Urine Drug Testing – Everything You Need To Know

Urine drug testing is a medical evaluation where health specialists determine if there is any trace of drugs in the system of the patient. There are many instances when such testing is required, such as pre-employment, routine safety drug testing or testing for college applicants and high-performance athletes. Find out below some of the most important facts related to urine drug testing such as how accurate it is, how the test is performed or what are the drug detection times when this evaluation method is used.

Urine drug testing accuracy

Urine drug testing is one of the most commonly used evaluation methods. This testing will not show the exact amount of drugs in the system or the approximate time when the patient used the drug. Urinalysis will only confirm whether or not the patient used any substances.

Even though urine drug testing is considered accurate being used the most often as an evaluation method, there have been many complaints regarding “false positive” results. This means the drug test came out positive on some patients, even though they have been not using any illicit substances. The results of urine testing can be slightly influenced if the patient takes a certain medication that contains substances such as opioids or barbiturates.

Drug detection times in urine

Drugs have different detection times in urine, from 2 days and even up to several months. Therefore, not consuming a drug 1 or 2 days before the testing will make the test still come out positive. Check out a list with the most commonly used drugs and their detection time in urine:

  • Speed (Amphetamines)- the detection time in urine is up to 48 hours
  • Sedatives & Hypnotics (Barbiturates)- the short-acting barbiturates have a urine detection time of up to 2 days, while the long-acting sedatives can be detected even after 3 weeks of last use
  • Cocaine has a detection time of up to 4 days
  • Marijuana– (Cannabis)- belongs to the hallucinogens that have the longest urine detection time. Single use of Marijuana has a detection time of 3 to 7 days, while prolonged use can have a detection time or even up to 2 months or more.
  • Heroin– the heroin detection time in urine is 48 hours.

How the test is performed

To perform the test, the healthcare specialist will ask for a urine sample. There is no discomfort associated with urine drug testing, as the patient is asked to perform normal urination. Next, the sample will be sent to the lab and tested for the presence of any of the following substances: Cocaine, Barbiturates, Amphetamines, Cannabinoids (also known THC), Methadone, or Antidepressants.

What you should also know is that an employer has the right to request an immediate urine collection at the workplace. The employer does not have to let employees know in advance a urine drug testing will occur. Healthcare professionals will arrive at the workplace and ask employees to give a urine sample for testing. The employer has the right to terminate the job contract of employees whose urine test came out positive.

Directly Observed Test (DOT)

At times, directly observed urine collection can be conducted. This is when the patient will urinate under the observation of the healthcare provider. Such instances occur to avoid allowing the patient to tamper with the urine sample (such as diluting the urine or adding enzymes to alter the chemical consistency of the urine for favorable test results).

Such directly observed urine testing can be indeed frustrating, but the “observer” (a same-gender healthcare provider for example) has to watch the patient/employee urinate into the special collection container.

Employees may refuse to allow such a directly observed urine testing. This is considered refusal to test for drugs.

Urine drug testing: things to keep in mind

One of the biggest concerns of people undergoing urine drug testing is the false positive result. This is why it is so important to enlist all types of medication (prescription, Over the Counter, and even Herbal meds) that you are taking. There is a high possibility that some of these medications will influence the outcome of the test. Even though you are not taking illicit drugs, your test can come out positive because of the substances contained within the medication. For example, the simple use of a decongestant for the stuffy nose can test positive on amphetamines.

Urine drug testing can also lead to false negative results. This means your test will be negative, even though you have consumed drugs. Most often, people dilute their urine sample with water. However, nowadays it is almost impossible to tamper with urine samples because specialists can quickly tell if the urine has been diluted with water.

Urine Drug Testing Truths

Some myths are circulating urine drug testing. To find out what’s true and what’s not:

  • Antibiotics can at times give a false positive result. A positive screen can be caused by antibiotics such as Ciprofloxacin, Ofloxacin or Levofloxacin
  • Drinking a very large quantity of water (1 liter at least) will indeed dilute the urine sample. However, experts can easily tell if the urine sample is too dilute to give accurate results, by measuring the creatinine concentration in the urine.
  • A positive result on opioids can also be caused by consuming a very large quantity of poppy seeds.
  • Saliva testing and urine testing may give different results (one negative and one positive) for the same patient. Why? Because drugs remain in the saliva for much shorter periods and in lower concentrations than in urine. This is exactly why most experts consider urine testing more accurate testing than oral swabs.
  • The THC levels found in Marijuana and in the drug called Marinol cannot be differentiated. People taking Marinol can easily test positive on Cannabinoids. Marinol is a medication containing cannabinoid substance. It is prescribed for the treatment of appetite loss in people with AIDS.