 2 weeks in blood of heavy users However, it depends on whether actual THC or THC metabolites are being tested for, the latter having a much longer detection time than the former. THC (found in marijuana) may only be detectable in saliva/oral fluid for 2–24 hours in most cases.
    Cocaine
    Cocaine
    Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

    2 to 5 days with exceptions for certain kidney disorders up to 90 days 2 to 5 days
    Codeine
    Codeine
    Codeine or 3-methylmorphine is an opiate used for its analgesic, antitussive, and antidiarrheal properties...

    2 to 3 days
    Cotinine
    Cotinine
    Cotinine is an alkaloid found in tobacco and is also a metabolite of nicotine. The word "cotinine" is an anagram of "nicotine". Cotinine is used as a biomarker for exposure to tobacco smoke and has also been sold as an antidepressant under the brand name Scotine.Similarly to nicotine, cotinine...

     (a break-down product of nicotine
    Nicotine
    Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants that constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of the dry weight of tobacco, with biosynthesis taking place in the roots and accumulation occurring in the leaves...

    )
    2 to 4 days up to 90 days 2 to 4 days
    Morphine
    Morphine
    Morphine is a potent opiate analgesic medication and is considered to be the prototypical opioid. It was first isolated in 1804 by Friedrich Sertürner, first distributed by same in 1817, and first commercially sold by Merck in 1827, which at the time was a single small chemists' shop. It was more...

    2 to 4 days up to 90 days 1 – 3 days
    Heroin 1 to 4 days up to 90 days 1– 2 days
    LSD
    LSD
    Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD or LSD-25, also known as lysergide and colloquially as acid, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drug of the ergoline family, well known for its psychological effects which can include altered thinking processes, closed and open eye visuals, synaesthesia, an...

    12 to 24 hours Undetectable 2 to 4 days
    Methadone
    Methadone
    Methadone is a synthetic opioid, used medically as an analgesic and a maintenance anti-addictive for use in patients with opioid dependency. It was developed in Germany in 1937...

    3 days up to 97 days 24 hours
    PCP
    Phencyclidine
    Phencyclidine , commonly initialized as PCP and known colloquially as angel dust, is a recreational dissociative drug...

    3 to 7 days for single use; up to 30 days in chronic users up to 90 days 1 to 3 days

Urine drug screen


When an employer requests a drug test from an employee, or a physician requests a drug test from a patient, the employee or patient is typically instructed to go to a collection site. The patient or employee’s urine is collected at a remote location in a specially designed secure cup, sealed with tamper-resistant tape, and sent via express delivery service to a testing laboratory to be screened for drugs (typically SAMHSA 5 panel).
The first step at the testing site is to split the urine into two aliquot
Aliquot
Aliquot may refer to:In mathematics:*Aliquot part, a proper divisor of an integer*Aliquot sum, the sum of the aliquot parts of an integer*Aliquot sequence, a sequence of integers in which each number is the aliquot sum of the previous numberIn music:...

s. One aliquot is first screened for drugs using an analyzer that performs immunoassay as the initial screen. If the urine screen is positive then another aliquot of the sample is used to confirm the findings by gas chromatography – mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles.It is used for determining masses of particles, for determining the elemental composition of a sample or molecule, and for elucidating the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and...

 (GC-MS) methodology. If requested by the physician or employer, certain drugs are screened for individually; these are generally drugs part of a chemical class that are, for one of many reasons, considered more abuse-prone or of concern. For instance, this is, due to their wide recreational use (much more than similar drugs), done to oxycodone
Oxycodone
Oxycodone is an opioid analgesic medication synthesized from opium-derived thebaine. It was developed in 1916 in Germany, as one of several new semi-synthetic opioids in an attempt to improve on the existing opioids: morphine, diacetylmorphine , and codeine.Oxycodone oral medications are generally...

 and diamorphine, both sedative
Sedative
A sedative or tranquilizer is a substance that induces sedation by reducing irritability or excitement....

 analgesics. If such a test is not requested specifically, the more general test (in the preceding case, the test for opiates) will detect the drugs, but the employer or patient will not have the benefit of the identity of the drug.

