Drug Tests: All About Hair Follicle, Urine, and Blood Drug Testing

According to a CDC survey, around 13% of Americans admitted to increasing the use of drugs to cope with stress during 2020.

This means an inevitable upswing in the incidence of drug tests conducted at work, as employees return to the office.
So, if you’re heading back to the workforce soon, keep reading to learn more about what to expect from each type of drug test.

What Can Drug Tests Discover?

Drug tests are largely focused on picking up substances that could endanger the safety of yourself and others while you’re at work, or while driving a car.

So, although even a tiny bit of something illegal might land you in hot water, the presence of a legal substance like alcohol might not. For legal substances, the focus is more on the percentages that come up in the test.

Drug tests have been around for a long time, and produce reliable results. However, there’s one gray area when it comes to drug testing nowadays.

These tests haven’t evolved along with the legalization of cannabis products, and can’t distinguish between the good and bad types of THC either. 

According to this article, How Does a Standard Drug Test Work? you can get into serious trouble for taking harmless cannabis-derived supplements when you take a marijuana drug test.

So, it’s best to inform your employer before the time, or adjust your dosage, if you work in a place where drug tests are standard policy.

The Most Common Types of Drug Tests

Most drug tests designed for the workplace are painless and quick. You’ll find out the results within a day or two, sometimes less.

If your boss asks you to take a routine drug test or requires one as part of pre-employment screening, this is what to expect.

Urine Tests

A urine drug test reveals the presence of some prescription drugs and most illegal drugs. The following will show up in a urine test:

      ●   marijuana
      ●   cocaine
      ●   PCP
      ●   methadone
      ●   methamphetamines
      ●   opioids (narcotics)
      ●   amphetamines
      ●   benzodiazepines
      ●   barbiturates

You can use a blood test to check for the presence of alcohol too, but this rarely happens outside of rehab centers. Instead, your employer can ask you to perform a breathalyzer test if they suspect you’re over the limit.

Breathalyzer tests are sensitive to the tiniest bit of alcohol, and even an alcohol-based mouthwash will show up on these readings.

When you’re asked to do a urine test, all you need to do is provide a fresh urine sample and the tester or lab will do the rest. 

There are two types of urine tests, namely:

The Immunoassay Test

This is the cheapest and fastest way to detect drugs in urine, using a test strip. It doesn’t pick up all opioids and can give false positives, though.

That means you could end with a positive result, even if you’re innocent. For this reason, you’ll always take the second type of test after a positive result.

Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry Test

These tests are more expensive and time-consuming, but they’re very accurate.

Sometimes, both these types of tests can produce a negative result even when you’ve been using drugs, and they’re unreliable when it comes to same-day drug use.

Hair Follicle Tests

A hair follicle drug test can reveal the presence of various drugs in a single strand of hair, or test a hair for a specific drug. These include:

      ●   marijuana
      ●   amphetamines
      ●   methamphetamine
      ●   MDMA (ecstasy)
      ●   MDEA (eve)
      ●   cocaine
      ●   opiates, like codeine, heroin, and morphine
      ●   phencyclidine (PCP)

During this test, the tester cuts off a small piece of hair close to your scalp and sends it to a lab for overnight testing. Since these tests can also reveal false positives, most hair samples undergo a two-step process.

These are:

      ●   A rapid ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test
      ●   Confirmatory chromatographic testing, like GC-MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry)

These tests can reveal drug use in the last three months, but they’re not 100% accurate and several factors can lead to inconclusive results. 

In these cases, you might have to repeat the test. 

Blood Tests

This is the most accurate type of drug and alcohol test, but it takes time to get the results. The procedure involves drawing blood and sending it off to the lab. 

However, it has a very brief detection window as your body eliminates blood and alcohol from the bloodstream very fast. Blood tests can only detect substances a few hours after use, at most.

With blood tests, the lab must perform individual tests for each substance they want to test for. Some blood tests can detect up to thirty toxins at once. 

So, a full panel of tests can take a few days or longer. 

Blood tests are usually very accurate and rarely produce false positives. 

When you agree to a blood test, a qualified nurse will withdraw one or more vials of blood from an artery on your arm. Although it’s a bit ‘icky’ this is a relatively painless procedure in the hands of a skilled nurse. 

Staying on the Straight and Narrow

The only way to stay in the clear with drug tests is by avoiding any of the substances likely to cause you trouble. Make sure you’re always fit for duty when you report for work, and never drive under the influence of any substance.
If you can’t control your drug and alcohol consumption, you must seek help as soon as possible. 

Drugs and alcohol can cause destroy your life if you’re caught over the limit. You’ll never forgive yourself if you injure someone else due to your inebriated actions. 

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