Drug Testing: MedlinePlus Medical Test (2024)

What is a Drug Test?

A drug test looks for signs of one or more illegal or prescription drugs in a sample of your urine (pee), blood, saliva (spit), hair, or sweat. The purpose of a drug test is to look for drug use and misuse, which includes:

  • Using any illegal drugs, such as cocaine or club drugs
  • Misusing prescription medicines, which means taking prescription medicines in a different way or for a different purpose than your provider prescribed. Examples of drug misuse include using a prescription pain reliever to relax or taking someone else's prescription.

A drug test can check for a single drug or for a group of drugs in your body. Drug tests commonly test for:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines, including methamphetamine
  • Barbiturates, such as phenobarbital and secobarbital
  • Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam or clonazepam
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Opioids and opiates, such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Steroids

Most drug tests use urine samples. These tests can find signs of drugs within hours to several days or more before the test. How long a drug lasts in your body depends on:

  • The type of drug
  • How much you used
  • How long you were using it before the test
  • How your body reacts to the drug

Other names: drug screen, drug test, drugs of abuse testing, substance abuse testing, toxicology screen, tox screen, sports doping tests

What is it used for?

Drug testing is used to find out whether you have been using or misusing one or more drugs. But it can't diagnose a drug use disorder (addiction).

A drug test may be used for different purposes, including:

  • Employment. Employers may screen you for drugs before hiring you. After you're hired, they may test you to check for on-the-job drug use. If you have a work accident, you may be tested to see whether drugs or alcohol were involved.
  • Sports. Professional and other athletes are often tested for drugs that are used to improve performance, such as steroids that help build muscle.
  • Drug treatment. Drug testing may be used to monitor treatment in programs for drug or alcohol use disorder.
  • Legal evidence. Testing may be part of a criminal or motor vehicle accident investigation. Drug screening may also be ordered as part of a court case.
  • Monitoring misuse of prescription drugs. If your provider prescribed a medicine that can be addictive, such as an opioid for long-term pain, your provider may order a drug test to make sure you're taking the medicine correctly.

Drug testing may be scheduled ahead of time or done randomly without notice.

Why do I need a drug test?

You may be asked to take a drug test for a job, to participate in certain organized sports, or as part of a police investigation or court case. In a hospital emergency room, a provider may order a drug test if you have signs of a possible drug overdose.

What happens during a drug test?

Drug testing may be done in a variety of locations, including labs, hospitals, drug treatment centers, and workplaces. The most commonly used drug tests require that you give a urine sample. You will be given instructions for how to collect your sample.

In certain cases, a health care professional or other person may need to be present while you provide your sample. This is to make sure the urine is yours and isn't contaminated with anything that might affect the test results.

For a blood test for drugs, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

Be sure to tell the testing professional if you are taking any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, or supplements, because these substances may affect your test results. Also, you should avoid foods with poppy seeds, which can show up as opiates in a drug test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There are no known physical risks to having a drug test. But if drugs show up in your results, it may affect your job, your eligibility to play sports, the outcome of a legal matter, or other parts of your life.

Before you take a drug test, make sure you know:

  • What you are being tested for
  • Why you are being tested
  • How the results will be used.

If you have questions or concerns about a drug test, talk with your provider or the person or organization that is asking for the test.

What do the results mean?

If a drug test result is negative, it means that either:

  • The drugs that were tested were not found in the sample.
  • A very small amount of drugs were found, but not enough to be a positive test result for drugs.

If a drug test result is positive, it means that one or more drugs were found in amounts that suggest drug use or misuse. Positive tests require follow-up testing because they may be wrong (false positives). The follow-up test is usually a test that provides more accurate results.

Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.

Is there anything else I need to know about a drug test?

If you test positive for a legal drug prescribed by your doctor, your employer can't penalize you, unless the drug is affecting your ability to perform your job.

If you test positive for marijuana and live in a state where it is legal, employers may still be able penalize you. Many employers want to maintain a drug-free workplace. Also, marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

You can buy home tests for many illegal and prescription drugs. There are two types of tests:

  • At-home tests let you do the entire test at home and get rapid results. But if the test result is positive for drugs, you'll need to have a follow-up lab test to check the accuracy of the result. Some at-home tests include a kit for collecting a sample, often urine or saliva, to send to a lab in case the home test is positive.
  • A self-collection test has a kit for gathering urine, saliva, or another type of sample to send to a lab for testing. Some self-collection tests include the cost of a second lab test to check the accuracy of a first test that has positive results.