Employment-related test results are relayed to an MRO (Medical Review Office) where a medical physician reviews the results. If the result of the screen is negative, the MRO informs the employer that the employee has no detectable drug in the urine.
However, if the test result of the immunoassay and GC-MS are non-negative and show a concentration level of parent drug or metabolite above the established limit, the MRO contacts the employee to determine if there is any legitimate reason – such as a medical treatment or prescription. If the test results are for other reasons, the testing laboratory will instead contact the physician who ordered the test.

On-site instant drug testing is becoming more widely used in those jurisdictions allowing it (such as some states of the USA) as a more cost-efficient method of effectively detecting drug abuse amongst employees, as well as in rehabilitation programs to monitor patient progress. These instant tests can be used for both urine and saliva testing. Although the accuracy of such tests varies with the manufacturer, some kits boast extremely high rates of accuracy, correlating closely with laboratory test results.

Hair testing



Hair analysis to detect drugs of abuse have been used by UK and Canadian courts, and hair testing for alcohol markers is now recognised in both the UK and US judicial systems. There are guidelines for hair testing that have been published by the Society of Hair Testing that specify the markers to be tested for and the cutoff concentrations that need to be tested. There are only a few UKAS ISO17025 accredited laboratories in the UK including Tricho Tech based in Cardiff and Alpha Biolaboratories based in Warrington, UK. Drugs of abuse that can be detected include Cannabis, Cocaine, Amphetamines and drugs new to the UK such as Mephedrone.

The hair follicle test is growing in popularity because it is less invasive than a urine screen, it is harder to falsify or tamper with the specimen, and the detection window is extended to roughly three months. Hair for testing can be collected from anywhere on the body, so the test can be utilized even when someone is bald or shaves their head. Because body hair grows at a different rate than head hair, some people have made the correlation that drug use can be detected in body hair for up to 12 months.

Alcohol


In contrast to other drugs consumed, alcohol is not deposited directly in the hair. For this reason the investigation procedure looks for direct products of ethanol metabolism. The main part of alcohol is oxidized in the human body. This means it is released as water and carbon dioxide. One part of the alcohol reacts with fatty acids to produce esters. The sum of the concentrations of four of these fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs: ethyl myristate, ethyl palmitate, ethyl oleate and ethyl stearate) are used as indicators of the alcohol consumption. The amounts found in hair are measured in nanograms (one nanogram equals only one billionth of a gram), however with the benefit of modern technology, it is possible to detect such small amounts. In the detection of ethyl glucuronide, or EtG, testing can detect amounts in picograms (one picogram equals 0.001 nanograms).

However there is one major difference between most drugs and alcohol metabolites in the way in which they enter into the hair: on the one hand like other drugs FAEEs enter into the hair via the keratinocytes, the cells responsible for hair growth. These cells form the hair in the root and then grow through the skin surface taking any substances with them. On the other hand the sebaceous glands produce FAEEs in the scalp and these migrate together with the sebum along the hair shaft (Auwärter et al., 2001, Pragst et al., 2004). So these glands lubricate not only the part of the hair that is just growing at 0.3 mm per day on the skin surface, but also the more mature hair growth, providing it with a protective layer of fat.

FAEEs (nanogram = one billionth of a gram) appear in hair in almost one order of magnitude lower than (the relevant order of magnitude of) EtG (picogram = one trillionth of a gram). It has been technically possible to measure FAEEs since 1993, and the first study reporting the detection of EtG in hair was done by Sachs in 1993.

In practice, most hair which is sent for analysis has been cosmetically treated in some way (bleached, permed etc.). It has been proven that FAEEs are (surprisingly) not significantly affected by such treatments (Hartwig et al., 2003a). FAEE concentrations in hair from other body sites can be interpreted in a similar fashion as scalp hair (Hartwig et al., 2003b).

Hair Alcohol Testing was first commercialised in the UK by Trimega Laboratories.

Saliva drug screen / Oral fluid-based drug screen


Saliva
Saliva
Saliva , referred to in various contexts as spit, spittle, drivel, drool, or slobber, is the watery substance produced in the mouths of humans and most other animals. Saliva is a component of oral fluid. In mammals, saliva is produced in and secreted from the three pairs of major salivary glands,...

 / oral fluid-based drug tests can generally detect use during the previous few hours to 1–2 days. THC may only be detectable for less than 12.0 hours in most cases. On site drug tests are allowed per the Department of Labor.

