Drug Test Detection Times: How Long Do Drugs Stay In Your System?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 28, 2023

Drug test detection times depend on the type of drug, amount used, time of last use, and other factors. Learn about the different drug test detection times and how to deal with a positive drug test result.

Drug Detection Times

How long a drug stays in your system can depend on many factors. Different drugs will have different detection times, and the type of drug test used can affect how quickly a drug may be detected.

Some drugs can be detected in the body quickly—within just a few minutes for a saliva test, for example. Others may not show up in certain tests for hours or even days.

Drug and alcohol testing can be used for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • workplace requirements
  • probation/parole conditions
  • use in legal cases, such as divorce or custody hearings
  • court-ordered testing
  • in alcohol and drug rehab programs
  • a healthcare setting

Regardless of the reason, drug testing can quickly identify substance(s) of abuse in a person’s body.

It can be helpful to know the detection times for drugs of abuse and the factors that affect drug detection times if you or a loved one are in need of testing.

Factors That Affect How Long Drugs Stay In Your System

Each drug and the effects it has on the body can be different from the next, so there many factors that can affect the length of time a drug stays in your system and cause a person to test positive.

These factors contribute to detection times for a drug test:

  • the type of drug
  • the dosage
  • the frequency of use
  • the drug’s half-life, which is the time it takes for the body to reduce the dosage by half
  • the person’s tolerance level
  • physical factors, such as height, weight, ethnicity, gender, body fat percentage, and age
  • the person’s metabolic rate
  • any medical conditions that affect a person’s ability to metabolize drugs, i.e. liver disease
  • hydration levels at time of test
  • the person’s physical activity level

How Drug Tests Work

In any drug or alcohol test, there are two steps to the process: the initial drug test and the confirmation drug test.

An initial drug test is called the immunoassay. This is a routine drug detection test where the biological specimen you submit (urine, saliva, etc.) is tested for the presence of drugs.

If the test results of the initial drug tests are negative, results are submitted, and no further testing is typically done.

If the results are positive or inconclusive, a confirmation test, called a confirmatory GC-MS analysis, may be conducted on a separate part of the same biological sample.

A confirmatory test should always be conducted before reporting a positive test result to ensure accuracy.

Different Types Of Laboratory Drug Tests

While urine drug tests are by far the most common, a number of lab tests exist to test for the presence of drugs or alcohol.

The time it takes to get the result of your substance abuse test can depend on:

  • the lab, hospital, or clinic where you got tested, and how fast they process drug screens
  • your results: negative results could be returned in a day, positive results may take a week or more
  • how many substances the drug test screened for
  • the type of test you took

Urine Drug Tests

Urine drug tests are the most common and the preferred drug test method used by employers, drug addiction treatment programs, and other companies.

A urinalysis may show the presence of drugs up to seven days after use, but the detection time can depend on the type of drug and other factors.

A typical urine sample test may screen for up to five to ten drugs.

Urinalysis detection tests may screen for:

  • alcohol
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • cocaine
  • heroin
  • MDMA, MDA analogues
  • marijuana
  • methamphetamine
  • prescription opioids: codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxymorphone

Saliva Drug Tests

Saliva testing is the second-most common drug testing method. Also called oral fluid detection testing, this drug screen may detect drug use from within a few hours of last use up to two days after.

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Mouth swab tests are easy to collect and less likely to be tampered with.

They can also test for the presence of multiple drugs at once, including:

  • alcohol
  • amphetamines
  • barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • cocaine
  • ecstasy
  • marjiuana
  • methamphetamine
  • opiates
  • phencyclidine (PCP)

Blood Drug Tests

Blood drug tests are not commonly used, as they are more invasive, require a trained phlebotomist, and can usually only detect drugs used within the last day.

However, blood tests do have some advantages. There’s little chance for adulteration, and the tests screen for many of the same drugs of abuse as saliva and urine tests.

Emergency rooms (ER) may use blood for toxicology screens, such as in the case of a car accident, as one blood draw can be used to run a range of tests to help address the patient’s needs quickly.

Hair Follicle Drug Tests

Hair drug tests serve well for detecting drug use over a longer period of time, up to 90 days. Hair tests screen for similar drugs of abuse tested in other drug analysis tests.

The person being tested will submit a sample of hair equal to 100-120 strands in front of lab personnel, which lessens the chances of tampering.

