Drug testing is a regular part of the hiring process and a person may also be drug tested for various other reasons. If you or a loved one is abusing drugs, the drugs you are using will likely be detected by a urine, hair, or blood test.
While the best way to pass a drug test for employment is to permanently quit all drug use, many people still want to know how long different drugs stay in the body. First, we’ll review the different factors that affect how long drugs stay in your system and then we’ll take a quick look at how drug tests work.
Influential Factors for Drug Detection Times
A drug test may detect certain substances in the body over time depending on several different factors. Drug detection times will vary greatly from person to person, based on how their body metabolizes each drug and the type of drug test that was used. Hair follicle tests, urine tests, and blood/saliva tests are some of the most common drug testing methods.
|The rate at which a person metabolizes a drug will depend on their: |
Even taking these factors into consideration, medical experts can’t provide exact detection times for drugs, as there are too many different variables. They can, however, provide accurate estimations for the length of time a drug may be detectable in hair, blood, saliva, and urine.
How Do Drug Tests Wor?
When a person ingests a drug, it is absorbed into the digestive tract and spread out into the various tissues of the body. Drugs that are injected, inhaled, or snorted, immediately penetrate the tissues. A drug test is a type of test that can be administered to determine if a person has used an addictive substance like cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, among others. These tests work by analyzing biological specimens like urine, blood, saliva, or hair to detect the substance(s).2
What Are Drug Testing Methods?
There are several different methods of drug testing.3 Each works in a unique way and has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
- Blood drug test – Blood tests can be used to detect very recent use of substances and is a well-established method. Although it provides a short detection window, it’s also more expensive, can only detect substances for a limited amount of time, and is considered invasive, since it requires a blood sample.
- Breath drug test – Breath tests are also a well-established drug testing method, but they can only be used for alcohol. Additionally, it’s often difficult to get an accurate sample if a person is extremely intoxicated or uncooperative.
- Sweat drug test – Sweat tests have lots of advantages, as they are easy to administer, can detect recent drug use (within 24 hours), and they are difficult to fake. Unfortunately, only one sweat swipe or patch is available for testing so additional testing is impossible if needed.
- Saliva drug test – A saliva drug test can provide same-day drug use detection, is easy to collect, is a non-invasive testing method. However, the drug detection window is short with saliva tests and a person must be supervised for 10 to 30 minutes before submitting to the test.
- Urine drug test – Urine testing is a well-researched method and can provide a larger specimen sample, compared to saliva, sweat, or blood tests. One of the biggest downsides of urine testing is that they are easier to fake or alter and some people may be unable to produce urine on the spot for testing purposes.
- Hair drug test – Hair tests offer the longest detection windows for drugs. The testing process is quick, easy, non-invasive, and allows for convenient storage and transportation of the biological sample. However, it can be difficult to interpret the results and low-level drug use may not always be detected.
Urine Drug Test Facts
- Urine testing is the most common sample type used for drug testing by employers.
- A urine drug test will reveal the presence of the drug in the body after its effects have worn off.
- Urine drug tests may detect amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, MDMA, opiates like codeine, heroin, and morphine, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, oxycodone, nicotine, or alcohol.
- Drinking a ton of water or other fluids won’t help you pass a urine drug screen. It will online dilute your urine sample which will yield incomplete results and require further testing or another test.
- There are several different types of urine drug tests, including 6-panel, 10-panel, and 16-panel tests that screen for different substances.
How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?
Approximate detection times2,3
|Alcohol||12-24 hours||10-48 hours||Up to 90 days|
|Amphetamines||12 hours||2-4 days||Up to 90 days|
|Barbiturates||1-2 days||Up to 7 days||Up to 90 days|
|Benzodiazepines||6-48 hours||Up to 7 days||Up to 90 days|
|Cannabis (marijuana)||Up to 24 hours||1-30 days||Up to 90 days|
|Cocaine||2-10 days||2-10 days||Up to 90 days|
|Codeine||1-36 hours||2-4 days||Up to 90 days|
|LSD||2-4 days||2-24 hours||Up to 4 days|
|MDMA||3-4 days||3-4 days||Up to 90 days|
|Methadone||24 hours||7-10 days||Up to 90 days|
|Methamphetamine||1-48 hours||2-5 days||Up to 90 days|
|Morphine||1-36 hours||2-5 days||Up to 90 days|
|Heroin||1-36 hours||2-3 days||Up to 90 days|
|Phenobarbital||4-7 days||2-3 weeks||Up to 90 days|
|PCP (Phencyclidine)||1-3 days||5-6 days||Up to 90 days|
What is a Drug’s Half-Life?
The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the concentration of the drug in the plasma or the total amount in the body to be reduced to 50 percent.4 There are two primary factors affect the half-life of a drug, including the rate at which your body eliminates the drug and the concentration of the drug in the body. The half-life of a drug is also just an average duration of time, so it can vary greatly from person to person depending on other individual factors.