Detection in saliva tests begins almost immediately upon use of the following substances, and lasts for approximately the following times:
  • Alcohol: 6–24 h


NOTE: Saliva tests are poorly sensitive to THC and detection times can vary considerably based on the cutoffs used. In some cases drug use may only be detectable for a few hours.

Adulteration products are readily available on the Internet to avoid oral fluid detection.

Sweat drug screen


Sweat patches are attached to the skin to collect sweat over a long period of time (up to 14 days). These are almost exclusively used by child protective services, parole departments, and other government institutions concerned with drug use over long periods, when urine testing is not practical.

Blood


Drug-testing a blood sample measures whether or not a drug or a metabolite is in the body at a particular time. These types of tests are considered to be the most accurate way of telling if a person is intoxicated. Blood drug tests are not used very often because they need specialized equipment and medically trained administers. These factors make it a more costly testing method.

Depending on how much marijuana was consumed, it can usually be detected in blood tests within six hours of consumption. After six hours has passed, the concentration of marijuana in the blood decreases significantly. It generally disappears completely after 30-90 days.

Drug testing methodologies


The different types of drug tests are done in similar ways. Before testing the sample, the tamper-evident
Tamper-evident
Tamper-evident describes a device or process that makes unauthorized access to the protected object easily detected. Seals, markings or other techniques may be tamper indicating.-Tampering:...

 seal is checked for integrity. If it appears to have been tampered with or damaged, the laboratory rejects the sample and does not test it.

Next, the sample must be made testable. Urine and oral fluid can be used "as is" for some tests, but other tests require the drugs to be extracted from urine. Strands of hair, patches, and blood must be prepared before testing. Hair is washed in order to eliminate second-hand sources of drugs on the surface of the hair, then the keratin
Keratin
Keratin refers to a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the key of structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. It is also the key structural component of hair and nails...

 is broken down using enzymes. Blood plasma
Blood plasma
Blood plasma is the straw-colored liquid component of blood in which the blood cells in whole blood are normally suspended. It makes up about 55% of the total blood volume. It is the intravascular fluid part of extracellular fluid...

 may need to be separated by centrifuge
Centrifuge
A centrifuge is a piece of equipment, generally driven by an electric motor , that puts an object in rotation around a fixed axis, applying a force perpendicular to the axis...

 from blood cells prior to testing. Sweat patches are opened and the sweat collection component is removed and soaked in a solvent
Solvent
A solvent is a liquid, solid, or gas that dissolves another solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution that is soluble in a certain volume of solvent at a specified temperature...

 to dissolve any drugs present.

Laboratory-based drug testing is done in two steps. The first step is the screening test, which is applied to all samples. The second step, known as the confirmation test, is only applied to samples that test positive during the screening test. Screening tests are usually done by immunoassay
Immunoassay
An immunoassay is a biochemical test that measures the presence or concentration of a substance in solutions that frequently contain a complex mixture of substances. Analytes in biological liquids such as serum or urine are frequently assayed using immunoassay methods...

 (EMIT
Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Technique
Enzyme multiplied immunoassay technique, or EMIT, is a common method for screening urine and blood for drugs, both legal or illicit. First introduced by Syva Company in 1973, it is the first homogeneous immunoassay to be widely used commercially....

, ELISA
ELISA
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay , is a popular format of a "wet-lab" type analytic biochemistry assay that uses one sub-type of heterogeneous, solid-phase enzyme immunoassay to detect the presence of a substance in a liquid sample."Wet lab" analytic biochemistry assays involves detection of an...

, and RIA are the most common). A "dipstick" drug testing method which could provide screening test capabilities to field investigators has been developed at the University of Illinois
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...

.

After a suspected positive sample is detected during screening, the sample is tested using a confirmation test. Samples that are negative on the screening test are discarded and reported as negative. The confirmation test in most laboratories (and all SAMHSA certified labs) is performed using mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles.It is used for determining masses of particles, for determining the elemental composition of a sample or molecule, and for elucidating the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and...

, and is precise but expensive. False positive samples from the screening test will almost always be negative on the confirmation test. Samples testing positive during both screening and confirmation tests are reported as positive to the entity that ordered the test. Most laboratories save positive samples for some period of months or years in the event of a disputed result or lawsuit. For workplace drug testing, a positive result is generally not confirmed without a review by a Medical Review Officer who will normally interview the subject of the drug test.

