Drug Testing Methods and Timeline for the Top 8 Most Abused Drugs

Drug Testing Methods

Drug testing timelines help you to understand just how long drugs stay in your system. The drugs can linger in your blood, urine, saliva, and hair. Drug detection times are the windows in time where drug testing for drug traces in your hair, urine, or saliva will show up positive.

Some of the drug testing aren’t testing the drugs in your system but the presence of one or more metabolites. The body chemically alters the drug by metabolizing it and this can be detected through various tests. This range is from the time you took the drug to the point you will test clean. Most drugs will appear in your blood, saliva or urine for up to 8 hours. A hair test can detect drug metaboloites for up to 90 days after you’ve used.

Drug testing timelines

How long each drug stays in your blood, urine, and breath can vary. The methods of drug testing also have variable windows of detection. Drug testing timelines have a lot to do with many factors. Some factors include your physiological makeup, height, weight, how much body fat you have, your age, your state of health presently, your exercise patterns and your state of mind . When you take drugs, how you’re feeling at that moment can play a part in how long drugs stay in your system. The frequency and length of the drug use will also be contributing factors. Addiction plays a role in how quickly your body will get rid of the drugs also.

drug test

How Drug Testing for Blood, Urine, and Saliva Works

When you’re given a drug test, the testers are not just looking for the drug in your blood, urine, or saliva. They are looking for a metabolite which can be found once the substance is broken down. This is the indication that drugs have been in your body. When you take a drug, your body turns it into one of many metabolites. Urine tests determine if you’ve been using drugs by identifying the metabolites.

When your body doesn’t use metabolites, they become stored in fast growing cells. This includes your hair, fatty cells, and nails. The greater fat content you have, the longer the drug can be detected in you.

Blood and saliva tests work differently than urine tests because the parent compounds of the drug can be found in blood. This makes these drug tests more accurate and determines how much of the drug is in your system.  When drugs are detected in saliva, it’s an indication that the drug has entered the bloodstream.

Variables Involved with Drug Testing Timelines

The Variables Involved with Drug Testing Timelines

The following is a list of the variables that affect drug testing timelines. If you’re addicted and use a drug chronically, it’s likely that there’s a longer window duration where you will test positive. Although you’ve built up a tolerance, you are likely not healthy and have a slow metabolic rate.

  • Single or small doses of any given drug won’t last as long in your system and are not as easily detected.
  • If you have a fast-metabolic rate, the detection time for the drugs in your system will be shorter.
  • Your body mass will determine how fast or slow your body metabolizes. Those with more fat content will store the drugs in the body for a longer period of time.
  • If you’re physically active, the drug won’t be detectable for as long of a period as in someone who is overweight and out of shape. This is due to less body fat which means a reduced number of metabolites that can store themselves in your fat cells.
  • Your age may define the speed of drugs leaving your system. As we age, our metabolism tends to slow down.
  • If you have a tolerance to any given drug, this can lead to a shorter time of detection.
  • The pH of your urine can have something to do with drug detection. Having more acid in your urine will create a shorter detection timeline.

Why is there Drug Testing

Why is there Drug Testing?

Even prescription drugs can fall under scrutiny in a job setting. As drug abuse among prescription drugs have become such a problem, drug tests for prescription drugs are common in pre-employment screening. Drug testing is administered especially for positions where safety is paramount. Over 9 million urine drug tests done within the U.S. workforce in 2015.

Pre-employment drug testing is primarily a urine sample, but employers may ask for blood, saliva, sweat, or hair also. For jobs that require a high level of safety, there may also be random drug testing.

Drug Testing Options

Drug Testing Option Urine

Many people will opt for a urine sample to determine if someone has been using drugs. It may be used during detox.  The urine drug test screening is quick, convenient, and quite accurate. Even after the effects of the drug has worn off, urine is still capable of detecting its presence. Drug testing timelines do vary depending on what type of drug it is. Urine drug tests in a job setting will usually be screening for amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol. Urine tests target metabolites within the body and not the psychoactive element of the drug. The number of metabolites in your urine may increase and decrease which can lead to different results within the drug testing detection window.