When using home tests, be careful to follow all the instructions. It's best to talk with your provider about using home drug testing so you can decide if it's right for your situation.


  1. FDA: US Food and Drug Administration [Internet]. Silver Spring (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Drugs of Abuse Home Use Test; [current as of 2018 Sep 27; cited 2022 Mar 25]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/drugs-abuse-tests/drugs-abuse-home-use-test
  2. Drugs.com [Internet]. Drugs.com; c2000–2022. Drug Testing FAQs [updated 2019 Sep 5; cited 2022 Mar 22]; [about 11 screens]. Available from: https://www.drugs.com/article/drug-testing.html
  3. Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2022. Drug Testing [reviewed 2020 May; cited 2022 Mar 22]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/special-subjects/recreational-drugs-and-intoxicants/drug-testing
  4. Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2022. Opioid Use Disorder and Rehabilitation [reviewed 2020 May; 2022 Mar 22]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/special-subjects/recreational-drugs-and-intoxicants/opioid-use-disorder-and-rehabilitation
  5. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests [updated 2022 Mar 24; cited 2022 Mar 23]; [about 14 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [Internet]. Rockville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Drug Testing Resources [updated 2021 Oct 14; cited 2022 Mar 25]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/resources/drug-testing
  7. Testing.com [Internet]. Seattle (WA): OneCare Media; c2022. 10-Panel Drug Test; [modified 2021 Nov 9; cited 2022 Mar 25]; [about 8 screens]. Available from: https://www.testing.com/tests/10-panel-drug-testing/
  8. Testing.com [Internet]. Seattle (WA): OneCare Media; c2022. At-Home Drug Testing; [modified 2022 Feb 28; cited 2022 Mar 25]; [about 15 screens]. Available from: https://www.testing.com/tests/at-home-drug-test/
  9. Testing.com [Internet]. Seattle (WA): OneCare Media; c2022. Drug Testing; [modified 2021 Nov 11; cited 2022 Mar 22]; [about 11 screens]. Available from: https://www.testing.com/drug-testing/
  10. Testing.com [Internet]. Seattle (WA): OneCare Media; c2022. Urine Drug Tests; [modified 2021 Nov 9; cited 2022 Mar 25]; [about 16 screens]. Available from: https://www.testing.com/tests/urine-drug-test/
  11. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2022. Health Encyclopedia: Amphetamine Screen (Urine) [cited 2022 Mar 23]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=amphetamine_urine_screen
  12. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2022. Health Encyclopedia: Cannabinoid Screen and Confirmation (Urine) [cited 2022 Mar 23]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=cannabinoid_screen_urine
  13. Workplace Fairness [Internet]. Silver Spring (MD): Workplace Fairness; c2022. Drug Testing; [cited 2022 Mar 23]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.workplacefairness.org/drug-testing-workplace
Drug Testing: MedlinePlus Medical Test (2024)


What happens if you fail a drug test in the medical field? ›

It is likely that your health care employer will report the incident to the Board of Nursing, Board of Medicine, Board of Pharmacy, or the board for which your healthcare occupation applies, and you may face action against your medical license, nursing license, or other healthcare professional license.

What is the most common false positive drug test? ›

Amphetamine (more on this below) and methamphetamine are the most commonly reported false positive.

What drug test is most common for pre employment? ›

Urinalysis – A urine test is the most common form of pre-employment drug testing and is typically conducted once a conditional offer of employment has been sent. A urine test can show traces of drug use even after the effects of the drug have worn off and remain in the body for an extended period of time.

How long does a drug test answers take? ›

Drug test results typically take 24 to 48 hours, depending on the type of test being performed (e.g., urine, hair or DOT).

How long does a failed drug test stay on record? ›

If an employee fails a drug test through DISA's program, it will remain on their account indefinitely. Depending on the industry and/or workplace policy, employees have the opportunity to complete a Return-to-Duty test and process.

How do you fight a failed DOT drug test? ›

Be evaluated by a DOT-certified substance abuse professional (SAP). Complete the recommended course of treatment or education, at your own cost. Pass a follow-up drug and alcohol test, and submit to random testing for at least the next 12 months, up to 60 months.

