Drug Test Detection Period

How to understand drug detection periods

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drug test detection period

Did you know that the detection period for drugs during a drug test varies greatly?  For example, an infrequent smoker of marijuana might pass a urine drug test 3 weeks after last use, but a regular smoker will test positive for up to 2 months after last use! Cocaine users have even a shorter detection time of only a few days.

Employer drug testing programs should understand that the test specimen, individual, and drug tested are all important variables to consider when evaluating a drug test result.

Drug Testing Variables

The specimen of choice makes a big difference in the detection period. Popular specimens include urine, blood, hair, and saliva. Most businesses and organizations choose urine drug testing due to price and reliability.  Saliva testing rates second in popularity due to practicality and reduced risk of adulteration of the specimen sample.

Urine drug tests for marijuana detect usage p to 2 months after last use. This occurs because the urine test checks for THC-COOH, a non-psychoactive fat-soluble metabolite released from the body slowly. The individual’s body fat usually stores this metabolite,  and the person’s metabolism and body fat content will affect the detection time frame.

Individuals who smoke marijuana more regularly will have higher deposits of THC-COOH. Regular use also allows for a longer testing window. Likewise, users who have higher body fat will test positive for a longer period of time due to more fat for THC-COOH to attach to.

Saliva or oral drug testing has even a shorter detection period. Most saliva drug tests can detect marijuana usage within a few hours up to 3 days. Employers choose this testing method when identifying recent usage is crucial. However, saliva drug tests are not recommended for surveying long term use.

Besides marijuana, most other drugs tested in a urine drug test will have a limited detection time of less than a week. Exceptions include methadone and PCP, which urine tests can detect up to 30 days after last use. Saliva and blood testing are also limited to a few days after use.

Longer Term Testing

For longer term testing, employers can consider using hair testing. Like saliva testing, hair testing is less susceptible to adulterants and can detect most drug use up to 90 days after last use. This includes hard to detect drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Contemplating an employer drug testing program? Mobile Health will help you determine the most effective drug testing approach to achieve your goals. Trained staff at seven Mobile Health clinics in the NY area and its network of 3,300+ providers nationwide conduct employee screening procedures, including drug testing. Although most employer drug testing programs use urine drug testing, your Mobile Health Account Manager can discuss saliva, blood, and hair testing as possible options for your business.


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