How to Take the Test

One of the main benefits of a urine test is that it is relatively simple. The test is non-invasive, and a specimen can be collected within a matter of minutes. To ensure that there’s no shady business going on, you’ll likely be asked to take the test in a specified bathroom.

To take a urine test, you will simply have to urinate within a specimen cup. The administrator will let you know how much urine is needed. Most drug tests will require at least 45 milliliters of urine. This is to ensure that there’s enough sample for the testing. It also makes sure that the specimen belongs to the right individual.

You’ll likely be asked to leave your purse, briefcase and other belongings in another room while you take the test. In some rare situations, a same-gendered nurse, technician or administrator will accompany you to the bathroom. When you’re finished, you’ll put a lid on the cup and return it to a technician or administrator. The technician will usually seal the cup at this point. They will also measure the temperature of the urine.

The urine is then tested for the parent compound of various drugs, as well as their metabolites. In the event that there’s any discrepancy or confusion, a mass spectrometry may be conducted as well. The mass spectrometry is used to confirm any results that were previously obtained.

Saliva test for drug detection

Saliva tests measure the parent compound of the drug you took. The higher the level of the compound, the more drugs are in your system. Saliva is good for measuring how impaired you are in the immediate moment. Oral testing is when your mouth is swabbed. Saliva holds traces of chemicals that indicate drug use. It’s not as popular as blood or urine tests as it only detects drug and alcohol use for a few days. It’s helpful for recent drug use detection. A saliva test is a simple lab test that can be used to test for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.

How to Take the Test

Another non-invasive method that is also highly recommended for drug tests is saliva testing. It’s possible to detect drugs in saliva within a fairly short period of time after ingestion. This is one of the reasons why this type of testing is so popular. It’s also non-invasive and fairly inexpensive in comparison to other options that are available.

Saliva drug tests offer fast and reliable results. They also offer a strong correlation between impairment and consumption. An in-depth analysis can also be conducted to get a better idea of one’s drug use. It’s also quite difficult to fudge or interfere with the results.

With that said, there are several ways to collect oral fluids for a saliva drug test. You may be asked to spit into a cup. While spitting is quick and simple, the saliva obtained may be viscous and difficult to work with. It may also be contaminated with food and other types of substances.

As a result, many of these drug tests will rely on a swab. A technician will swab the inside of the mouth using a pad or a foam. The oral fluids in your mouth are then squeezed from the pads and foams and tested for drugs.

Blood test for detecting drug

Blood tests are the most effective way to detect concentration levels of alcohol and drugs in the body. Blood tests also indicate the identification of the parent compound of the drug you’ve taken. It does take longer to develop than urine testing, but it can determine how intoxicated you are. For alcohol testing, a blood test can detect alcohol for up to 24 hours after you’ve stopped drinking. Blood drug tests may be used in an employment setting to detect if drugs are in a person’s system. The drugs that can be found in blood include amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol. As most drugs only have a detection period of less than 48 hours in blood, supplemental urine sample will usually be included. A blood test can detect the presence of THC and Nicotine for many weeks after the ingestion date.

How to Take the Test

One of the most expensive and intrusive methods of drug testing is known as a blood test. These tests offer the most accurate results, although the drug detection window is fairly short. As a result, this type of testing is not as common. It’s usually only used in workplace scenarios.

To take this type of test, you will usually be asked to go to a medical lab. A trained technician will collect a vial of blood from you. The blood is extracted from the veins. A blood-draw specialist will first clean the area where the blood will be drawn from using an antiseptic solution. The most common areas where blood is drawn from include the crook of the elbow or the back of the hand.

To make it easier to inject the needle into the vein, the specialist will wrap an elastic band around your upper arm. This cuts off blood flow to the arm, which causes the veins to swell. A sterile needle is then inserted into the veins and the blood is drawn into a vial. The needle is then removed, and a bandage is placed over the puncture site.

