Screening for Abused Drugs

This test checks for the presence of one or more commonly abused drugs in the urine, hair, blood, saliva or sweat.




This test checks for the presence of one or more commonly abused drugs in the urine, hair, blood, saliva or sweat.



This drug screening checks for the presence of one or more commonly abused drugs in the urine, hair, blood, saliva or sweat. The type of sample depends on:

  • The reason for the test
  • What medication the requestor is looking for

The period of time during which a drug will test positive depends on the type of sample, how much of the drug a person has taken and the person's metabolism.

  • A urine sample is needed to test for amphetamines, cocaine, opiates and marijuana. A urine sample will be positive if a drug has been taken in the previous two to three days. However, marijuana and its end products can be present in the urine for several weeks.
  • A hair sample can be used prior to starting a job or after an accident. The root of a single hair can indicate drug use in the past two to three months. However, it is not accurate in determining drug abuse in the previous two to three weeks.
  • A blood sample is often used to determine the level of alcohol in the blood.
  • A saliva sample can determine if a drug has been used in the previous twenty-four hours.
  • A sweat sample is obtained by placing a patch on the skin for several days to weeks. A positive result indicates drug use sometime during the period the patch was on. This sample can be obtained to monitor someone that has been convicted of drug abuse.

Testing for commonly abused drugs can be done for several different reasons. These include:

  • Medical screening, including suspected abuse or overdose
  • Legal information, including checking for illegal drug abuse and court-mandated testing (may have specific rules for collection and transport)
  • Employment drug testing, such a pre-employment, post-accident and random screening (may have specific rules for collection and transport)
  • Testing of athletes for performance enhancing (may have specific rules for collection and transport)

A positive test means that a drug was found above the established level. A second, more specific, test may be done to verify a positive result. A test is negative if the result states "not detected" or "none detected." A negative test:

  • Indicates that the drug was not found above the established level
  • Does not mean the drug was not present below established levels or that it was never present.
  • Can happen when the drug has been already been broken down and eliminated from the body.
  • Can happen when the test method is not able to test the sample for a specific drug.

If a blood sample is required, the costs in this care path do not include the charge to draw blood from a vein (venipuncture). There will only be one charge to draw blood, even if multiple tests are being performed on the samples that are taken.

What should I ask before having this test?

  • What type of sample is required for the test you are recommending?
  • Is there any special preparation for the test? (If so, get clear steps to follow.)
  • Are there any medications or types of food that can affect the test results?
  • Can a positive result occur if I have not taken any illegal drugs? What will happen if I get a positive result?

Source UHC.com

Also known as:

Drug Screening
Screening for Abused Drugs
Laboratory Work


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