Anabolic steroids


Anabolic steroid
Anabolic steroid
Anabolic steroids, technically known as anabolic-androgen steroids or colloquially simply as "steroids", are drugs that mimic the effects of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in the body. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the buildup of cellular tissue ,...

s are used to enhance performance in sport and as they are prohibited in most high-level competitions drug testing is used extensively in order to enforce this prohibition. This particularly so in individual (rather than team) sports such as Athletics and Cycling.

Random drug testing


Can occur at anytime, usually when the instigator has reason to believe that a substance is being abused by the subject.

Diagnostic screening


In the case of life-threatening symptoms, unconsciousness, or bizarre behavior in an emergency situation, screening for common drugs and toxins may help find the cause, called a toxicology test or tox screen to denote the broader area of possible substances than self-administered drugs. The test is usually done within 96 h (4 days) after the estimated time of intoxication. Both a urine sample and a blood sample may be tested. A blood sample is routinely used to detect ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

/methanol
Methanol
Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH . It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol...

 and ASA/paracetamol
Paracetamol
Paracetamol INN , or acetaminophen USAN , is a widely used over-the-counter analgesic and antipyretic . It is commonly used for the relief of headaches and other minor aches and pains and is a major ingredient in numerous cold and flu remedies...

 intoxication. Various panels are used for screening urine samples for common substances, e.g. triage 8 that detects amphetamine
Amphetamine
Amphetamine or amfetamine is a psychostimulant drug of the phenethylamine class which produces increased wakefulness and focus in association with decreased fatigue and appetite.Brand names of medications that contain, or metabolize into, amphetamine include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat,...

, benzodiazepine
Benzodiazepine
A benzodiazepine is a psychoactive drug whose core chemical structure is the fusion of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring...

s, cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

, methadone
Methadone
Methadone is a synthetic opioid, used medically as an analgesic and a maintenance anti-addictive for use in patients with opioid dependency. It was developed in Germany in 1937...

, opiates, cannabis
Cannabis
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre , for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a...

, barbiturates and tricyclic antidepressants. Results are given in 10–15 min.

Similar screenings may be used in to evaluate the possible use of date rape drugs. This is usually done on a urine sample.

Urine drug testing


Urine drug test kits are available as on-site tests, or laboratory analysis. Urinalysis is the most common test type and used by federally mandated drug testing programs and is considered the Gold Standard of drug testing. Urine based tests have been upheld in most courts for more than 30 years, however, urinalysis conducted by the Department of Defense has been challenged for reliability of testing the metabolite of cocaine. There are two associated metabolites of cocaine, benzoylecgonine (BZ) and ecgonine methyl ester (EME), the first (BZ)is created by the presence of cocaine in an aqeous solution with a pH greater than 7.0, while the second (EME) results from the actual human metabolic process. The presence of EME confirms actual ingestion of cocaine by a human being, while the presence of BZ is indicative only. BZ without EME is evidence of sample contamination, however, the US Department of Defense has chosen not to test for EME in its urinalysis program.

A disadvantage of saliva based drug testing is that it is not approved by FDA or SAMHSA for use with DOT / Federal Mandated Drug Testing. Oral fluid is not considered a bio-hazard unless there is visible blood; however, it should be treated with care.

Spray (sweat) drug testing


Spray (sweat) drug test kits are non-invasive. It is a simple process to collect the required specimen, no bathroom is needed, no laboratory is required for analysis, and the tests themselves are difficult to manipulate and relatively tamper-resistant. The detection window is long and can detect recent drug use within several hours.

There are also some disadvantages to spray or sweat testing. There is not much variety in these drug tests since they are not as popular as urine or saliva drug testing kits, a limited number of drugs that can be detected, prices tend to be higher, and inconclusive results can be produced by variations in sweat production rates in donors. They also have a relatively long specimen collection period and are more vulnerable to contamination than other common forms of testing.

