Detailed information and solutions for drug testing.
The following headings will give you an insight when drug testing at home and the workplace. We discuss drug abuse, what drug tests are, how to use and interpret them, detection times, cut-off levels and answers to some questions about testing.
○ What are drugs of abuse?
Drugs of abuse are when someone uses an illicit or prescription medication for longer than the prescribed time or using prescription drugs illicitly to get high. Prolonged use of recreational drugs can lead to severe addiction and even death.
○ What is the function of a drug test?
To tell if someone is impaired by one or more illicit or prescription drug. By using a drug test kit, it’s possible to detect the presence of many drugs simultaneously.
Here are some most commonly abused: Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Ecstasy, Cocaine, and Heroin (opiate). Not forgetting prescribed drugs like Ambien, Oxycodone, Percocet, and Adderall. By following the information below, you can learn more about drug testing and understand what it’s all about.
○ How often should I drug test?
- You should test when you think someone might be abusing drugs; we call this reasonable suspicion.
- Test randomly at least once a week or twice a week for the first month.
- Never give prior notice until you are sure they are clean.
- Employers will often test new hires, after an accident (post-accident) of if they suspect abuse in the workplace (reasonable suspicion).
- Parents use them when they suspect there is a problem with their teen’s attitude or they find drugs in the home.
○ What’s the best type of test to use?
We recommend urine tests as they are cheap to buy and the results are instant. These tests are immunoassays which give a qualitative result; either a “YES” or “NO” much like a pregnancy test, meaning it will tell you yes there is a drug present or no there isn’t and not by how much.
○ Why do tests have panels?
A panel is the part of a drug test that collects and displays the information for each drug. There are many panels available, and each one will show the result of a particular drug. For example; when someone says “a five-panel drug test” what do they mean? They mean a drug test that detects five drugs; this could be any combination of any drugs. There are many combinations available the most common being: 1. Cocaine, 2. Amphetamines, 3. Marijuana, 4. Opiates, and 5. Phencyclidine.
Did you know, the more panels there are in a test, the more likely you are of catching the abuser because more panels mean more drugs are detected.
○ What does each panel represent?
Each panel is color-coded for simplicity and formulated to detect a specific drug of abuse.
- Panel 1 Dark Green = Amphetamines (AMP)
- Panel 2 Red = Cocaine (COC)
- Panel 3 Light Green = Methamphetamine (mAMP)
- Panel 4 Pink = Opiates (OPI)
- Panel 5 Blue = Marijuana (THC)
○ How accurate are these tests?
These tests are called Immunoassays and are up to 99% accurate and very sensitive for detecting drugs of abuse. They rely on cut-off levels to provide actual results. Each cut-off level is preset, and so if a drug is present over the cut-off level it’s positive; The discovered drug test (T) line in the test window will be absent, this is called a preliminary or presumptive positive test result.
○ What are the test lines?
These are the lines that appear in the window of a drug test. Identified with a letter (T). These lines are apparent when the result is negative.
○ What are control lines?
The control line is the line identified by the letter (C); it indicates the test worked correctly.
○ What does a faint test line mean?
It means negative. No matter how faint the lines are on the face of the panel, it’s negative. If a drug was discovered then there will be no line.
○ Can a faint line mean it’s slightly positive?
No. If you see a line, it indicates a negative result. The presence of a test line, no matter how faint, is an indication that the test was negative. Some test lines may be weaker than others; this does not indicate that more or less of a drug was detected. If a drug was present, then no line appears.
○ What does a Negative result mean?
It means that no drugs were detected over the cut-off level. When the test (T) and control (C) lines are present, no drugs were discovered.
○ Why is the result negative when I know it should be positive?
Several factors can impact the test result when you know the person is abusing drugs:
If the sample was correctly collected and performed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then probably none of the drugs screened were present in the sample. However, it could mean you are testing for the wrong drug!
Here are some pointers:
- Did you test for the right drugs?
- You may have tested too soon. It can take a while for drugs to metabolize in the body and detected in urine.
- Drugs are only detectable in the urine for a few days.
- The sample may be too dilute, or it’s also possible that the person either adulterated or substituted their urine sample.
- The drug test has passed its expiration date.
○ Here are some solutions for drug testing successfully.
If you get a negative test result, but still suspect that the person is abusing drugs, test them again without notice. Use a test with more panels to potentially detect another drug of abuse missed with the last test. Make sure the sample provided has not been diluted or substituted. Checking the temperature before testing is a quick way to establish whether the example was replaced. Talk to your doctor if you need more help on what steps to take.
