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Learn more about substance abuse

substance abuse test

Stuff you should know about substance abuse, the symptoms and properties.

Substance abuse is often difficult to detect and understand. We have put together a list of commonly abused drugs showing their effects and symptoms. And to help, provided links to products that will test these popular drugs.

Nicotine Metabolites

Cotinine, the major metabolite of nicotine is an important analyte for the determination of tobacco usage. You can detect the level of cotinine detected in urine but it is influenced by a variety of factors including; the type of tobacco used, filtered vs. nonfiltered cigarettes, how heavily the individual inhaled the smoke, the length of time an individual chewed, the number of cigarettes smoked per day. These variables make it difficult to determine exactly how much an individual smokes or uses tobacco, however the testing methodology does have the precision to differentiate applicants exposed in a smoking environment from the tobacco user.  The cotinine test identifies nicotine use.  We estimate 25% of smokers or 5% of the total population fail to report their correct smoking status.

Alcohol (Ethanol)

Ethanol, the metabolite of alcohol is commonly used to screen for recent alcohol consumption. Peak blood levels usually occur within 40-70 minutes on an empty stomach.  Food in the stomach can decrease the absorption of alcohol. Ethanol is metabolized by the liver to acetate.  The average urine/blood ratio is 1.35.  The average saliva/blood ratio is 1:20.  Symptoms of intoxication in the presence of low alcohol levels could indicate a serious acute medical problem requiring immediate attention.  The half-life and effectiveness of certain drugs (eg, barbiturates) are increased with the presence of ethanol.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Substance AbuseAmphetamines are strong central nervous system stimulants with high abuse potential. They produce an initial state of euphoria (high) followed by restlessness, agitation, irritability and sometimes extreme paranoia. Tolerance develops rapidly and, although physical dependence has not been proved, psychological dependence is very high. Amphetamines may be used in the treatment for obesity, attention disorder, hyperactivity and narcolepsy, but, because of the high abuse potential, these compounds are used as a last resort in these treatments.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


There is a variety of these major sedative-hypnotic drugs.  However, all are derivatives of barbituric acid.  Depending on the derivation, the particular drug may be long acting, as is phenobarbital, short acting, as is pentobarbital or ultra short acting, as is the case with thiopental.  The long-acting barbiturate phenobarbital selectively reduces the excitability of rapidly firing neurons and is therefore and effective anticonvulsant drug.  The short and ultra-short drugs inhibit arousal, hence their sedative and hypnotic effects.  Low doses produce sedation, drowsiness, sleep and also impaired judgment.  At high doses, anesthesia is produced.  Very high doses can cause stupor, convulsions and death.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Among this group of drugs, the most prominent is Valium.  Benzodiazepines are used therapeutically as so-called minor tranquilizers.  Doses between 2.5 and 10 mg produce a calming effect while higher doses produce muscle-relaxing effects. Drug addicts utilize Valium in high doses to counter the excitatory effects of other drugs or as a means of inducing tranquil states.  Acutely, benzodiazepine overdose may produce somnolence, confusion, seizures, and coma. Rarely, hypertension, respiratory depression, and cardiac arrest may occur.  Chronically, physical and psychological dependence occur.  Sudden discontinuance of the drug may lead to anxiety, sweating, irritability, hallucination, diarrhea, and seizures.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Marijuana consists of the dried leaves and flowering tops of the Cannabis sativa plant and is a source of psychoactive agents, a major one being delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol ( Delta 9-THC).  This drug is rapidly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and the respiratory system after oral or inhalation routes of ingestion. When smoked, the drug is rapidly metabolized and can be detected in the urine within a couple of hours and for as long as several days after use.  Regular users report a feeling of euphoria, hallucinations, and relaxed inhibitions.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Substance AbuseCocaine is a central nervous system stimulant. It usually appears in the form of a fine crystal-like powder, although it can come in larger pieces called rocks which is the free-base form of the drug. It may be injected, snorted or smoked.   The effects of the drug begin within minutes and peak within 15 to 20 minutes. These include dilated pupils, increase in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature. The dangers associated with cocaine use vary depending on how the drug is taken, the dose, and the individual. Feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and sleeplessness are reported by some regular users. Even low doses of cocaine may create psychological problems. Use of high doses of cocaine over a prolonged period of time may lead to paranoia, commonly called cocaine psychosis, which includes hallucinations of touch, sight, taste and smell.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Methadone is a non-bicyclic drug which binds to morphine receptors in the brain. Although it can become addictive, the effects are less than those of equivalent concentrations of heroin.  Thus, administration of methadone to heroin addicts allows them to experience the effects of heroin but in a modulated manner. A gradual lowering of the dose reduces the physical dependence, however addiction to methadone can also occur.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Methaqualone is primarily utilized for its sedative-hypnotic properties.  It also possesses anticonvulsant, antispasmodic, local anesthetic, antitussive and weak antihistamine actions.  Oral administration leads to rapid and complete absorption of the drug with peak concentrations within 2 to 3 hours.  Tolerance to some of its actions, as well as dependence occurs such that abusive dosages can be up to six or seven times greater than those employed therapeutically. Symptoms of overdose are similar to barbiturate toxicity and produce depression with lethargy, respiratory depression, coma and death.  Unlike barbiturate overdose, muscle spasms, and convulsions can result.


Opiates are drugs such as heroin, codeine and morphine and can produce a very high physical or psychological dependence by their users.  You can test for codeine and morphine (a metabolite of both codeine and heroin), and also the metabolite of heroin.  You can also test for the opiate, hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortabs), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and oxycodone (Percodan) from a full drug screen test. Feelings of euphoria, analgesia, drowsiness, and respiratory depression are reported by users.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Phencyclidine is exclusively seen as a drug of abuse.  It has numerous effects on a variety of different neural pathways and hence a wide array of bizarre symptoms can be seen in the same patient. It’s physiological effects appear to be analgesic, anesthetic, and paradoxically, stimulating.  Because of its varied actions, clinically acute manifestations vary from depression to euphoria and can induce catatonia, violence, rage and auditory and visual hallucinations.  Vomiting, hyperventilation, tachycardia, shivering, seizures, coma and death are also common occurrences that result from abuse of this drug.

Substance abuse tests for this drug are available on this site.


Propoxyphene is an analgesic drug which has very similar pharmacologic properties to those of opiates like morphine. A major cause of drug-related deaths is propoxyphene overdose, either alone or in combination with depressants like barbiturates and alcohol.  Results show that the symptoms are similar to those of opiate overdoses, i.e. respiratory depression, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures, pulmonary edema, and coma.

Substance abuse tests for all drugs listed are available here.