Hair drug testing


Hair drug testing can detect drug use over a much longer period of time, which is often used for highly safety-critical positions where there is zero tolerance of illegal drug use. Standard hair follicle screen covers a period of 30 to 90 days. The growth of hair is usually at the rate of 0.5 inches per month. The hair sample is cut close to the scalp and 80 to 120 strands of hair are needed for the test. In the absence of hair on the head, body hair can be used as an acceptable substitute. Even if the person being tested has a shaved head, hair can also be taken from almost any other area of the body. This includes facial hair, the underarms, arms, and legs or even pubic hair.

The claim that a hair test cannot be tampered with has been shown to be debatable. One study has shown that THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol
Tetrahydrocannabinol , also known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol , Δ1-THC , or dronabinol, is the main chemical psychoactive substance found in the cannabis plant. It was first isolated in 1964. In pure form, it is a glassy solid when cold, and becomes viscous and sticky if warmed...

 does not readily deposit inside epithelial cells so it is possible for cosmetic and other forms of adulteration to reduce the amount of testable cannabinoids within a hair sample.

Legality, ethics and politics of mandatory drugs testing


Drug testing is more likely to catch cannabis
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 users, since THC
THC
THC commonly refers to tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active chemical compound in Cannabis.THC may also refer to:* Tan Holdings Corporation...

 metabolites are fat soluble and have a longer duration in the body than those of other drugs which are widely considered more dangerous such as cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 and heroin. This can potentially lead would-be cannabis users to switch to harder drugs, most of which generally have significantly shorter detection times and/or are less likely to be tested for. It has also been noted that routine medical test
Medical test
A diagnostic test is any kind of medical test performed to aid in the diagnosis or detection of disease. For example:* to diagnose diseases, and preferably sub-classify it regarding, for example, severity and treatability...

s are subject to errors of the same type that threaten the accuracy of drug tests, but medical tests are neither random nor mandatory, and are usually performed in test panel
Test panel
A test panel is a predetermined group of medical tests as an aid in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.Test panels are typically composed of individual laboratory tests which are related in some way: by the medical condition they are intended to help diagnose , by the specimen type , by the...

s that give the physician several results to interpret together, with unusual combinations generally resulting in retesting and a search for other corroborating evidence. Drug tests are not parts of such panels, and other evidence is often not available. In 1985, the Centers for Disease Control sent urine samples to 13 unsuspecting laboratories and found that "laboratories are often unable to detect drugs at concentrations called for by their contracts." Wide ranges in accuracy across facilities were noted. One study found that implementation of mandatory drug testing for truckers contributed to a 9–10 percent reduction in truck accident fatalities. The results of federally mandating drug testing were similar to the effects of simply extending to the trucking industry the right to perform drug tests, and it has been argued that the latter approach would have been as effective at lower cost.

United Kingdom


A study in 2004 by the Independent Inquiry into Drug Testing at Work found that attempts by employers to force employees to take drug tests could potentially be challenged as a violation of privacy under the Human Rights Act 1998
Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998, and mostly came into force on 2 October 2000. Its aim is to "give further effect" in UK law to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights...

 and Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. However, this does not apply to industries where drug testing is a matter of personal and public safety or security rather than productivity.

United States


Mandatory drug testing entered American life through two separate historical routes. The first was through the common law system, employing precedents philosophically derived from the idiosyncratic rules governing the "king's forest" and the "king's highway". From these arcane precepts are derived the laws which allow legal authorities to detain and test persons under suspicion of driving under the influence of a psychoactive drug.

The second route was more recently constructed and originated from an incident that occurred in the US Navy. After a plane crashed onto the carrier deck of the USS Nimitz in 1981, killing and injuring dozens of personnel, drug testing was instituted immediately. The results revealed a large substance-using cohort within the ranks of enlisted persons and officers. As a result of this single incident, the Secretary of the Navy instituted an intensive drug testing and regulation program. These interventions were then adopted by other branches of the service over a three-year period. From these actions was derived the concept of a "drug-free workplace". In consultation with his drug czar, Dr. Carlton Turner, President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12564. In doing so, he instituted mandatory drug-testing for all safety-sensitive executive-level and civil-service Federal employees. This was challenged in the courts
National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab
National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab was a United States Supreme Court case involving the Fourth Amendment and its implication on drug testing programs. The majority of the court upheld the drug testing program in United States Customs Service....

 by the National Treasury Employees Union
National Treasury Employees Union
The National Treasury Employees Union is an independent labor union representing approximately 150,000 employees of 30 agencies of the United States government...