The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing. In general, you can expect most tests to come back within 2 to 4 days. Some of the more elaborate and complex tests can take up to 7 to 10 days. It all depends on how busy the lab is.

Hair drug testing

Hair drug testing is effective for determining drug use over a longer time. By analyzing hair follicles for chemical traces of addictive substances, drugs like cocaine, marijuana, opiates, methamphetamine, and phencyclidine can be detected. As hair grows slowly, drugs can be detected for months or even years after it was ingested. The processing time for this type of testing is longer than urine or blood testing, but it’s the best long-term method. Note that a hair sample can be taken from anywhere on your body. Your hair only needs to be 1.5 inches when used as a drug test sample. If you have longer hair, your drug detection timeline will be longer.

How to Take the Test

Hair tests probably provide the most detailed insights possible into one’s history with drugs. These tests can tell you whether a person was using drugs recreationally or quite frequently. They can tell you the type of drugs that were being abused, among many other types of details.

Hair drug tests are not instant. It does take some time for the results to be produced. Each 0.5 inches of hair represents one month. To conduct a hair test for drugs, the labs will need the newest 1.5 inches in growth. This will measure the individual’s drug use in the last 90 days. The hair sample needs to be cut as close to the scalp as possible. It doesn’t matter whether the hair is dyed or has been chemically treated. While most people tend to use hair from their head, the truth is that hair from other parts of the body can be used as well.

For an accurate test, most labs require anywhere from 40 to 50 strands of hair. The drugs will be detectable in the hair approximately 4 to 5 days after ingestion and will remain in the hair until the hair gets shed off from the body.

Drug Testing Timelines

If you’re a casual user of cocaine, it is generally detectable for only a short time. Cocaine usually remains in your system for no more than four days. If you are addicted to cocaine and taking it chronically, your detection window will increase. You will only experience a high for about an hour. This is also its half-life which means that half the cocaine you took will have left your body. For someone who has been using cocaine for a long time and often, the drug will accumulate in body tissues.

If you had a heavy binging episode with cocaine, a urine test can detect it for 12-21 days. Urine tests and their effectiveness will depend on the purity and dose of cocaine taken. Blood tests will detect cocaine for up to 12-48 hours since you last used it. Cocaine also remains in your sweat for up to several weeks. It can be found in a hair test for years once you’ve stopped using cocaine.

Methamphetamines comes in various forms, such as meth, crank, crystal meth, and speed. These drugs affect your central nervous system by activating the release of chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Meth is similar to the effects of cocaine, but it does tend to stay in your system for longer. The by-products of methamphetamines in your system will be at their height 12 hours after you take it. They can be detected for up to 2-5 hours after you use it and up to 3-5 days with a urine test. Urine tests are very accurate at determining meth use, but only for a short time.

Methamphetamine metabolites stay in the body for 2-4 days and stay in your saliva and blood for up to three days. It can be found in as little as 5-10 minutes after being taken.  Meth can be detected by hair sample for up to 90 days. The concentration of meth will reduce about 12-34 hours after you first take it, being a half-life drug like cocaine. The half-life of meth ranges anywhere from 12 to 34 hours depending on its composition. It takes about 2-10 days to fully leave the body. The more your use, the longer it takes.

LSD has a plasma half-life that lasts 2.5-4 hours. The effects will last 6-8 hours, but the LSD stays in your system for much longer. It is broken down and excreted through your urine, making it detectable with urine drug testing for up to five days. Hair drug testing timelines have windows of up to 90 days. A urine test for LSD may not be effective, as the amounts of the drug in the body are minimal. Also, the body metabolizes it quickly, usually within a 48-hour period. There is a test that screens blood, urine and stomach content for LSD and its metabolites.

Amphetamines come in a variety of forms with street names like black beauties, red, and speed. A single dose of the drug can last for 2-4 hours. Half the amount you take is eliminated by your body within the first day. Urine tests can detect amphetamines for up to 48 hours, unless you’re a heavy user. In this case, it may be in your system for up to a week after your last use. Amphetamines will stay in your blood and saliva for up to 12 hours. A hair test can detect the drug in your system for up to 90 days.