The effort required to obtain and test these samples makes hair-based drug testing one of the least common methods.

Rapid Drug Tests

Some drugs metabolize quickly, meaning the body breaks them down in a matter of hours, and they won’t be detected as easily through common drug testing methods.

Rapid drug tests often utilize urine or saliva samples to ensure testing doesn’t miss the detection window.

5-Panel Drug Screen Detection Times

Standardized drug testing used by employers may test for the same types of drugs each time.

The 5-panel drug test may detect the presence of several illicit, street drugs, such as:

  • amphetamines
  • cocaine
  • marijuana
  • methamphetamine
  • MDMA
  • PCP
  • opioids

10-Panel Drug Screen Detection Times

For a wider range of substance detection, employers may elect a 10-panel drug screen, which tests for the same drugs as the 5-panel drug tests as well as several others.

The additional drugs included on the 10-panel test are:

  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvocet)

Detection Times By Drug Type

The detection time for specific drugs will vary based on the individual and their history of drug use, but classes of drugs will generally have similar ranges for detection.

Depressant Drug Detection Times

Depressant drugs affect the central nervous system (CNS), leading to slowed reaction times, feelings of sleepiness, relaxation, and reduced inhibitions.

This drug class includes alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and opioids.

Alcohol Detection Times

Alcohol is not always a substance included in drug analysis. However, certain tests may screen for alcohol, like ER toxicology screens and breathalyzer tests used by law enforcement.

How long alcohol shows up in a person’s body can be affected by how much they drank, how much time has elapsed since they drank, and if they abused any other substances with alcohol.

Alcohol Detection Times:

Benzodiazepine Drug Detection Times

Benzodiazepines are sedative prescription drugs often used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and related conditions.

Benzos may have a short half-life or a long half-life, depending on the drug, which can greatly affect how long these drugs can be detected in the body.

Benzodiazepine detection times:

Ativan Detection Times:

  • urine testing: up to five days
  • saliva testing: up to 12 hours
  • hair testing: up to 30 days
  • blood testing: up to three days

Klonopin (Clonazepam) Detection Times:

Librium Detection Times:

  • urine testing: one to six weeks
  • saliva testing: one to ten days
  • hair testing: up to 90 days
  • blood testing: six to 48 hours

Restoril Detection Times:

  • urine testing: up to one week
  • saliva testing: up to 24 hours
  • hair testing: up to 90 days
  • blood testing: up to 24 hours

Valium Detection Times:

  • urine testing: up to six weeks
  • saliva testing: up to ten days
  • hair testing: up to 90 days
  • blood testing: up to 48 hours

Xanax Detection Times:

Opioid Drug Detection Times

Opioids, also called opiates when they are derived from natural products, include both illicit street drugs, such as heroin, and prescription narcotics, such as OxyContin.

The type of opioid will affect how a test screens for it because different opioids break down into different metabolites within the body and may affect detection times as well.

Codeine Detection:

  • codeine urine testing: up to three days
  • saliva testing: up to four days
  • codeine hair testing: up to 90 days
  • codeine blood testing: up to 24 hours

Demerol Detection:

  • Demerol urine tests: up to three days
  • Demerol saliva tests: up to 48 hours
  • Demerol hair tests: up to 90 days
  • Demerol blood tests: up to 24 hours

Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) Drug Detection:

Fentanyl Detection:

  • fentanyl urine testing: one to three days
  • fentanyl saliva testing: one to four days
  • fentanyl hair testing: up to 90 days
  • fentanyl blood testing: five to 48 hours

Gabapentin Detection:

Heroin Drug Detection:

Hydrocodone (Vicodin) Testing:

Methadone Testing:

  • methadone urine testing: one hour up to two weeks
  • methadone saliva testing: 30 minutes up to two days
  • methadone hair testing: after a few days up to 90 days
  • methadone blood testing: 30 minutes up to three days

Morphine (Duramorph) Drug Detection:

  • morphine urine testing: up to three days
  • morphine saliva testing: up to four days
  • morphine hair testing: up to 90 days
  • morphine blood testing: up to 12 hours

Oxycodone (OxyContin) Drug Detection:

Propoxyphene (Darvocet) Drug Detection:

  • propoxyphene urine testing: up to 10 days
  • propoxyphene hair testing: up to 90 days

Tramadol (Ultram) Detection:

  • tramadol urine testing: up to 72 hours
  • tramadol saliva testing: up to 48 hours
  • tramadol hair testing: up to 90 days
  • tramadol blood testing: up to 48 hours

Learn more about common opioid drug detection times

Barbiturate Drug Detection Times

Barbiturates are anti-anxiety and sedative prescription drugs, which have largely been replaced by benzodiazepines.

