Female pediatrician using a swab to take a sample from a patient’s throat

About Drug Screening

What Can I Expect During A Drug Screening?

When you report for your drug test, you will be asked to supply identification and to complete some paperwork. You should provide a list of all of the prescription and over-the-counter medications that you are currently taking. You will then be asked to provide a urine, hair, blood, or saliva sample based on the type of test required. If a urine sample is used, you will be given specific instructions that you should follow to ensure the integrity of the sample. If a saliva sample is used, we will take a swab of your mouth and cheek. A blood sample does involve a needle stick and is performed by a medical professional. For hair testing, we will take a few hairs from your head or elsewhere on the body. The samples are then sent to the lab for processing. In most cases, the results are sent directly to the employer. Depending on the type of test requested, the results may either be pass/fail or outline the specific substances identified.

What Types Of Substances Show Up In A Urine Drug Test?

A drug urinalysis screens for a wide range of substances, both legal and illegal, that have the potential for misuse or abuse, which can include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Barbiturates
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Codeine
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • PCP
  • Methamphetamine

What Is A 10-Panel Drug Test?

A 10-panel drug test checks for 10 different drugs that are either illegal or that have a high potential for abuse. The test screens for the following:

  1. Cocaine
  2. Heroin
  3. Marijuana
  4. PCP
  5. Tricyclic antidepressants
  6. Benzodiazepines
  7. Opiates
  8. Barbiturates
  9. Methadone
  10. Methamphetamine


What Are The Differences Between The Various Types Of Drug Tests?

  • Hair Drug Test: A hair drug test is ideal for determining drug use over a long period of time, which may provide a better indication of chronic use. It is also difficult for an individual to “cheat” or tamper with the sample.
  • Urine Drug Test: Urine is the most common type of sample used for a pre-employment drug test. The typical urine test screens for a variety of substances ranging from cocaine and marijuana to alcohol and even nicotine.
  • Oral Drug Test: Saliva is the second most common method of testing for drug use. This type of test is typically used when the person ordering the test is concerned about recent drug use since it can detect usage within a few hours.
  • Blood Drug Test: Blood testing may be used to detect the exact level of a substance in a person’s system at a given moment. The disadvantage is that it is invasive and typically requires the involvement of medical personnel. The advantage is that there is little chance for the sample to be altered.

What Are The Benefits Of A Saliva Drug Test?

Saliva tests are extremely accurate and can detect substance use much quicker than standard urine tests. Since a saliva test is performed under supervised observation, it is virtually impossible to tamper with the sample. Collecting the sample is fast, simple, and noninvasive. There are also none of the privacy concerns associated with observing and collecting a urine sample.

Drug Detection

Does One-Time Use Show Up In A Hair Drug Test?

With a hair drug test, it is the time frame of the use rather than the frequency that determines whether a substance can be detected. It normally takes about five to seven days for hair to grow far enough above the scalp for it to be included in a hair sample for a drug test. Since most hair follicles grow approximately half an inch a month, the standard 1.5-inch sample may detect drug use within the past 90 days. Of course, this can vary slightly based on your exact rate of hair growth. The results can go back months or even years if you test a longer piece of hair.

How Long Are Drugs Detectable In A Drug Screening?

A number of variables may affect how long a drug can be detected, including:

  • The frequency of drug use: For example, it is possible for marijuana to remain in the system for several weeks after the last use in habitual users.
  • The drug’s half-life: For example, diazepam has a particularly long half-life and can take anywhere from 10 to 23 days to be completely eliminated from the body.
  • Hydration and fluid balance: The better the individual’s overall hydration, the quicker the drugs may be flushed from the system.
  • Metabolism and body mass: Individuals with a high metabolism and low body mass may eliminate drugs from their system faster than someone with a slow metabolism and higher body fat content.
  • The type of lab drug test used: A hair drug test may detect substances several months after use compared to a urine drug screening that may only detect substances for a few days.

The content provided on the MD Now website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for receiving medical care and treatment from a qualified healthcare provider. Never delay seeking advice, evaluation, and treatment from a medical professional because of what you’ve read on this site, since the information provided may not apply to you or your symptoms.

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