Opiates, such as codeine, heroin, methadone, and morphine, produce feelings of euphoria. They have varying degrees of function. Heroin will hit you within seconds of taking it while morphine will take longer to work although it lasts longer. The body gets rid of heroin rapidly, but it can be detected by drug testing in urine for 2-7 days. A saliva drug test for heroin can only detect heroin for up to 5 hours after it’s taken. Blood tests will detect heroin for up to 6 hours from time of using. Hair follicle tests are most effective, as they can detect heroin for up to 90 days.

Although morphine takes longer to work than heroin and the effects tend to last longer, the detection period is similar. Blood tests can only detect morphine for the first 12 hours after the last dose, and urine tests only work for up to 3 days. Saliva tests are more effective. They are able to detect traces of morphine for up to 4 days. Again, morphine can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days.

Codeine is one of the fastest opiates to leave your system. A blood drug test can detect it within 24 hours while urine tests work for 24-48 hours. Saliva testing for codeine is effective 1-4 days after.

Barbiturates were originally prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. They are divided into groups that define how fast they start working and for how long. Barbiturates comes in many forms, so how long they stay in your system varies. They can be short or intermediate acting. The shorter-acting varieties like pentobarbital and secobarbital have short half-lives so the body eliminates them faster.

Urine drug screening tests can detect shorter-acting barbiturates for up to six weeks. Hair follicle tests can detect drug use for up to 90 days. Long-lasting barbiturates will have a direct effect of 6-8 hours  but can remain in your system for up to 140 hours. Drug tests can detect long-acting drugs for up to three weeks.

Xanax, Valium, and Ativan are an example of Benzodiazepines. They are used to sedate patients, prevent seizures, and ease anxiety. Benzodiazepines vary on how long they can show up in drug tests. Valium will show up in urine tests for 3-6 weeks after the last time you took it. It remains in your blood for just a few days however.

Xanax and Klonopin may not show up in blood, urine, or hair follicle tests. The general detection time is 2-7 days. If you chronically use benzos, the parent drug and metabolite will be present in tests. When used recreationally, only either the parent drug or the metabolite may be found. Urine, blood, and saliva tests are often administered altogether for benzodiazepines detection. The hair follicle test will detect the family of drugs for up to 90 days.

Marijuana stays in the system for a short time while the THC stays in the system for a long period of time. This is true for both chronic users and casual users. THC is stored in the body and can turn up as a positive read in drug test screening for up to 4 weeks. Your body stores THC in your fat cells and slowly releases it into your bloodstream.

If you use cannabis casually, it can be detected in your urine for up to 5 days. If you take marijuana orally  or have a pot edible, it stays in your urine for longer. Cannabis stays in your blood for up to 2 weeks and up to 90 days in your hair follicles.

Drug testing is necessary for protecting people in many areas of life. For those working on job sites that require you to be fully functional for safety reasons, drug testing may be necessary. Even legal drugs can become a problem when they alter your brain functions. Opioid prescription painkillers are being misused by many sadly. Marijuana is legal in many states now but that doesn’t make it safe when you need to operate equipment.

The three common tests are designed to cover all the bases of drugs in your body. While urine measures the by-product compounds metabolites, they don’t detect the drug itself. Blood and saliva measure the parent compound.

Blood, urine, and saliva drug tests may also help within a drug rehab setting in outpatient programs. Maintaining the truth about your recovery to parties that have invested in you is helpful. Even if you can convince yourself that you’re okay, these drug tests reveal that more recovery is needed.

The various kinds of drugs out there metabolize differently in the body. They also remain in the blood for varying times. If you’ve been taking drugs and you are tested outside of the detection window, it’s possible your test will come up negative. The detection windows above were created to offer the full range of possibility. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to come up negative if the detection window is outside of the parameters. Every body deals with drugs differently.

