Drug Testing Basics: Round 1

Drug testing has become a regular part of everyday life, whether it is for employment or insurance reasons, parents testing their children, or as a condition of probation or a family law order. There are many different kinds of drug tests, cheek swabs, hair follicle, etc. but one of the most common drug tests is a urine test. A quick Internet search for “drug test” will bring up thousands of results ranging from home remedy concoctions, expensive detox kits, powdered urine and fake genital appendages. This article will explain the different types of urine drug test, as well as debunk some of the myths that go along with them.

A urine drug test, commonly referred to as a “UA” or a “piss test” is a drug test in which your urine is used to determine if you have any drugs in your system. The most common questions about these drug tests are:

-What drugs do they test for?

-How long will “insert drug” stay in my system?

-Can’t you “beat” a drug test?

-False Positives

The drugs that are tested for depend on who and why you are taking a drug test. In general, most common urine test are five pronged, they look for THC (marijuana), cocaine, opiates (heroin, oxycotton) , methamphetamine, & MDMA (ecstasy). However, there are a variety of tests out there, some test only for one specific drug, while others may test for a wider variety. One thing that should be noted, the more expensive the test usually means the more specific it can be. A basic test might show up positive for opiates, where a more sophisticated test can actually determine what types of opiates were consumed, for example the difference between oxycodone and morphine or heroin. As mentioned above, there are multiple kinds of drug tests, but they can be roughly divided into two categories, those with immediate results, and those that undergo lab testing. A test that has immediate results works like this: a urine sample is collected and the test is inserted into the sample. Within a few minutes the test will yield results to whether a substance is detected in the urine. These test are generally inexpensive, they can be purchased at your local drug store, and are made for easy use. These tests usually have higher cutoff levels for detection and do not usually give specific breakdowns of what drug is present, rather what category of drug of is present. The second type of urine drug test are those that are processed by a laboratory. In a similar fashion a urine sample is collected, sealed and sent to a laboratory, which preforms the test and notifies the parties of the results. In general, these tests tend to be able to detect lower levels of substances, often times to a significantly greater degree then test that give immediate results. While these test tend to be more expensive, they also are able to identify more specifically the drugs that have been used, not simply the category that they fall into.

Different drugs stay in your system for different lengths of time. Marijuana stays in a urine sample the longest of commonly used drugs, where alcohol is one of the quickest to leave your system. The time it takes for a drug to “leave” your system is dependent upon several factors. The first is determined by the quality level of the drug test, a test sold at a drug store giving immediate results, can show up as “clean, while the same sample done in a laboratory setting may come back as “dirty”. Some other determining factors of how long a substance stays in your system are: the amount of the substance consumed, the frequency at which the substance is consumed, tolerance, height, weight, metabolism, and many other factors. As a general rule of thumb, marijuana in a casual user will take between three and five weeks minimum because THC is stored in fat cells which must be metabolized. Drugs such as cocaine, opiates, methamphetamines are water soluble, which means they are excreted from your body through your urine as they are metabolized. A frequent or heavy user will generally take longer to purge the metabolites from substance but a general rule would be that they will show up your urine for 2-4 days after your last use.

There are countless ways people say will allow you to “beat” a drug test, that is have results that state you had no substances in your system even after you have recently consumed substances. Methods range from consuming bleach or vinegar, drinking large quantities of water on a specific time schedule, to taking various dexot products, from niacin tablets, to products that promise detox such as Ready Clean or Dextoify. The first of these are not only false, but can be extremely dangerous. Detox products do not work to purge your system of toxins, but work to temporarily “mask” the toxins from a screening. Consuming large quantities of water while helpful with some drugs, will do very little for marijuana smokers. In addition, simply drinking a large amount of water a few hours before your test, can be a red flag. When your body have consumed a large quantity of water, it begins to simply let it pass through. This will result in frequent urination, but that does not allow the body to process it properly, and thus you are urinating essentially water. Wouldn’t that be a guarantee that you could pass your drug test? Sadly, most drug tests are on to this method and thus have an indicator when the sample does not contain enough biological products, such as creatine, to register as urine. Some testers will not allow these as samples and will wait until a proper sample can be produced. Some drug tests will consider these a fail, often times this is listed in any contract you sign in relation to a drug test for employment or for insurance purposes. Products that attempt to “mask” the substance often contain large amounts of Vitamin B, or other vitamins so that when you are urinating the large quaintly of water consumed, some of the essential elements to register as urine. These tests are not regulated, not FDA approved, and do not guarantee that you will pass a drug test.

A false positive is when a drug test incorrectly reports the presence of a substance in a urinary sample. The rate varies depending upon the test, but statistically there is around a 5% or less chance of a false positive when taking your drug test. To combat individuals claiming that their results were a false positive days or weeks later, obviously a laboratory test versus an immediate result test, most labs store the original sample for a period of time after sending out the results. The sample collected is always more than enough for several tests, and thus if a false test allegation is made, the lab has the ability to test the original sample again. This process was put into place to prevent people from having extra time to purge substances from their system.

In general, there is no quick, easy, or guaranteed way to pass a urine drug test, except to abstain from drugs prior to the test. To make sure you are able to pass the drug test, you should find out what type of test you are taking, and consider what drugs, if any, may show up in your system. If you are administering a drug test, you should consider those factors as well to limit the chance for tampering or preparing for a drug test in advance. Our office has considerable experience with these matters, from scheduling drug tests in regards to criminal clients for their cases, to drafting up stipulations for drug testing in family law cases. If you have concern about the possibility of a drug test or unsure of the consequences of a positive test, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options.