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  • Urine Drug Tests | Detection Times, Procedure, & Results

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    Urine Drug Tests | Detection Times, Procedure, & Results

    Urine drug tests can have an average detection time of several days, which can be useful in detecting a variety of drugs of abuse. 

    Some long-acting drugs, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and phencyclidine (PCP) may have detection times of more than one week after the last use.

    Urine drug testing can involve collecting a urine sample from a patient and analyzing the sample for traces of prescription drug or illegal drug abuse. 

    Two types of urine tests, immunoassays and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry tests, offer different levels of accuracy and analysis of the urine sample.

    Urine screenings are a common type of drug test due to their relative accuracy, convenience, and low cost. Immunoassays, which can offer fast and accurate results, may be performed as a part of random workplace drug testing or a substance abuse treatment program.

    Detection Times For Urine Drug Tests

    On average, detection times for urine drug screening tests can be a few days to one week or up to a month after the last drug was taken. Compared to other types of tests, urine tests can have a slightly longer detection window on average.


    Alcohol use is more likely to be tested for in a breathalyzer rather than urine. However, urine tests can potentially detect alcohol for between 12 to 48 hours after the last drink.


    Urine samples that test for marijuana detect the psychoactive compound THC. The detection times for marijuana are wide-ranging based on the level and frequency of use, and can produce a positive test result between 3 and 30 days later.


    Barbiturates, including pentobarbital, butabarbital, and amobarbital, can be detected on a urine test for between 24 and 72 hours after ingestion.


    Benzodiazepines can be detected in urine for days or weeks after last use, depending on if the particular medication is long-acting or short-acting. Popular benzodiazepine detection times in urine include:

    • Ativan: about 6 days
    • Klonopin: between 5 and 9 days 
    • Librium: as long as 6 weeks
    • Restoril: about 1 week
    • Valium: as long as 6 weeks
    • Xanax: about 36 hours


    Urine detection times for popular opioid drugs include:

    • codeine: about 3 days
    • fentanyl: about 3 days
    • heroin: about 3 days
    • hydrocodone: about 3 days
    • hydromorphone: about 3 days
    • methadone: about 14 days
    • morphine: about 3 days
    • oxycodone: about 3 days
    • oxymorphone: about 3 days
    • tramadol: about 3 days


    Urine tests for stimulants will likely screen for amphetamine, which is a substance routinely tested for in various drug tests. Urine detection times for popular stimulants of abuse include:

    • Adderall: about 4 days
    • cocaine: about 4 days
    • ecstasy/MDMA: about 4 days
    • methamphetamine: between 4 and 7 days
    • Ritalin: about 3 days
    • Vyvanse: about 3 days


    Urine detection times for popular psychedelics and hallucinogens include:

    • ketamine: about 14 days
    • LSD: between 2 and 5 days
    • mescaline/peyote: between 2 and 3 days
    • PCP: about 14 days
    • Psilocybin mushrooms: around 1 day

    Procedures For Urine Drug Tests

    There are two established types of urine drug tests, known as immunoassay and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) tests. 

    Both methods may begin with the collection of a urine sample from the patient. The collection process may take a short amount of time, and the patient may be afforded privacy to provide the sample.

    Immunoassays and GCMS tests may differ in how the sample is analyzed. Immunoassays can use antibodies to detect traces of drugs and their metabolites, or unique components, and return results quickly.

    GCMS tests use advanced machinery to detect quantities of specific drugs. This method can be more accurate than immunoassays, but can also be more expensive and time-consuming to conduct. GCMS tests may follow a positive immunoassay test if further testing is needed.

    Factors That Affect Urine Drug Test Results

    Urine drug screens can return accurate results if patients follow instructions from their healthcare provider. However, various factors can reduce the accuracy of a urine test, and patients may even attempt to tamper with the test themselves.

    Adulterating A Urine Sample

    The process of obtaining a urine sample may not be observed by a health professional. A patient who desires a negative result may attempt to adulterate, or tamper with, the urine specimen in order to obtain a favorable test result.

    Common adulterants that may be added to a urine sample include soap, lemon juice, and eye drops. Tampering with a urine sample may change its color, and unusually-colored urine may be a sign of a false negative sample.

    Tampering with a urine sample may be punishable with fines or jail time in some states. If a drug testing program was a part of a patient’s probation, tampering may be a violation of their conditions.

    Multiple Substance Use

    Certain types of prescription medications and illicit drugs may interfere with the results of urine tests, resulting in false negatives, false positives, or inconclusive tests.

    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, may inhibit immunoassays in detecting THC, a signature component of cannabis, while bupropion and promethazine may interfere with benzodiazepine immunoassays. Ingestion of poppy seeds may return a false positive result for opiate tests.

    Informing your doctor or clinician of your over-the-counter and prescription drug use history can improve the accuracy of urine tests.

    Substance Abuse Treatment

    A positive test result on a urine drug test may deem you unfit for employment in the professional sphere. Positive tests can also result in a referral to a substance abuse treatment program in order to reduce the high-risk behaviors of drug abuse.

    At Ark Behavioral Health, we offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. To find out what will work for you or a loved one, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Article Sources

    Mayo Clinic Proceedings - Urine Drug Screening: Practical Guide for Clinicians
    Quest Diagnostics - Urine testing FAQs
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - Drug Testing Resources

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