How to Detox from Drugs

How to Detox from Drugs

Drugs change your body and brain chemistry. They cause you to become reliant on foreign chemicals. To restore balance to the body, drug abusers will have to go through drug detox. A detox for drug addiction will physically cleanse the body from these toxins. Slowly, the body’s natural balance gets restored and drug users will find their way to sobriety.

Different types of drugs require different types of medications. A drug detox program will look at each patient’s drug of choice and the dose taken. With these factors in mind, doctors prescribe different concoctions of medications. During the entire detox for drug abuse, medical staff will monitor each patient’s vitals to determine how well the detox is going. The dose and type of medications used can be adjusted and changed to fit the unique biological makeup of each patient. Let’s take a look at the type of drug detox programs recommended for various illicit or addictive substances.

Types of Drug that Require Detoxification

Although medical detoxification will ease withdrawal symptoms and shorten withdrawal timelines for all types of drugs, they are not always needed. It’s possible to recover from some drug addictions without the use of any medications at all. In these situations, a holistic detox approach may be possible. Only certain drugs require detox without any exceptions. They include:

  • Heroin
  • Opiate-related drugs, like Oxycontin
  • Xanax
  • Vicodin

For these drugs, medically-supervised detox is crucial. The withdrawal symptoms can make a turn for the worse at any point in time. These symptoms can even become fatal if they are not properly addressed.

The medical detox process can last anywhere from 3 days to one or two weeks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved certain drugs for medical detox. In other situations, the withdrawal symptoms are not severe at all and will not be too difficult to handle. For example, marijuana detox often does not require any medications at all.

In the event that patients do feel overwhelmed by the withdrawal symptoms, the doctors at the detox facility may prescribe other medications at their discretion. For example, some doctors may prescribe sleeping pills to patients who have insomnia.

Medications Often Used for Opiate Detox

Opiates are some of the only drugs that actually require medical detox. This type of detox is also known as Opiate Replacement Therapy (ORT). Essentially, doctors will replace the strong opioids with weaker ones. This way, the patients will not experience as intense withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the type of medications taken for ORT, patients may need to slowly taper off of the meds.

The FDA has approved quite a few different types of drugs for ORT. The type of medication that will work best for each patient will depend on the severity of their addiction, their length of drug use, their drug of choice, among many other factors. The most common types of prescription drugs used in opioid detox include:

  • Methadone. This is a full opioid agonist, which means that it has the same mechanism of action as heroin. These medications will attach directly to the opioid receptors in the brain. They can stimulate a sense of euphoria, and, as a result, can be quite addictive.
  • Buprenorphine. Unlike methadone, this is a partial opioid agonist. It works in a similar way to methadone; however, it has a  “ceiling effect”. Basically, there is only a maximum amount of buprenorphine that a patient can take before their body doesn’t respond to the drug. This is why buprenorphine is less addictive than methadone.
  • Naloxone. This is an opioid-reversing drug. It blocks opioids from attaching to the opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS).
  • Suboxone. This is a combination of both naloxone and buprenorphine. This drug is also highly favored by drug detox facilities because it is less addictive than methadone.
  • Naltrexone, otherwise known as Vivitrol. This drug is injected into the buttocks once a month, instead of taken as a pill. It blocks opioids from attaching to the CNS, and can only be taken once patients have stopped using opioids for at last 2 weeks.

If you’re seeking drug detox for an opioid addiction, learn more about the different types of medications available. There are distinct benefits and disadvantages to each option.

