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Drug Testing 

Drugs affect every person differently. The drug you use (strength, dose, how and how often you use it and other drugs) can affect how long it stays in your system. It can also be affected by you as an individual depending on your tolerance, age and gender, overall health, metabolism, mood and environment you are in and if you have taken other drugs (including legal drugs such as prescription drugs or alcohol). 

Types of drug tests 

A drug test is a test to find out if you have used a drug or drugs. They look for very small amounts of drugs in the body.  

There are different types of drug tests: 

Urine tests 
Urine testing is the most common method of testing as it detects drug use for a longer period of time (longer than blood, but not as long as hair tests) and it is easier to administer and more accurate. Urine drug tests are commonly used in workplace drug testing. 
 
If you are asked to have a urine test, you will be asked to urinate (pee) into a container and your urine will be tested using a dipstick.  

Saliva tests 
Saliva testing is a quick, accurate and reliable method. This form of testing is used in random roadside drug testing. It is used to detect the presence of THC (the active component in cannabis) and amphetamine type stimulants including methylamphetamine (‘speed’ or ‘ice’) and MDMA (‘ecstasy’). 

Blood tests 
Blood testing is often used to test for recent drug use e.g. within a couple hours of use. This form of testing is not widely used as it is expensive. 
 
A sample of your blood is taken from a finger prick, or from a vein in your arm, using a needle and your blood sample will be tested by an accredited laboratory. 

Hair tests 
Whilst your body might have eliminated the drug, there may still be residues in the hair follicle that could still show up tests, therefore is different to a urine/saliva/blood test. Hair testing can provide a history of drug use as traces of drugs may accumulate in your hair because hair growth is fed by a blood stream, therefore anything in the blood stream could lodge in the hair follicle The length of the hair can determine how far back drugs may be traced back. It is the only reliable method that can be used to detect drug use beyond a couple of days or weeks. Most hair drug tests do not detect drug use further than the past 3 months. This form of testing is not widely used as it is expensive. 
 
If you are asked to have a hair drug test, approximately 40–50 strands of your hair will be cut from the scalp line at the crown of your head and sent to a laboratory to test your hair sample (information provided by ChemCentre). 

How long after will drugs be detected by a test? 

It is important to note that the detection of drugs in any sample (blood, urine and saliva) can change depending on the individual person and their biological factors and most suggested time frames are based on scientific studies but individual results may vary. These figures should be used as a guide only, and are based on averages in the population. Timings can change depending on the amount and potency used, and a person’s metabolism rate. 

Drug 

Saliva Tests 

Blood Tests 

Urine Tests 

Amphetamines 

Up to 24 hours 

4 - 8 hours 

3 - 4 days 

Cannabis 

Up to 4 hours 

20 - 36 hours 

18 hours - 90 days 

Cocaine 

Up to 24 hours 

40 - 90 minutes 

1 - 2 days 

Ecstasy 

Up to 24 hours 

4 - 8 hours 

3 - 4 days 

Hallucinogens 

N/A 

30 minutes - 2 days 

1 - 5 days 

Heroin 

N/A 

30 mins - 3 hours 

1 - 2 days 

Benzodiazepines
 

N/A 

1 - 100 hours
 

1 - 6 weeks 

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Looking for info about the effects of a specific drug?

Check out the Drug Types page here.

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