Can you argue a positive drug test? ›

Generally, there's nothing to stop an employer from rescinding a job offer as a result of a false positive. They are not generally required to allow you to fight your case or opt for a re-test.

How often do field drug tests give false positives? ›

Lab errors

False positives account for between 5 and 10 percent of all drug test results, and some of these are due to human error.

What can accidentally cause a positive drug test? ›

What Can Cause a False Positive Drug Test
  • Secondhand Marijuana Smoke. 1/11. If you hang out often with someone who puffs on pot, your urine could have traces of THC. ...
  • Weight Loss Pills. 2/11. ...
  • Poppy Seeds. 3/11. ...
  • Mouthwash. 4/11. ...
  • Antidepressants. 5/11. ...
  • Antibiotics. 6/11. ...
  • CBD Oil. 7/11. ...
  • Antihistamines. 8/11.
Sep 5, 2021

What kind of drug test do most employers use? ›

Urine tests are the most common type of pre-employment drug test used by employers in the U.S. However, they also have a shorter detection window than the other types of drug tests. Urine tests detect substances from 5 to 10 days.

How sensitive are lab drug tests? ›

These screening tests tend to be fairly specific and highly sensitive for the drugs being analyzed. If a non-negative sample is detected, labs utilize technologies like gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to confirm the presence or absence of specific drugs, thereby preventing false positives.

How far back does a 10 panel urine test go? ›

Detection times for a 10-panel drug screen
SubstanceDetection time frame
Cocaine2-4 days
Marijuana2-5 days for occasional users, and up to 10 days for daily users
Opiates2-3 days
Phencyclidine (PCP)Up to 30 days for chronic users
6 more rows
Dec 2, 2022

How do I know if I passed my drug test? ›

How do you know if you passed a pre-employment drug test? If the drug test results are returned as negative that means no evidence of the substance was detected in the specimen. If the test shows a positive result, that generally means evidence of the substance was detected.

How accurate are pre-employment drug tests? ›

Illicit substances are detectable for only five to 10 days in urine; whereas, hair drug tests can detect drug or alcohol use for up to 90 days. Blood testing is very accurate, but costly and invasive. It does have a shorter detection period (minutes to hours), however.

What shows up on a rapid drug screen? ›

An instant drug test typically uses urine or oral fluid (saliva) for the test specimen. The test usually screens for some combination of the following: amphetamine, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, methadone, methamphetamine, opiates, oxycodone, PCP, and propoxyphene.

What are the chances of failing a drug test? ›

How Often Do People Fail Drug Tests? In 2019, the percentage of US drug test failures reached 4.5%—the highest rate in 16 years.

How long does Delta 8 stay in your system? ›

Because their structures are similar, delta-8 is expected to stay in the body for the same amount of time as delta-9 THC. For occasional users, this could be as little as 2 to 5 days. For regular users, it could be up to 15 days.

How to refuse a drug test? ›

If you anticipate that an employee may refuse to either take a drug test or sign a written warning, be sure to have a witness available. Document what the refusal is (and why), date it, and include both the witness and your signatures. Also, be sure that your company policy abides by local, state, and federal laws.

Can I return to work after failed drug test DOT? ›

When you fail a DOT drug test with a positive result, you must be removed from your DOT safety-sensitive position. You cannot enter back into any DOT safety sensitive position until you complete a return to duty process with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

Is it hard to get a job after failing a DOT drug test? ›

If you fail or refuse a pre-employment DOT drug test, it will hinder your ability to get a safety-sensitive job. You will have to complete the DOT Return to Duty (RTD) process with a qualified DOT Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) before applying for work.

What happens if you fail a DOT drug test 3 times? ›

What happens if I fail my DOT drug test? If you fail your DOT regulated drug test, DOT regulations require your employer to immediately remove you from performing any DOT safety-sensitive job. There may be other consequences, too, like losing your certification or license.

Will ibuprofen make me fail drug test? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have also been shown to interact with UDS immunoassays. Both ibuprofen and naproxen have been documented to cause false-positive barbiturate4 and cannabinoid1-4 levels. In addition, ibuprofen can cause a false-positive PCP level.

What causes false positive drug screen? ›

Clinically, a false positive urine drug screen can be due to numerous xenobiotics: dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine, doxylamine, ibuprofen, imipramine, ketamine, meperidine, venlafaxine, buproprion, methylenedioxpyrolvalerone (MDPV), and tramadol.

