What Lies Behind the Science Of Drug Testing?

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You must have come across the words “drug testing” often. Drug tests are a routine procedure to determine the presence or non-presence of an illegal substance inside a human body. Various substances can be traced through the process; however, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines are the most common.

Drug tests are a common phenomenon in sports where athletes take a test to verify the lack of performance-enhancing drugs in their system. In this field, the world anti-doping agency is the chief regulator in tracking banned substances usage in different sports and events.

It is also the policy of many companies and offices to request drug tests from their employees to maintain workplace safety and professionalism.


How does drug testing work?

The most preferred and commonly used method for drug screening is the urine test. However, other tests such as blood, hair, saliva, nails, oral fluid, and sweat are extensively used to identify foreign substances. Each type of test has a distinct method for identifying different substances.

Sometimes depending on the required concentration of drugs inside the body, a particular test is prescribed. The necessary amount of time for drug test results usually varies on factors such as the type of test, body mass of the person tested, hydration levels, and the time between the drug consumed and the test.

However, there are widespread malpractices involving drug screenings. Given the legal and criminal ramifications, tests are often falsified, and samples are changed. Strict measures and punishments are applied to ensure a fair process.

There are several clinics where drug testing is carried out. If you are seeking reputable clinics in the United States, particularly in Missouri, visit drug testing springfield mo for quick results!

Common Drug tests

1. Urine Test.

The process involves a person urinating into a plastic container and handing the sample to a medical professional for evaluation. Before this test is undertaken, it is to be ensured whether or not the person is taking any prescription medicines or herbal remedies. The result is usually declared within a few days or sometimes on the same day.

Additionally, if the result is positive, the person may have to undergo another test just for verification. To detect cannabis compounds in the bloodstream using a urine test, single use of the substance is usually identified two days after use, three times a week, two weeks after use, and daily use, up to two-four weeks.

The usual timeframe for other substances like alcohol is seven to twelve hours, cocaine two to four days, heroin one to three days, amphetamines two to three days, etc. The urine sample temperature should be around 32°C to 38°C. Everything from the color of the sample, glucose and oxidants levels, and pH range is assessed to provide an accurate test result.


2.  Hair Follicle Test.

Also known as the hair drug test, the hair follicle test is commonly used to screen for illegal substances in the body through hair follicles. In this test, a few strands of hair are removed from a person’s scalp and sent for evaluation.

It is different from a urine test because a hair test can trace the existence of a substance in the bloodstream even after 90 days. No changes in accuracy in the test results are detected even if someone washes their hair, dyes it, or uses hair products.

 A positive result is usually identified within 72 hours, whereas a negative result takes 24 hours. There’s also a high chance that results may be inconclusive. Two kinds of methods are usually used for a hair test:

- The ELISA tests

- Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) test

The GC/MS test is a widely used method to avoid false positive tests and can identify up to 17 different drugs in the system. However, the ELISA test is much faster and can deliver results within 24 hours.

3. Blood Test.

A blood test is the third kind of test used to identify drug substances in a body. Here a blood sample is taken in a sealed bottle from the subject, ideally from the arm vein or back of the hand. Similar to a urine test, this test is done for recent substance abuse. However, in urine tests, the timeframe for detection is days, while for blood tests, it’s usually minutes and hours.

This method is mainly used after an accident to identify whether or not those involved were under any drug or alcohol influence. Like other tests, blood tests detect many substances like alcohol, cocaine, opiates, and marijuana.

Moreover, blood tests are expensive in comparison to other methods.

4. Mouth Swab Test.

This test has gathered widespread recognition after the COVID-19 pandemic, but previously it was also used to detect drug substances in the body. Here a collection stick with a swab is used to get a saliva sample.

The test results usually take around 24 hours. However, several factors like concentration of the drug in the body, quality of swab, submission time of the sample, etc., may delay the process.

Along with urine tests, mouth swab tests are the preferred and cost-effective method for drug screening.



There are many scientific processes involved in drug testing; however, the main motive is to provide accurate results, given the legal stakes involved. Accuracy or inaccuracy of results can severely affect a life, so there’s no scope for complacency.

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