By Alex Hudson/ Drug Information Center Coordinator
Q: So I’m applying for an after school job and they are asking me to take a urine sample drug test. I’m freaking out about it and am considering buying a detox kit. Is it worth it?
A: Aw shucks. Whether it’s for a job, probation, or your parents, anytime “the man” starts poking around and you aren’t sure if you’ll pass, drug tests can be quite a bummer. There are a lot of products on the market which claim to help you pass your test, but there is no guarantee that any of them will actually work. I don’t want to start sounding like Captain Obvious here, but if you want to make sure that you are not going to fail, then don’t do drugs right before your test.
First let’s go over the basics of drug testing. The federal government guidelines, set by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, require that five classes of drugs are tested for in mandatory tests. These are sometimes referred to as the NIDA five and include cannabinoids (weed, hash), cocaine, amphetamines (yes, this includes adderall), opiates (opium, heroin, codeine), and phencyclidine (PCP). The most basic of drug tests look for positives in these five categories, but many companies don’t stop there. Some drug tests can detect alcohol, MDMA (ecstasy), various pharmaceuticals, and occasionally LSD and mushrooms.
You’re probably interested in what your window of testing positive is. It varies depending on your level of use, your body’s metabolism, your body mass, and what type of test you are taking. I’m going to throw out facts here that are for the “average” person getting a urine test. (Not average? Me either. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the office VU 517 for more details).
• Marijuana stays in your system the longest, since unlike most other drugs, it attaches to fat cells. A chronic (pun intended) user can test positive for weed up to 6 to12 weeks after they stop tokin’. Most people’s system will flush itself of THC in around thirty days. If you really only smoked once, it still can take about 2 weeks.
• Alcohol can be detected in urine for 12 to 24 hours.
• Amphetamines are detectable for 1 to 4 days.
• Cocaine for 4 to 5 days.
• Heroin for 2 to 4 days.
• Methamphetamines for 3 to 5 days.
• Codeine for 2 to 4 days.
So now that we got that out of the way, we haven’t really addressed your question have we? How are you going to ensure you don’t fail your drug test?
First recommendation: before you go out and buy some detox kit, or the latest “miracle” herbal mix, trot on down to your local pharmacy and pick up an at-home drug test. They are relatively inexpensive, can give you a rough idea of how the real test may turn out and might save you (or cause) a lot of worry.
Still stressing? Before you go buy some test clean kit, you should know that the reliability of these tests is still being debated. Also, the way a lot of them work is by diluting your urine to the point where the drugs are no longer detectable. The thing is, many testing laboratories have caught on to this and test for levels of other things in your system (stuff that should be there) besides illegal drugs and can often tell if you have altered your body chemistry, which is interpreted as a failure. If you do decide to take a kit, I’m going to recommend that you take an at home test again. Still not passing?
Another, much more reliable option is to go to any local treatment facility and ask for a confidential drug test. It costs between $20 and $60 (depending on where you go and what kind of test you have) but then you will know how a test will turn out. That peace of mind is often worth it. Since the home kits aren’t cheap you might want to go with this choice first, it’s up to you.
Still not passing? I hate to be a downer here, but it sounds like you are SOL. Sorry. Hold off using for longer next time. Good luck!
Got questions? Feel free to email Alex at AS.ROP.DrugInfo@wwu.edu to get the info you crave. Please include in the email if it’s OK that I consider your question for the Weekly Buzz.