DRUG DETECTION TIMES


Detection of Drug Substances




Everyone who seeks or has a job should be aware of what drug detection times may mean for them. Employer drug testing also involves how long the drug remains in your body. The amount of time after the individual took a drug being tested for is the detection time.


The ability to identify the amount of time a drug has been in your system depends on several things such as…
  • how and how often the drug is used
  • how fast the body processes (metabolizes) the drug
  • the kind of sample (hair, urine, sweat, blood, etc)
  • cut off level (least amount needed to measure)
  • drug test method
  • personal body size and weight
  • other influences
Drug testing with hair will detect drugs for a much longer time than drug testing of urine. Drug testing using hair means that as hair grows it keeps traces of drugs in its shafts. The longer the hair the longer the drug can be traced back.

Detection Drug Test Times

The chart below provides basic information about detection of drug time periods. The drug testing detection times are based on standard tests. Again, these drug testing and detection times are dependent on different factors that also include the specific testing range used by the drug testing company or lab.


drug detection times


Drug Abuse Detection

Drug Detection Time
Alcohol 6–24 hours
Amphetamines 2–3 days
Barbituates 1 day to 3 weeks
Benzodiazepines 3–7 days
Cocaine 2–5 days
Codeine 3–5 days
Euphorics (MDMA, Ecstasy) 1–3 days
LSD 1-4 days
Marijuana (THC) 7–30 days
Methadone 3–5 days
Methaqualone 14 days
Opiates 1-4 days
Phencyclidine (PCP) 2–4 days
Steroids (anabolic) 14–30 days


These drug abuse detection times are not written in stone. The drugs will still be present in the body but will fade from the system over time. The drugs will have lessened enough to where they no longer result in a positive drug test.


Drugs that are tested for and the chemical results that are left behind after use are called metabolites. A metabolite is any substance produced by a metabolic reaction (i.e. a chemical reaction in the body) including chemicals formed by the metabolic transformations of a drug.

5 Drug Panel Test

Testing of urine is the most common drug test because it is dependable, less invasive, less costly and will detect occasional and recent use. The SAMHSA-5/NIDA-5 is a 5 panel drug test that looks for these most common types of illegal drugs.
  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines and Methamphetamines
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that provides rules and regulations for U.S. government workplace drug testing programs. NIDA is the National Institute on Drug Abuse that previously directed SAMHSA.


drug detection times


10 Drug Panel Test

In recent years the types of drugs being abused has increased. Because of this employers can use a drug testing company that offers a 10 Screen Drug Panel. These additional five drugs include…

  • Methadone
  • Barbiturates (butalbital, amobarbital, pentobarbital, phenobarbital, secobarbitol
  • Benzodiazepines (valium, librium, xanax, etc.)
  • Methaqualone (qualuudes)
  • Propoxyphene (darvon)
Many employers are beginning to test for more types of drugs. Here are several others they may seek drug test detection times for.
  • Inhalants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Ethanol (alcohol)
  • LSD
As you can see if jobseekers and employees are doing it, companies are doing more alcohol and drug detection for it.

Drug Testing Detection

Job applicants and employees have another thing to consider. Even if you are not a drug user/abuser it may be possible for you to fail a drug test. Being around those who are using/abusing illegal drugs can have a second hand affect on you!


drug detection times


Drug testing by hair is being used by an increasing number of employers. Free base cocaine (crack) and marijuana smoke can be absorbed through the hair. This means you could just be at a party where these drugs are being used and then fail to pass hair drug testing.

Follow this link for more info on hair follicle drug testing.

You may also fail urine drug testing if enough second hand smoke gets absorbed into your system. Unfortunately this also means you could test positive in the drug screen test and also the drug confirmation test.

Drug Detection

As I mentioned earlier drug detection time is dependent on different things like your health, weight, frequency of drug use, drug test method as well as other factors. For example cocaine and heroin can only be detected for several hours after being ingested. What they leave behind or their metabolites can be found in your body for a few days later.


Drug abuse detection has what’s called cutoff levels. These are the minimum amounts of the drug or its metabolite that has to be in the sample before the drug detection report will show positive. Drug testing companies that follow the SAMHSA guidelines will do initial drug test in employment screens. If the initial screening test is positive then a confirmation test is done to prove the accuracy of the first test.


The bottom line for job seekers and employees is that drug detection times tests may determine if they get, keep or lose a job. The accuracy of drug abuse detection means cutoff levels must be high enough to be reported as positive to the employer. The job applicant and employee should understand how important cutoff levels can be.


Follow this link to learn more about cutoff levels in pre employment drug testing.

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