. In 1988, this challenge was considered by the US Supreme Court. A similar challenge resulted in the Court extending the drug-free workplace concept to the private sector. These decisions were then incorporated into the White House Drug Control Strategy directive issued by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. All defendants serving on federal probation
Federal Probation
The Federal Probation Service or United States Probation Service is part of the Federal Judiciary and serves the United States district courts in all 94 judicial federal districts nationwide and constitutes the community corrections arm of the Federal Judiciary...

 or federal supervised release are required to submit to at least three drug tests. Failing a drug test can be construed as possession of a controlled substance, resulting in mandatory revocation and imprisonment.

The federal government sometimes drug tests arrestees who have not yet been convicted. The rationale for such testing is to identify particularly dangerous defendants, the assumption being that drug use is a predictor of other criminal behavior. Research has, indeed, consistently shown that the most frequent, serious offenders are also the heaviest drug users, and studies have shown that persons who tested positive for drugs at arrest were more likely to be rearrested and miss scheduled court appearances than those who did not test positive. One study found that the risk of rearrest in the early weeks after release was about four times higher for drug users than nonusers. There have been inconsistent evaluation results as to whether continued pretrial drug testing has beneficial effects.

Testing positive can lead to bail not being granted, or if bail has already been granted, to bail revocation or other sanctions. Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

 also adopted a law in 1987 authorizing mandatory drug testing of felony arrestees for the purpose of informing the pretrial release decision, and the District of Columbia has had a similar law since the 1970s. It has been argued that one of the problems with such testing is that there is often not enough time between the arrest and the bail decision to confirm positive results using GC/MS technology. It has also been argued that such testing potentially implicates the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, the right to due process (including the prohibition against gathering evidence in a manner that shocks the conscience
Shocks the conscience
Shocks the conscience is a phrase used as a legal standard in the United States and Canada. An action is understood to "shock the conscience" if it is perceived as manifestly and grossly unjust, typically by a judge.-United States:...

 or constitutes outrageous government conduct
Outrageous government conduct
Outrageous government conduct is a criminal defense that presupposes the defendant's predisposition to commit the crime but seeks dismissal of the indictment on the ground that the conduct of law enforcement agents was "so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government...

), and the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures contained in the Fourth Amendment.

According to Henricksson, the anti-drug appeals of the Reagan administration "created an environment in which many employers felt compelled to implement drug testing programs because failure to do so might be perceived as condoning drug use. This fear was easily exploited by aggressive marketing and sales forces, who often overstated the value of testing and painted a bleak picture of the consequences of failing to use the drug testing product or service being offered." On March 10, 1986, the Commission on Organized Crime asked all U.S. companies to test employees for drug use. By 1987, nearly 25% of the Fortune 500
Fortune 500
The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the top 500 U.S. closely held and public corporations as ranked by their gross revenue after adjustments made by Fortune to exclude the impact of excise taxes companies collect. The list includes publicly and...

 companies used drug tests.

Canada


According to the Canadian Human Rights Act
Canadian Human Rights Act
The Canadian Human Rights Act is a statute originally passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1977 with the express goal of extending the law to ensure equal opportunity to individuals who may be victims of discriminatory practices based on a set prohibited grounds such as gender, disability, or...

, random and pre-employment alcohol and drug tests are not allowed in Canada. The one exception to the ban on random drug tests in Canada is alcohol testing including breathalysers in situations where the safety of employees could be at risk if alcohol is consumed at work.

Urban legends, myths, and misconceptions


The increasingly common practice of drug testing has led to an increase in the number of drug users looking for ways to beat the tests, and has spawned a number of myths and urban legends as a result. However, this does not stop users from getting creative in their attempts to somehow shorten the detection times and/or mask the contents of their fluid specimens, with varying degrees of success or lack thereof.

