Tips & Advice
How accurate is a drug test?
Basic home test kits and the first step in most professional lab tests involve a simple qualitative analysis -- this means the test will determine the presence of a substance above a certain level, but will not determine the exact amount present in the sample. If a qualitative test indicates the presence of a substance, a professional lab test may then perform quantitative analysis to determine precise levels. Different types of drug tests have different tolerances for accuracy. In addition, taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications could affect the accuracy of some drug tests.
How should I prepare for a drug test?
For a common urinalysis drug test, there is little someone needs to do to prepare. Since these tests will require a small amount of urine, you may want to drink an extra glass of water about an hour before providing the sample. Test providers should be informed of any medications you are taking, as some of these might change test results.
How much does drug testing usually cost?
In the case of tests administered for employment, professional sports or parole programs, testing is usually done at the expense of the person or group ordering the tests. At-home testing kits may cost as little as $10 for basic tests, or more than $100 for more advanced types.
Are home drug-test kits safe and accurate?
Home drug-test kits are available from most drug stores and can screen for either a panel of substances or only one specific substance. Home test kits are less advanced than professional lab equipment, so they will indicate the presence of a substance but will not indicate the amount present. Some tests will give a quick, broad preliminary result at home, but can be sent to a lab by mail for more rigorous testing.
How do I get the results of a drug test?
In cases when drug test results are not available within a few minutes, results are often mailed to the employer ordering the test.
What are my rights related to drug testing?
Laws governing the rights and responsibilities involved in the drug testing process vary depending on the state and the exact circumstance. Regarding workplace drug tests, some states prohibit testing, except when an employer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to do so. In general, workplace drug tests are presumed to be legal unless there is a specific restriction at the state or federal level. Usually, employees have a right to advance notice of testing, and their results remain confidential.
Tests for illicit drug use or alcohol use are often a condition of probation and parole programs. The laws surrounding these tests also vary according to the state and circumstances, but generally, parolees are required to attend drug screen sessions on a regular schedule and must pass a certain number of tests as a condition of their parole or probation plan.
Who performs drug-testing services?
Drug tests are usually administered by a clinical laboratory testing center. Lab professionals collect the specimen and then use certain equipment and techniques to analyze it. Depending on the type of test, results may be available within minutes or after a few days.
Which drugs can be detected in a drug test?
The most common type of drug test analyzes a urine sample for traces of five drugs or their metabolites (the chemicals created by the body after processing the drug):
- Amphetamines (including methamphetamine and MDMA, known as “ecstasy”)
- Opiates (including heroin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and others)
- Phencyclidine (known as PCP)
- THC (the active ingredient in cannabis that is either smoked or otherwise ingested)
How does drug testing work?
Drug tests involve analyzing a biological sample for the presence of certain chemicals that indicate drug use. Tests are often administered using a small amount of the patient’s urine, but can also be performed using blood, hair, breath, sweat or saliva. Drug tests may focus only on finding a specific chemical, or may be used to test for a broad range of different substances.
Why is drug testing necessary?
Drug tests are often administered in a workplace setting, either as a requirement for employment or to ensure compliance with company policies among current workers. Drug testing is also used as part of a parole agreement when necessary. In general, drug testing can also be used in a medical setting to analyze the effect of a medication in a patient.