Drugs withdrawal timelines

Drug Detox Methods

When looking at drug detox options, patients are often given three different options. The medical professionals will want to assess each patient’s condition and situation to determine which method will be most effective. The three different methods available include:

  • “Cold Turkey” method. This drug detox method is exactly what it sounds like. Patients receive no pharmacological help at all during the detox process. They will cease the use of all addictive substances and endure the full brunt of the withdrawal symptoms. In general, this drug detox method is only recommended if the withdrawal symptoms are going to be mild. This detox method is not recommended for those who easily give in to temptations.
  • Short-term medicated detox. Patients will only use medications for a limited period of time. The sole responsibility and job of the detox process is to help ease withdrawal symptoms. For example, patients who experience insomnia may take sleeping pills while they are detoxing from a drug addiction.
  • Long-term medicated detox. This type of detox can span several weeks if not months. It’s usually only reserved for some of the most severe types of addiction, like an addiction to opioids. Patients are expected to take the medications for an extended period of time. This will give them time to relearn healthy habits and to retrain their brain. This drug detox method is recommended when the withdrawal symptoms are expected to be rather intense.

In most situations, the doctors at the rehab center will lean towards one type of method only. They will give patients more details about the type of methods and medications that will be used in the personalized plans.

Get Professionally Tested at Northpoint at Evergreen

Get Professionally Tested at Northpoint at Evergreen

Get a professional assessment and drug testing with a recovery center, like us, to get more insight on your addiction. We know exactly what to look for and how to determine the severity of your addiction. The tests don’t lie, and are also a great way for determining whether a loved one has been abusing drugs. The tests can tell you not only the type of drugs they’ve been abusing, but also the length of the drug use.

Once our addiction specialists have assessed your situation, we can provide you with some recommendations. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) can treat all types of addiction. We offer some of the highest quality medical detox programs and behavioral therapies to our clients. Each patient receives individualized care, and programs are tailored to their biological makeup and needs. Our goal is to help you transition into recovery as smoothly as possible. Take a big step forward towards addiction recovery by contacting us today.

Full Infographic:

Drug Testing Methods and Timeline

2018-09-23T03:11:44+00:00 June 10th, 2018|9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Jody March 13, 2018 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Yes my name is Jody and I had a question I literally have never tried heroin in my life recently went through a bad divorce and I tried it 7 days ago about 3 times only snorted it how long would that stay in my urine I had a drug test 14 panel today would seven or eight days will it be out of my urine if someone can let me know I would appreciate it

  2. Jessica Nicosia March 19, 2018 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    If I suspect my child is using drugs,shaves his body hair and keeps his hair very short, what results could I get with an inch or less?

    • Evergreen Staff May 18, 2018 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      You would need to reach out to the drug testing facility you would be using. However, you can use other forms of drug testing such as, blood, urine or saliva. Best of luck!

  3. Ted May 30, 2018 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    If I use a Sylvia test on my son how long is the time period will it detect after?

    • Evergreen Staff June 7, 2018 at 5:43 am - Reply

      The results would depend upon the test you are using and the substance you are looking for. You may want to reach out to the testing facility for more information.

  4. Chelsea Gilliam July 2, 2018 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    My name is Chelsea, I have been a recovering addict since January of 2015 now. My “drug of choice” was amphetamines, and before I got sober, I was a VERY heavy user! All day, everyday, with no end in sight at the time. But my question for you guys is, can traces of methamphetamines still be detected in a hair follicle test?? I am currently going through a custody battle for my two children and their relentless father asked for a hair follicle test in court a few months ago, so I agreed to take it knowing that I have been clean for nearly 3 years now. Unfortunately, the test came back with EXTREMELY high amounts of “minute” traces of methamphetamines.. how is this possible?? I have lost all contact with my children due to a BOGUS drug test.

    • Evergreen Staff July 6, 2018 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      I am sorry that you are going through this and congratulations to 3 years sober! You could always challenge the results, or go to another clinic and request another test. Best of luck to you!

  5. Cinthia Ramosé September 14, 2018 at 3:21 am - Reply

    I take dabs of marijuana every night usually to calm my anxiety. I found out I have to schedule a drug test sometime soon. I have been a week without taking any dabs. How long do you think I have to wait for it to be out of my blood.

    • Evergreen Staff September 16, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      Each person can differ but as stated in the blog, “A blood test can detect the presence of THC and Nicotine for many weeks after the ingestion date.” However, the differences of amount ingested, body weight, age, etc. all play a factor on how long it will truly stay in your system.

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