Drinking vinegar will help you pass


This legend is one of the oldest ones in the history of drug testing, and is only partly true. Consumption of vinegar
Vinegar
Vinegar is a liquid substance consisting mainly of acetic acid and water, the acetic acid being produced through the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria. Commercial vinegar is produced either by fast or slow fermentation processes. Slow methods generally are used with traditional...

 will lower the pH of the blood and urine, and drugs that contain amine
Amine
Amines are organic compounds and functional groups that contain a basic nitrogen atom with a lone pair. Amines are derivatives of ammonia, wherein one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a substituent such as an alkyl or aryl group. Important amines include amino acids, biogenic amines,...

 groups (such as amphetamines) will be cleared out somewhat faster as their water solubility increases due to protonation. Also, the reduced pH can potentially throw off the pH-sensitive enzymes in a particular type of bioassay (EMIT) often (but not always) used as the initial screening test, even for non-amine-containing drugs such as THC. Also, the effects of urine acidification on detection times (for any substance) are modest at best, often practically insignificant, and drinking vinegar is thus not very reliable as a standalone measure for beating a drug test.

High doses of niacin will help you pass


This legend has been around for at least a decade. Niacin
Niacin
"Niacin" redirects here. For the neo-fusion band, see Niacin .Niacin is an organic compound with the formula and, depending on the definition used, one of the forty to eighty essential human nutrients.Niacin is one of five vitamins associated with a pandemic deficiency disease: niacin deficiency...

, also known as Vitamin B3, is speciously claimed by some to "burn it out" of one's system when taken at high doses (250–500 mg per day). While some Internet (and other) sources often claim that it works wonders, there is no scientific evidence that it has any effect. Very high doses can also cause adverse side effects.

This legend may have been (inadvertently) inspired by Narconon
Narconon
Narconon is a residential program aimed at substance abusers, headquartered in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. It operates through several dozen treatment centers worldwide, chiefly in the United States and Western Europe. Each Narconon center is independently owned and operated under a license...

, a Scientology
Scientology
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard , starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics...

-based drug rehabilitation program that uses exercise, saunas, and high doses of niacin (and other vitamins) to detox. It is also part of L. Ron Hubbard's general Purification Rundown
Purification Rundown
The Purification Rundown, also known as the Purif or the Hubbard Method, is a controversial detoxification program developed by Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard and used by the Church of Scientology as an introductory service. Scientologists consider it the only effective way to deal with the...

, which Scientology
Scientology
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard , starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics...

 purports to remove pollutants as well as drug residues. However, there are currently no peer-reviewed scientific studies to back these methods up.

Drinking urine will help you pass


Various (mostly internet) sources claim that human urine contains enzymes which, when ingested, can speed the breakdown of THC in the body. While Cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are partially responsible for breaking down THC (and other drugs), are found in trace amounts in urine, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that they can be made biologically available through ingestion. It is possible that this myth is based on some cultures' beliefs that ingested urine contains strong healing and detoxification properties.

Secondhand exposure will cause you to fail


This legend is technically true but highly misleading. According to a U.S. Army study, the amount of secondhand cannabis smoke needed to cause a false positive result (failure) is quite large indeed, and would require being sealed in an unventilated car or small room filled with marijuana smokers for several hours. Hair testing, however, is a different matter, particularly with passive exposure to crack/cocaine, which can deposit onto hair and be readily incorporated into it. Though for cannabis, typically only metabolites (produced by the body and thus not found in smoke) are tested rather than THC, so failure is unlikely to result from non-extreme passive exposure.

Ibuprofen causes false positives for THC


While this was true in the past, newer versions of the EMIT bioassay are much less sensitive to ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), and this has become relatively uncommon as of 1998, at least in the United States. However, abnormally high doses of ibuprofen can still potentially cause a false positive in some cases. Nonetheless, this no longer works as an alibi for THC since GC/MS can now distinguish between the two.

Poppy seeds cause false positives for opiates


Poppy seeds
Poppy Seeds
Poppy Seeds, released in 1971, was the second and final studio album from Vancouver, British Columbia band The Poppy Family. The album has yet to be released on modern formats and remains a rare vinyl....

 do contain trace amounts of morphine, but it would require about 100 poppy seed bagels to reach enough to cause a positive (failed) test result. Poppy seed-filled pastries (such as hamantashen), on the other hand, do in fact contain enough to potentially cause a false positive. A 1996 episode
The Shower Head
"The Shower Head" is the 126th episode of NBC sitcom Seinfeld. This was the 16th episode for the 7th season. It aired on February 15, 1996.-Plot:...

 of the highly popular sitcom Seinfeld may have helped perpetuate this urban legend.

