24 Mar How Drugs are Tested and How Long Do They Remain
Drug testing is a frequent cause for concern, particularly for those who regularly do drugs and face testing for criminal or employment purposes. As different drugs metabolize at varying rates, it’s not always easy to know when hair, urine, saliva, or blood will be clear of both drugs and their metabolites.
This breakdown can provide important insight into how drugs are tested and the average durations they stay in the body.
A popular drug nationwide with euphoric effects that are similar to that of cocaine and other stimulants, meth comes in numerous forms and can be smoked, snorted, or injected. Its life in the body tends to be longer than many other similar substances. Byproducts are at their peak around 12 hours after use and can be detected by a test within five to ten minutes of use.
Meth metabolites are present in the body for two to four days and can be found in urine and blood for two to three days. Hair tests can detect meth for up to 90 days. Drug tests generally look for unchanged methamphetamine and amphetamine.
Cocaine is a popular stimulant that is most commonly snorted in its pure form or smoked or ingested in the case of crack cocaine. Unlike most other drugs, the detection window for cocaine is quite short, with high doses detectable in blood tests for one to two days. Cocaine is metabolized as benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester.
For heavy users, the results can be different. Cocaine builds up in body tissue with prolonged use, leading to detectable results in urine tests for 12 to 21 days. Cocaine can be found in sweat as well, and may be present in hair for years after the cessation of use.
Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the U.S., particularly as legality on a state level continues to spread. However, as marijuana is still illegal federally, many drug tests still look for marijuana and its metabolites, like 9-carboxy-THC and other cannabinoids.
Marijuana’s presence in the body largely depends on frequency of use as THC is stored in fat cells and released slowly into the bloodstream. For someone who doesn’t smoke often, marijuana clears up in urine in five days or less but may be present for several weeks in those who are heavy users. It can stay in the blood for up to two weeks and in the hair for up to 90 days.
Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LDS, is a hallucinogenic drug also known as acid. A party drug that is frequently associated with raves, acid has a short half-life of just two to four hours but can leave traces in the body for longer. Most tests screen for the metabolite 2-Oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD, a substance that is broken down and excreted through urine. The body fully metabolizes LSD fully in around 48 hours.
Urine panels aren’t very effective for LSD due to the low levels detectable, but hair tests can show results for up to 90 days. Blood is not commonly used to test for LSD as LSD is only detectable in blood for several hours.
Opiate use is on the rise in the United States, with overdose levels growing at alarming rates. As such, most standard drug panels now screen for synthetic opioids, like morphine and hydrocodone, heroin, and analogues of common substances. Metabolites can vary based on the opiate in use, but common varieties include noroxymorphone and 6-acetylmorphine.
While opiates move through the body quite quickly, results for most forms of opiates can be detected after the effects wear off. Heroin can be detected in urine for two to seven days and blood for around six days. A saliva test is the least effective, with the ability to detect heroin for just five hours, while hair tests are the best, showing signs of heroin for up to 90 days.
Synthetic opiates are more variable. Morphine, for example, can only be detected in the blood for around 12 hours and urine for three days. Codeine can only be tested in urine and blood for around a day.
Barbiturates are currently rarely prescribed due to better options available but are still occasionally used for conditions like insomnia and anxiety. Like opiates, barbiturates vary greatly from one type to another and thus have variable detection windows.
Short-acting barbiturates, such as secobarbital and pentobarbital, have short half-lives and thus are less likely to be present long-term in blood, although urine tests can still detect traces for up to six weeks. Longer-acting barbiturates, like phenobarbital, can be identified in the blood for around three weeks, urine for six weeks, and hair for up to 90 days.
Like barbiturates, benzodiazepine refers to a class of drug and not a specific drug itself. As such, the impact on drug tests and the relevant metabolites can vary quite dramatically based on the substance ingested. Valium, for example, will show up in a blood test for a few days but in urine for several weeks, while Xanax, if taken in small doses, may not appear at all, with short detection windows lasting no more than a week. Chronic users are more likely to see results past this point. Common metabolites of popular benzos include nordiazepam, temazepam, and alpha-hydroxyalprazolam.
Drug testing results can vary based on drug of choice, frequency of use, and amounts ingested. However, when tests on urine, or saliva are completed in a reasonable time frame, most drugs or their metabolites are available in detectable levels.