Use our simple guide to drug testing an individual.
○ Does a presumed positive mean drugs of abuse were found?
No. Take no action until you get the confirmed result from the lab. If you get a possible positive result, it is essential that you send the urine sample to a laboratory, they will test the sample using specialized equipment and confirm your preliminary result.
Remember that a positive test for a prescription drug does not mean that a person is abusing the drug. Use the services of our Medical Review Officer. They are trained physicians who understand lab results and will advise accordingly.
○ What is the detection time for finding drugs?
The table below shows the detection period for common drugs of abuse. These are only guidelines as times can vary significantly; often due to how often the person used the drug, the amount they used and the person’s metabolic rate.
|Drug||Urine Tests||Saliva Tests|
|Marijuana||Up to 30 days||Less than 24 hours|
|Cocaine||1-3 days||24-36 hours|
|Opiates||1-3 days||24-36 hours|
|Amphetamines||1-3 days||24-36 hours|
|Methamphetamine||2-5 days||24-36 hours|
|Benzodiazepines||1-14 days||24-36 hours|
|Barbiturates||1-3 days||24-36 hours|
|Phencyclidine||Up to 30 days||24-36 hours|
|Methadone||1-3 days||24-36 hours|
|Oxycodone||2-4 days||24-36 hours|
|Ecstasy||2-4 days||24-36 hours|
|Tricyclic Anti-Depressants||5-8 days||N/A|
○ Why are cut-off levels on a drug screen different to lab cut-off levels?
After consuming a drug, the body metabolizes the parent drug into another substance. A drug screen is designed to detect these metabolites by analyzing human urine. Back in the seventies, the government established levels which determined whether the result was positive or negative. These are called cut-off levels. Laboratory analysis is designed to detect only one primary breakdown product compared to a drug screen; therefore, the minimum amount needed to be present in the urine is generally lower. (see chart below)
|Drug||Identifier||Test cut-off||Lab cut-off|
|Amphetamines||AMP||1000 ng/mL||500 ng/mL|
|Ecstasy||MDMA||500 ng/mL||250 ng/mL|
|Marijuana||THC||50 ng/mL||15 ng/mL|
○ Lab drug testing.
After marijuana is consumed, the body metabolizes the ingredients into as many as eight different breakdown products. These combine to cause a test to read as a possible positive from a urine test. At the lab, the confirmation test is designed to detect only one. In this example, marijuana would have a cut-off screen level of 50 ng/mL, whereas a lab confirmation level is only 15 ng/mL. Only one substance must be present at 15 ng/mL for the lab to consider the urine positive. If the element is present at 14 ng/mL or lower, the sample is found to be negative.
○ How long does Marijuana stay in your system?
Occasional users: possibly up to 10 days. A lot of variables make it difficult to project exactly how long the drug will remain detectable. We have found that marijuana can stay in your system for over 60 days; this all depends whether they are an occasional user or a chronic user. The metabolite of marijuana is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tends to stick to fatty areas in the body. And consuming no amount of fluids – even diuretic fluids – will permanently “flush” it out of one’s system.
○ One of my teens admitted to using drugs last week, but the test result was negative. Why?
Most drugs are excreted from the body within a few days, except for marijuana. If your child admitted to using marijuana, and he or she is an occasional user the drug has likely cleared from the body before testing.
Questions and Solutions for drug testing
○ Why the process of drug testing is so important.
It’s crucial you thoroughly understand the process of testing. Before using a urine drug test, check the urine temperature is within range; typically 93 to 98º F. Test for adulteration, dilution, and substitution. Urine you are about to test has to be fresh and clear from adulterants. Be very strict about this and don’t accept excuses as it’s a sure sign of a cheater. Do it right, and you will get the correct result.
○ Can I use urine out of the toilet for the test?
NO. Urine in the toilet has been diluted and may have been exposed to cleaning agents that would affect the test results. We do not recommend using urine collected in this manner; the results would be inconclusive.
○ Solutions for drug testing.
Let’s get started; It’s vital you grasp the basics of drug testing, so you understand what to expect and how drug tests work. The first rule is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and the second rule is to use our guide to get the best from testing.
- Check the urine temperature and validity of the sample before testing.
- Test to see if the sample has been adulterated or diluted.
- Check to see if it’s in range. Urine temp will always be within 93º to 98º F; a typical temperature is 96º F.
- Don’t accept excuses as to why it’s not in range; if you observe anomalies, it’s a sure sign of a cheater.
- Follow this fundamental rule, and you will get the expected results.
For instructions on testing follow this link, Drug Testing
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