An episode of MythBusters
MythBusters
MythBusters is a science entertainment TV program created and produced by Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is screened by numerous international broadcasters, including Discovery Channel Australia, Discovery Channel Latin America, Discovery Channel Canada, Quest...

 tested this legend, and found that as little as three poppy-seed bagels was enough to cause a positive result for the remainder of the day they were eaten (though participants tested clean the following day). The results of this experiment are inconclusive, however, because a test was used with an opiate cutoff level of 300 ng/mL instead of the current SAMHSA recommended cutoff level used in the NIDA 5 test, which was raised from 300 ng/mL to 2,000 ng/mL in 1998 in order to avoid such false positives from poppy seeds.
In addition, one thing poppy seeds do not do is serve as an alibi for heroin: a unique metabolite (6-monoacetylmorphine) is produced from heroin use that is never produced from consuming any other substance, let alone poppy seeds. This, however, is only true when diamorphine is being tested for specifically; most tests do not test for heroin, but rather for opiates and opioids as a group. Modern tests can thus readily tease out whether it was heroin or not, should someone try to claim they merely ate poppy seeds.

Cannabis remains detectable in urine for 30 days or more


While this is technically true in some cases, more recent studies have shown that detection times of 30+ days are actually quite exceptional, even for chronic users subjected to tests with lower than normal cutoffs. Under the typical 50 ng/mL cutoff for THC in the United States, an occasional or one-off user would be very unlikely to test positive beyond 3–4 days since the last use, and a chronic user would be unlikely to test positive much beyond 7 days. Using a more sensitive cutoff of 20 ng/mL (less common but still used by some labs), the most likely maximum times are 7 days and 21 days, respectively.
. However, one must remember that every individual is different, and detection times can vary due to metabolism or other factors.

Refusal


There have been many high-profile instances in which individuals or groups have refused to take drug tests. In 2009, a Belgian bodybuilding championship was canceled after doping officials showed up and the competitors fled. Likewise, in 2010, Iranian super heavyweight class weightlifters refused to submit to a drug test authorized by the Iran Weightlifting League. In 2000, an Australian Mining Company South Blackwater Coal Ltd with 400 employees, imposed drug-testing procedures, and the trade unions advised their members to refuse to take the tests, partly because a positive result does not necessarily indicate present impairment; the workers were stood-down by the company without pay for a week. In 2006, Levy County, Florida
Levy County, Florida
Levy County is a county located in the state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 34,450. The U.S. Census Bureau 2005 estimate for the county is 37,998. Its county seat is Bronson, Florida. Levy is pronounced lee vee.- History :...

 volunteer librarians resigned en masse rather than take drug tests. In 2003, sixteen members of the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are a Major League Baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois.The White Sox play in the American League's Central Division. Since , the White Sox have played in U.S. Cellular Field, which was originally called New Comiskey Park and nicknamed The Cell by local fans...

 considered refusing to take a drug test, in hopes of making steroid
Steroid
A steroid is a type of organic compound that contains a characteristic arrangement of four cycloalkane rings that are joined to each other. Examples of steroids include the dietary fat cholesterol, the sex hormones estradiol and testosterone, and the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone.The core...

 testing mandatory. In the United States federal criminal system, refusing to take a drug test triggers an automatic revocation of probation or supervised release.

See also

  • Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988
    Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988
    In the United States the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires some Federal contractors and all Federal grantees to agree that they will provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a Federal agency....

  • Equine drug testing
    Equine drug testing
    Racehorse drug testing began in the early 1900s. It is the longest established, broadest in scope, and possibly the most sensitive drug testing program in existence. Racehorse drug testing is performed within an extremely stringent regulatory context...

  • Forensic toxicology
    Forensic toxicology
    Forensic toxicology is the use of toxicology and other disciplines such as analytical chemistry, pharmacology and clinical chemistry to aid medical or legal investigation of death, poisoning, and drug use...

  • School district drug policies
    School district drug policies
    School district drug policies are measures that administrators of a school district put into place to discourage drug use by students.-Background:...

  • Urinalysis
    Urinalysis
    A urinalysis , also known as Routine and Microscopy , is an array of tests performed on urine, and one of the most common methods of medical diagnosis...

  • Presumptive and confirmatory tests

External links