How many drug tests are false positives? ›

A worry for anyone undergoing an illicit drug screen - whether it be a urine, hair, saliva or blood test - is the possibility of a false positive drug test. In fact, some data suggests 5 to 10 percent of all drug tests may result in false positives and 10 to 15 percent may yield false negatives.

What percent of drug tests are accurate? ›

The accuracy of the initial drug screen, the immunoassay test, ranges between 92% – 98%. The accuracy of the GC/MS confirmatory test is virtually 100% from a scientific standpoint.

What makes a drug test false negative? ›

False-negative results occur when a drug or metabolite is present at such low levels that it is not detected. Confirmatory testing is essential to distinguish a true negative from a false negative. Contaminants can also interfere with the immunoassay's ability to detect the presence of drugs.

Why would a drug test be false negative? ›

Causes of potentially inappropriate negative UDT results include limited assay specificity, absence of drug in the urine, presence of drug in the urine, but below established assay cutoff, specimen manipulation and laboratory error.

What foods should you avoid before a urine drug test? ›

- Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco and strenuous exercise for 24 hours prior to collection and up to collection time. - Do not consume avocados, bananas, eggplant, pineapples, plums, tomatoes or walnuts for 48 hours before the test.

Are false positives on drug tests common? ›

Drug screenings can be scary for everyone, especially if you have concerns about your employment. False-positive results can happen, even with no fault of your own. There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements and foods that can cause a false positive.

What foods to avoid for 24 hour urine test? ›

To the best extent possible, avoid using vitamins, coffee, alcoholic beverages, salt and vanilla-containing foods for at least 24 hours before you start collecting the 24-hour urine and during the entire collection period.

What drug test shows the most? ›

Urine drug testing (UDT): This is the most common drug test. It requires a sample of your urine (pee). Urine drug tests are most commonly used to detect alcohol, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, opiates/opioids, cocaine and marijuana (THC).

Which drug test is most accurate? ›

Blood testing is expensive and invasive, but is the most reliable for determining if the individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol right now. Hair testing has the longest detection window, nearly 90 days, and is the least invasive method of all, but also has the highest cost.

What drugs show up in urine drug test? ›

These tests indicate if one or more prescription or illegal drugs are present in urine. These tests detect the presence of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamines, PCP, benzodiazepine, barbiturates, methadone, tricyclic antidepressants, ecstasy, and oxycodone.

How far back can a lab drug test detect? ›

In general, the detection time is longest in hair, followed by urine and oral fluid. Drugs in hair may be detectable for approximately 90 days, whereas drugs in urine are generally detectable for one to seven days or longer in chronic users and in oral fluid from five to 48 hours.

What is the difference between a drug test and a drug screen? ›

A drug test and a drug screening are often used interchangeably, but there are notable differences between the two terms. In general, a drug test is more extensive and accurate than a drug screening, whereas a drug screening provides faster results and is a more cost-effective approach.

What is the least sensitive urine drug test panel? ›

Synthetic opioids such as methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl and tramadol are frequently undetected. They may require adjunct immunoassays, which also have cross reactivity. This may be the least sensitive and specific urinary drug screen.

How long does pee stay good for drug test? ›

Do not keep it for longer than 24 hours. The bacteria in the urine sample can multiply if it is not kept in a fridge. If this happens, it could affect the test results. Some sample containers contain preservative so that urine can be stored for longer at room temperature.

How long does it take for a urine panel to come back? ›

Basic urine drug screens

Urine tests have some of the fastest turnaround times. Almost all negative results will be available to you 1-2 business days after the testing lab receives the specimen. If additional testing is needed, we may need an extra day or two to confirm the results.

Does Delta 8 show up on drug tests? ›

Most drug tests are designed to detect Delta 9 THC, not Delta 8 THC. However, some drug tests may detect Delta 8 THC if it is present in high enough concentrations. It is important to note that Delta 8 THC can also convert to Delta 9 THC in the body, which means it could potentially show up on a drug test.

Do all drugs show up in urine test? ›

A routine urinalysis does not detect drugs of abuse. A special drugs-of-abuse screening test is used to detect the presence of those substances.