These drugs are still in use and may be abused for the sedative effects, so many drug tests still screen for the presence of barbiturates.

The detection times for barbiturates can be:

  • urine testing: up to six weeks
  • saliva testing: up to three days
  • hair testing: up to 90 days
  • blood testing: up to 72 hours

Stimulant Drug Detection Times

Stimulant drugs work to excite the central nervous system (CNS), leading to feelings of euphoria, increased heart rate, and lowered inhibitions.

Stimulants include illicit drugs (cocaine) and prescription drugs like amphetamines.

Cocaine Detection Times:

Cocaine is an addictive, illegal drug that is abused in three forms: crack cocaine, freebase cocaine, and powder cocaine.

It’s difficult to estimate an exact timeframe that cocaine may be detectable in a person’s body due to the many factors that affect detection, such as purity, physical characteristics, and drug use history.

Drug tests may be able to screen for cocaine within:

Crack Cocaine Detection Times:

Crack cocaine can remain detectable in the body for anywhere from a few minutes to three months after use, depending on the type of drug screening used to detect illicit substance use.

Average crack cocaine detection times, by drug testing method:

Ecstasy (Molly, MDMA) Detection Times:

Ecstasy, an illicit party drug, may be detected in a person’s body fluids for several days after taking the drug.

The detection window begins after a person’s last dose and can last:

Methamphetamine (Meth) Detection Times:

Methamphetamine (meth) is both an illicit street drug and a prescription medication under the name Desoxyn.

Detection times for meth depend on how much a person took, the method they used, and their physical characteristics.

Meth may be detected in drug screens by:

Amphetamine Drug Detection Times

Amphetamine prescriptions are used to treat mental health disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Common amphetamines of abuse that may be tested for in a drug screen include:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Vyvanse

Adderall Detection Times:

Ritalin Drug Detection:

  • Ritalin urine testing: up to two days
  • Ritalin saliva testing: up to two days
  • Ritalin hair testing: up to 90 days
  • Ritalin blood testing: up to 12 hours

Vyvanse Detection:

  • Vyvanse urine testing: up to three days (more in some cases)
  • Vyvanse saliva testing: up to 48 hours
  • Vyvanse hair testing: up to 90 days
  • Vyvanse blood testing: up to eight hours

Marijuana (THC) Drug Detection Times

While legal in many states, employers may still test for the presence of marijuana.

Though not considered a dangerous drug of abuse, the drug still affects a person by producing feelings of euphoria, extreme relaxation, and may cause paranoia.

Depending on the test, detection times for marijuana can be:

  • marijuana urine testing: up to three days for single use; up to five days for moderate use; 10 days with daily, repetitive use; 30 days with chronic daily use
  • marijuana saliva testing: up to 24 hours
  • marijuana hair testing: up to 90 days
  • marijuana blood testing: up to 25 days

Synthetic Marijuana Drug Detection Times (Cannabinoids)

Synthetic marijuana (K2, spice) can be more unpredictable and dangerous than marijuana.

Drug test results largely depend on how much of the drug is used and how often it is abused:

  • synthetic marijuana urine testing: up to 72 hours
  • synthetic marijuana saliva testing: up to 48 hours
  • synthetic marijuana hair testing: up to 90 days
  • synthetic marijuana blood testing: up to 48 hours

Hallucinogen Drug Detection Times

Because so many drugs of abuse are now readily available, hallucinogens are often not perceived as a large threat, though the drugs can lead to dangerous side effects.

Side effects can include hallucinations, psychosis, and more. Hallucinogens are classified as either dissociative drugs, such as PCP, or classic hallucinogens, such as LSD.

