If you’ve applied for a job, there’s a good chance you may have been asked to undergo testing for illicit drugs. Similarly, in a car accident, crime scene, or other type of accidental death, a toxicological analysis and drug test will be administered. In 2015, almost 10 million urine drug tests showed up as positive in the workforce and misusing antibiotics costs our healthcare system over $20 billion each year. It’s also important to note the people who lose their lives because of illicit drugs each year — either through overdosing, fatal accidents, or crime-related incidents. Nipping the use of illegal drugs in the bud important for not just individuals but also our society at large. So how does one go about testing for illicit drugs? Why are these tests so important? What are the different types of toxicology tests?
What are Common Tests for Illicit Drugs?
The most common types of drugs that are generally tested are amphetamines, barbituates, cocaine, codeine, heroin, hydrocodone, ketamine, LSD, marijuana, ecstasy, methadone, methamphetamines, morphine, opiates, oxycodone, PCP (phencyclidine), steroids, and synthetic drugs — though this is by no means a complete list.
Generally, the tests are administered via a painless urine drug test — you go in a cup that’s sealed and sent off to the lab for testing. This is one of the most effective ways to test, as it’s hard to tamper with. Oxycodone, for example, can be found in urine for up to three days after it’s been consumed and you can detect heroin between 24 and 72 hours after injection.
There are also blood drug tests, though the window in which you can detect the presence of drugs is much shorter than that of a urine test. For example, marijuana can disappear from the bloodstream in six hours. However, these tend to be more invasive and expensive than urine tests and aren’t used as often.
Why Is Testing for Illicit Drugs So Important?
In the workplace, testing for illicit drugs ensures that you’re hiring people who are on the straight and narrow. You don’t have to worry about them coming to work under the influence — or potentially even missing work, because of the drugs. Furthermore, there are many other problems that follow a drug habit that aren’t ideal in a new employee.
In terms of sports or athletics, testing for steroids, for example, can make sure that playing remains fair and that no team or team member is given an unfair (and illegal) advantage.
When it comes to forensics or a legal side, the presence of illicit drugs can either help solidify a party’s guilt, figure out whether a drug overdose or drug-related condition was a factor in the death, or if it was a factor in the crime (such as rape drugs).
Drug testing generally can also work in positive ways, to make sure that a patient responds well to the recommended doses of medicine prescribed. Drug tests can also make sure that patients are appropriately weaned off potentially addictive drugs once they’re no longer needed for their condition.
How Do The Different Types of Toxicology Tests Work?
A toxicology test will check you for drugs or other chemicals that might be in your blood, saliva, or urine and in some cases, will check your sweat or the contents of your stomach.
A blood test will be very similar to the process of taking blood when you donate. Your arm will be cleaned with alcohol and the needle will be inserted into the vein, collecting blood that flows through a tube. Once enough has been collected, the needle will be removed.
For a urine test, make sure you wash your hands and clean your genitals before taking the sample in the collection cup. You’ll want to catch the sample “mid-stream,” for best results and make sure that you don’t touch the collection cup to your genital area or have it contaminated with other matter.
A saliva test is probably the easiest; you’ll be asked to spit into a tube or be given a swab for your cheek.
Drug screening or testing can have many different purposes, but all are meant to keep us safe.