Drug testing is typically performed to determine whether someone has been using illicit or prescription drugs. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the main purpose of drug testing is to look for signs of drug misuse.
Types of Drug Testing
What is a drug test?
A drug test can be performed using a sample of your urine, blood, saliva, hair, or sweat, adds the NLM. These tests can be done in nearly any healthcare setting, including urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, stand-alone clinical labs, and hospitals. If you need a drug test, Solv can narrow your options to only the highest-rated providers in your area so you can make an appointment right away.
Who should get a drug test?
You may need a drug test if you are asked to do so by a new employer or if you plan on joining a sports team. Employers may want to make sure you are not a liability in the workplace on behalf of drug misuse, while sports and athletic teams may want to make sure you are not using drugs such as steroids to improve your performance illegally or unethically.
Drug testing may also be needed if you are receiving treatment in a drug or alcohol recovery program, being investigated in a court case, if you had an accident and were injured at work, or if your doctor wants to make sure you are using certain prescription drugs correctly, says the NLM. Examples of prescription drug misuse include using drugs that were prescribed for someone else or using drugs like opioids for the sake of getting high.
Drug testing can usually be performed at random without any advanced notice or can be scheduled ahead of time. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, random drug testing is typically only done when illicit drug use is suspected. These tests can screen for the presence of a wide range of drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. They can also screen for misuse of prescription drugs including benzodiazepines and opiates.
The NLM says most drug tests are performed as urine tests. They can often identify the type of drug(s) you were using, the amount that was used, and the length of time you were using drugs before taking the drug test. Drug testing may also help determine how your body reacts to a particular drug, adds the NLM.
How to get a drug test
Drug testing is available in a variety of healthcare settings. You do not usually need a referral from a doctor to get a drug test. However, if you have health insurance, you may want to consider asking your doctor for a referral to a drug testing provider that is included in your healthcare network or that is covered by your insurance plan.
According to the NLM, you can even do a home drug test. These tests come in kits that include all the supplies you need to do the test and send your sample to the lab for analysis. However, it adds that if your at-home drug test comes back positive, you will need to have a follow-up test at a lab to confirm the accuracy of the result.
A convenient way to find out where to get a drug test is to use Solv. Solv features a directory of all top-rated drug test providers in your area so you can browse providers and choose one that accepts walk-ins or allows you to book a same-day or next-day appointment.
What are the different types of drug tests?
Drug testing can be performed using a sample of your urine, blood, saliva, sweat, hair, and even your breath, reports the NLM.
Urine drug tests
Urine tests are best for detecting alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, and opioids, adds the NLM. These tests have a detection window of hours to days. Urine tests can only detect the presence of substances after at least two hours have passed since you last used drugs.
Blood drug tests
Blood testing is usually only performed in emergencies to detect the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream, reports the NLM. Breath testing is also typically performed to detect only alcohol, though it may also be used to detect cocaine, marijuana, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and opioids.
Sweat and hair drug tests
Sweat testing and hair testing give a detection window of hours to weeks according to the NLM. Sweat testing requires you to wear an absorbent pad for several hours, and hair testing involves removing hair from your scalp or another region of your body. Hair testing can be used to detect substances, including cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamines, opioids, and MDMA.
The type of drug test you take usually depends on the type of substances you are being tested for and on the type of tests available from the testing provider.
What happens during a drug test
The most commonly used drug tests require you to provide a urine sample, reports the NLM. At the lab or testing site, you will be given a small sterile cup into which you will urinate to provide a small sample. In some instances, a healthcare professional may need to be with you in the room while you take the urine test to make sure your sample isn’t contaminated or tampered with.
During a blood drug test, a healthcare professional will use a small, thin needle to draw a small sample of blood from your vein. Your blood is collected into a vial or test tube and is taken to the lab for analysis. The NLM says you may feel a slight sting when the needle goes in and out. A blood drug test usually takes less than five minutes.
If you are getting a drug test that requires a sample of your sweat, hair, or saliva, the drug testing provider can talk to you in greater detail about what to expect during your appointment.
How to prepare for a drug test
Drug testing requires little to no preparation, as the purpose of testing is to check for the presence of drugs and alcohol in your system.
The NLM suggests telling your test provider about any prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, and nutritional supplements you are taking, given how these substances may affect your test results. It also recommends avoiding foods that contain poppy seeds—since opiates are derived from poppy seeds, you may end up testing positive for these drugs. Muffins and crackers are examples of foods that may contain poppy seeds.
Before you take a drug test, you should also take time to learn which drugs you are being tested for, why you are being tested, and how your results will be used, says the NLM. It says you should also talk to your healthcare provider or the organization requesting the drug test if you have any concerns or questions regarding drug testing.
Find Drug Testing near you
Drug Testing FAQs
Can I be tested for all drugs with one test?
There isn’t one drug test available that can detect the presence of all drugs a person may be using. Urine and breath testing may be ideal drug tests to take if you want to test for multiple substances, including alcohol, marijuana, opioids, and some stimulants.
What are the risks and side effects associated with drug testing?
According to the NLM, there are no known physical risks to taking a drug test.
When will my drug test results come back?
Drug test results usually come back within several hours or days, based on factors such as lab turnaround times. Your doctor or testing provider will usually contact you when the results of your drug test are available.
Are drug test results easy to understand?
Drug test results are usually interpreted by your doctor or the testing provider, who can then review them with you once they are ready. Some providers may simply tell you whether you tested positive or negative, and require follow-up testing if your results came back positive.
Are drug test results kept private
Drug test results should always be confidential and private under both state and federal laws. However, employers, courts, and other organizations that require you to take a drug test may have you sign a consent form that allows the lab to share and release your results.
Can I do drug testing at home?
Home drug tests can be purchased from many pharmacies and online retailers. The NLM says some home tests offer rapid results, while others require you to send your sample to the lab. It adds that you may need to visit a lab for another test if your result is positive.
How much does drug testing cost?
The cost of drug testing will vary based on factors such as the type of test you’re taking and whether or not it is covered by health insurance or paid for by your employer. The testing provider can tell you the exact cost of your drug test.
How can I find drug testing near me?
An easy, convenient way to find drug testing near you is to use Solv. Select “drug test” and your location from our search menu, choose a nearby provider with a high rating, and book an appointment online with no phone call necessary.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- Drug Testing (June 7, 2022)
- Drug Testing Resources (October 6, 2022)
- Drug Testing (May 17, 2022)
- Drug Testing in the Workplace
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