Acid (LSD) Detection:

  • acid urine testing: up to four days, if the test is designed to test for LSD at all
  • acid hair testing: up to 90 days
  • acid blood testing: eight to 16 hours

Ketamine Detection:

  • Ketamine urine testing: up to three days, but traces may be found up to 14 days
  • Ketamine saliva testing: up to 24 hours
  • Ketamine hair testing: up to 90 days
  • Ketamine blood testing: up to 24 hours

Mescaline Detection:

  • Mescaline urine testing: two to three days
  • Mescaline saliva testing: one to ten days
  • Mescaline hair testing: up to 90 days
  • Mescaline blood testing: up to 24 hours

PCP Detection Times:

  • PCP urine testing: one to two weeks
  • PCP saliva testing: 24 to 48 hours
  • PCP hair testing: up to 90 days
  • PCP blood testing: up to 24 hours

Psilocybin (Mushrooms) Detection:

  • Psilocybin urine testing: up to 24 hours
  • Psilocybin hair testing: up to 90 days
  • Psilocybin blood testing: less than 24 hours

Companies That Offer Drug Testing

Certain pharmaceutical companies offer trusted, accurate testing used by employers, drug rehab centers, and other testing sites.

These include:

  • Laboratory Corp of America Holdings (LabCorp)
  • National Toxicology Labs, Inc.
  • Phamatech, Inc.
  • Quest Diagnostics, Inc.

What To Expect During A Workplace Drug Test

If you are being tested as part of a pre-employment process, it may help to know what to expect during your drug screen. First, you should be notified of the test within a reasonable amount of time.

Employers can require that you show up for the drug analysis within 24 hours of notification to ensure that the test is an accurate representation of the potential employees drug use.

Once at the testing facility, you’ll submit your sample of urine or saliva, or in rare cases, hair or blood. Sweat tests may also be used but are far less common.

Careful drug detection practices are used to ensure there is less room for error. Samples may have to be collected in view of lab personnel if a previous sample has been tampered with.

Drug Detection Testing FAQs

If you’re being tested for drugs or alcohol for a job or rehab program, it may help to know answers to some of the most common drug detection test questions.

In general, drug tests are highly accurate and the chances of producing a false positive test result are low. This is especially true if a confirmatory test is performed for a non-negative test result.

However, if you get back a positive drug test result you believe was in error, be sure to go over any prescription or over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, or other things you are ingesting which could affect the result.

Poppy seeds come from the poppy plant, an original source of opium, which is why ingesting poppy seeds prior to a drug screen can lead to a positive drug test result.

Other substances that can affect your test results include common cold medicines (decongestants), such as dextromethorphan (Delsym, Robitussin) and ephedrine (Akovaz).

Some people being tested for cocaine may mistakenly believe they can have a positive result due to recent Novocaine use, or drugs with names similar to cocaine.

However, the presence of cocaine is typically detected through one main metabolite—benzoylecgonine. This metabolite can’t be found in nature, so its presence points directly to cocaine use.

When grown to federal regulation standards, Cannabidiol (CBD) should contain less than .3 percent of THC—the main chemical ingredient in marijuana responsible for producing the “high.”

Yet not all CBD is tested and pure in form, which means it could lead to a false positive for a marijuana drug test. If the CBD you ingested was contaminated with THC, this could lead to a positive test result.

Though marijuana has been legalized in most states, employers can still test for marijuana use. Even if you weren’t using marijuana during work hours, a positive drug test result could be grounds for termination. Recreational marijuana use laws do not protect employees from zero-tolerance workplace policies.

Secondhand smoke doesn’t usually affect a drug analysis as detection levels are set high above the low amounts which could be present due to passive smoke inhalation (secondhand smoke). If you get a positive test result for any reason, some labs allow for a private secondary drug screen at your cost.

It’s illegal to refuse a roadside drug test due to a concept known as “implied consent.” This principle holds that as soon as you step into a car and begin to drive, you are under implied consent that you are physically and mentally able to operate the vehicle. This includes not driving while intoxicated.

Refusing a roadside alcohol test could lead to an immediate DUI charge, even if you were not intoxicated, and all the consequences that come with this charge.

Drug test results can be inconclusive if the sample has been tampered with (adulterated). This could include drinking a lot of water right before testing or adding water to the sample.

It may not be legal for an employer to fire you for an inconclusive drug test, since the test result may not have been your fault and there’s no way to prove otherwise. Typically, you may have to undergo another test to yield a positive or negative result.

Finding Addiction Treatment: The Best Way To Avoid A Positive Drug Test

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 28, 2023
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