Sunday, January 5, 2014

Drug Screening Methods

Drug screens are performed to detect the presence of drugs and drug metabolites in the body. Drug metabolites exist in the body for a period of time after the effects of the drug have worn off and the drug itself has been metabolized. Drug metabolites are excreted from the body and are detectable in bodily fluids through a variety of means.


Drug screens may be administered prior to certain types of employment. The federal government of the United States requires that a drug screen takes place before a commercial driver's license is issued. Drug screens may be administered to employees, students, athletes, those on probation and those suspected of driving while intoxicated. The SAMHSA-5 is a group of five types of drugs for which standardized drug tests screen. The SAMHSA-5 are amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine or PCP.


Urinalysis is a means of examining a urine sample. The urine sample is examined macroscopically, microscopically and chemically. The urine sample is inspected for anomalies of appearance and coloration. Under a microscope, the urine sample is inspected for damaged cells and the presence of microorganisms. A chemical "dipstick" is dipped into the urine sample to determine the chemical composition of the sample.

Blood Test

Blood tests are the most expensive and invasive type of drug screening procedure, but they are the most accurate. Blood is withdrawn from a vein or artery and examined to detect both the presence of drugs and drug metabolites. Blood tests accurately reveal a current state of intoxication and are often utilized as part of DUI cases.

Hair Follicle Test

Drug metabolites can be detected within strands of hair. The cortex of a strand of hair will reveal drug metabolites for as long as the hair has been growing. A long enough strand of hair may reveal when drug use, particularly of opiates, occurred and when it ceased. However, metabolites of cocaine may travel up and down the cortex of a strand of hair, making it difficult to detect when the drug was used.

Saliva Test

A sample of oral fluid may be obtained and examined to reveal drug use. Saliva tests more accurately reveal the use of amphetamines, cocaine and opiates than the use of cannabinoids.

Sweat Test

A patch, much like an adhesive bandage, worn for approximately two weeks will reveal the use of drugs by the metabolites excreted through sweating. Relative to other forms of drug screening, sweat testing is uncommon. Sweat testing is most frequently used to test those on probation.

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