What do employers look for in a drug screen? ›

Typical drugs screened in a pre-employment urine drug test include marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamines, PCP, and opioids, with the option for employers to test for many additional substances.

What happens if pre employment drug test is diluted? ›

(a) As the employer, if the MRO informs you that a positive drug test was dilute, you simply treat the test as a verified positive test. You must not direct the employee to take another test based on the fact that the specimen was dilute.

How do you flush Delta 8 out of your system? ›

Drinking plenty of water is the best way to flush delta 8 out of your system as quickly as possible. Drinking plenty of water can help to flush substances out of your body, including delta 8. Prioritize staying hydrated.

What is the 5 in 1 drug test? ›

Clicks 5-Drug Multitest 1 Panel offers a combination of 5 different drug tests: Cocaine (COC), T1K (mAMP), Ecstacy (MDMA), Heroin (OPI) and Dagga (THC). A rapid one step test for the qualitative detection of drugs of abuse and their principal metabolites in human urine.

What is the most common urine drug test? ›

What are the most common drug testing panels? The most common drug screening for employees is a 5 panel drug test that determines the presence of amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP). The Department of Transportation (DOT) also requires 5 panel testing for employees.

What happens if you fail a drug test as a nursing student? ›

Among the sanctions that may result from positive institutional drug tests are: Loss of clinical participation privileges. Clinical course failure. One-year suspension from the nursing program.

Can you retake a drug test if you fail? ›

While you have the right to request a retest at your own expense when you fail a pre-employment drug test at your own expense as described above, you do not have a right to retake a pre-employment drug test. Instead, if you dispute the results, your original sample will be retested.

What happens if you fail a drug test as a travel nurse? ›

A failed or refused drug test is board reportable and could result in trouble with your Board of Nursing. Trusted Nurse Staffing is dedicated to ensuring our nurses are fully educated on the drug testing requirements for each assignment, no matter what state you choose to work in.

What happens if you can't pee for a probation drug test? ›

If you are unable to provide a sufficient amount of urine for a drug test, the collector must begin the "shy bladder" procedures. This procedure requires that you remain at the collection site.

What happens if a nurse is caught using drugs? ›

Once a substance abuse disorder is suspected, the nurse is typically placed on leave until an investigation can be conducted. The nursing leadership team and human resource leaders are required to, in most states, report the abuse to the Board of Nursing (BON) and the local police authority.

Do nurses always get drug tested? ›

The short answer is yes, you can expect to be drug tested as a nurse, and those tests may start sooner than you expect. You could be subjected to a drug test during your school admissions process, as well as at random times throughout your career.

How often do nursing students fail? ›

Nursing school is difficult and will be hard to pass. Most students pass their nursing program, so you can too. How many nursing students fail? According to the National League of Nursing, the dropout rate for nursing programs in the United States is around 20%.

Can you retest a positive drug test? ›

In most cases, you are entitled to request a retest. However, most drug testing protocols require the lab to retest the same sample. While this is helpful in situations where there was contamination, the better option is to provide an entirely new sample, if that is allowed.

Can nurses use CBD gummies? ›

Industrial hemp plants, by definition, must have a delta-9 THC content of not more than 0.3 percent by dry weight. Nurses and doctors can use hemp-based CBD oil in all 50 states, so long as the oil is THC-free. But many CBD oils can contain THC, even when labeled THC-free.

What happens if you fail a DOT drug test flight attendant? ›

You are strongly encouraged to review your company policy. Violation of your airline's rules may lead to disciplinary action. You may also be permanently barred from working as a flight attendant if you violate the DOT testing standards.

Do all flight attendants get drug tested? ›

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict drug and alcohol regulations. But your airline might have their own policies that you will have to follow too. All applicants must pass a pre-employment drug test and employees will have to take random Department of Transportation (DOT) drug screenings.

How long does a pee drug test go back to? ›

Drugs in hair may be detectable for approximately 90 days, whereas drugs in urine are generally detectable for one to seven days or longer in chronic users and in oral fluid from five to 48 hours.

How long does a urine drug test come back? ›

The results of a urine drug test are generally available within a few business days after the test is taken.

How long is urine good for a drug test? ›

Do not keep it for longer than 24 hours. The bacteria in the urine sample can multiply if it is not kept in a fridge. If this happens, it could affect the test results. Some sample containers contain preservative so that urine can be stored for longer at room temperature.


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