Knowing the half-life of a drug can help you understand how long its effects will last in your body and how long the drug’s metabolites can be detected with a drug test. It can also be used to predict the timeline for the onset of withdrawal symptoms, which can occur when certain drugs leave your body. Doctors often use this information when prescribing medication to determine the appropriate dosage amount and frequency for a patient.
Drugs with long half-lives stay in your body longer than drugs with short half-lives. This also means that drugs with long half-lives are typically detectable for longer in urine, blood, saliva, and hair drug tests.
Chart of Drug Half-Lives
|Illegal drugs|| |
How Long Are Drugs Detected in Urine?
The length of time in which drugs can be detected in urine varies depending on several factors, like:
- The type of drug you used
- Urine pH (acidity of urine)
- Body mass
- How long ago you used the drug
- How long and how frequently you used the drug
Different types of urine drug tests (sometimes called urine drug screens) can also produce different results. For example, an immunoassay (IA) urine test is the most common type of urine drug screen because it is fast and cost-effective. Another type of urine test called a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is used less frequently because it is more expensive and takes longer to get results. However, it is more reliable and can detect a wider range of drugs than an IA test.
How to Beat a Drug Test?
Although it’s never recommended to try to cheat your way out of a drug test, here are a few common ways people try to beat drug tests:
- Flushing drugs from their body with water, cranberry juice, or detox products sold online that claim to detox urine.
- Adding chemicals to their urine sample to mask the presence of drugs.
- Substituting someone else’s urine for their own.
Many people who abuse drugs try to beat drug tests but are generally unsuccessful. While you can easily find home remedies and detox kits online that claim to flush drugs from your system and yield clean test results, they are rarely effective. Other attempts to dilute or manipulate specimens and results are often too obvious to be successful either.
You may be required to take a drug test for any number of reasons, such as if it is requested by your doctor or an ER staff member. It may also be a requirement for a drug rehab program, sporting event, or be enforced as a workplace policy.
If you’re currently abusing drugs and searching for ways to beat a drug test, you may have short-term success, but ultimately, you are just avoiding the real problem of drug dependency or addiction. Instead of trying to beat a drug test, it might be time to get professional help and treatment for your drug abuse.
How to Detox Your Body?
The term “detox” is frequently used to refer to the practice of flushing toxins out of your system by drinking water, fasting, or eating certain healthy, whole foods. However, the term “detox” can also refer to the physical process of readjusting to sobriety after developing a tolerance and dependence to a drug.
If you want to stop using drugs but your body has already adapted to a drug’s presence, you will experience uncomfortable physical side effects when you stop using it. This is called withdrawal. Drug withdrawal symptoms will vary in type, intensity, and duration depending on:
- What type of drug(s) you use
- How long you’ve been using the drug(s)
- If you have any preexisting mental health or physical health conditions
- The method you use to quit
People who quit drugs cold turkey (or abruptly all at once) have the highest risk of experiencing severe or dangerous withdrawal, especially if they are severely addicted and/or are using multiple drugs simultaneously. Certain types of drugs, such as benzodiazepines, can also produce more severe psychological or physical symptoms, which may require professional medical and clinical treatment.
Examples of severe withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Severe depression and/or suicidal behavior
- Aggressive behavior
Detoxing from drugs can take several days or weeks, so trying to quit drugs on your own is often very difficult, uncomfortable, and can even be life-threatening. If you’re ready to get sober but you need help to stop using drugs, a medical detox program is a safe and effective way to succeed.
Medical detox programs provide inpatient treatment for drug and alcohol detox. Before you are admitted to a detox program, treatment staff will provide a comprehensive assessment to determine your current needs and design a program that addresses those needs.
During detox, a doctor will oversee your treatment and work together with a team of nurses, clinical therapists, and recovery specialists to modify and adjust your detox regimen as needed. This may include administering medications that reduce severe withdrawal symptoms, providing clinical therapy, and recommending the next steps in the treatment process.
This type of professional support during detox can greatly improve your chances of success and provide access to continued treatment through residential rehab, outpatient rehab, or community support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Drug addiction is a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment to manage. The thought of being in detox or rehab for months may seem overwhelming, but healing physically and emotionally, addressing your triggers, and learning how to live a sober life are all important aspects of recovery that require a time commitment. Fortunately, with the right treatment and support, you can succeed.
Stop Sweating the Drug Tests and Overcome Your Addiction
If you struggle with chronic substance abuse or addiction, drug testing might be a stressful topic. A positive test could mean you lose your job, you get kicked off the college football team, or you spend time in jail.
Fortunately, it is possible to stop abusing drugs with the right detox treatment, behavioral therapy, and ongoing addiction treatment. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, but long-term professional treatment can provide sustainable life skills and recovery resources to prevent relapse and encourage lasting sobriety.
Call Nova Recovery Center today for more information about inpatient and outpatient drug rehab programs for addicted individuals. We offer a full continuum of care comprised of traditional medical detox or executive detox, residential and outpatient rehab, sober living, and aftercare. We’re ready to help you start your new sober life.