Urine Drug Test: Purpose, Types & Procedures
19 July, 2023
A urine drug test identifies and searches for illicit drugs in the urine sample. It can also determine the misuse of prescription medication. The main purpose of this test is to detect the presence of impairing or illegal substances in the system. It has several types, such as rapid screening and lab-based testing like Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS). This test involves providing an adequate urine sample into a container and submitting it for analysis.
Urine testing is one of the most commonly used forms of drug testing due to its convenience, accuracy, and affordability. It is a reliable way of detecting common drugs of abuse or their metabolites. In addition, it has a more extended detection window compared to blood or oral fluid samples. This article will discuss the purpose, the types of urine tests, and the procedures for taking this test.
What is a Urine Drug Test?
A urine drug test analyses an organic sample to identify whether an individual has taken any substances. It can trace the recent use of drugs or alcohol for up to two days from the date of the test. Additionally, a urine test can identify the abuse of prescription medicines or the use of them for other purposes aside from medical reasons.
Urine samples can detect a wide range of substances. It is one of the most established methods for drug and alcohol detection. It can also trace the byproducts of drugs, such as cocaine metabolites, even after the effects have worn off. Thus, the presence of metabolites indicates drug use.
Drug testing is becoming more common in various settings to help minimise the hazards of illegal substance use. Urine analysis is a cost-efficient method as it is accurate but less invasive than blood testing. However, there are several drawbacks to this method, including the possibility of adulteration and false positives. Thus, it is essential to know the factors that affect the accuracy of the test to maintain its reliability.
What are They Used for?
- Pre-employment: assess job applicants if they are using illegal substances that may jeopardise the safety of the workplace. It is a standard requirement for jobs with safety-critical nature.
- Periodic testing: screening of employees during medical evaluation.
- Random monitoring: determine if a person is working under the influence of drugs. It also discourages drug use or abuse.
- Medical screening: check for suspected use of drugs after an accident or emergency.
- Rehabilitation: monitor the progress of an individual undergoing treatment for substance addiction.
- Court-imposed: provide evidence of drug use or abstinence in family law or child custody cases, driving offences, and other probationary or legal cases.
Types of Urine Drug Tests
There are two main types of urine drug tests: immunoassay (IA) and GC/MS. Immunoassay test uses antibodies to detect various drug classes. It is the test method in rapid screening as it can give instant results within minutes. A test strip can indicate the presence of substances but not measure the amount. This type of test is inexpensive and easy to use.
On the other hand, GC/MS test is laboratory-based. This method has greater sensitivity and specificity compared to rapid screening. Additionally, it can detect low concentrations of substances that would not show up in IA tests. It also provides quantitative results, which give more accurate information about the amount or drug levels.
Another method is Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) test. It is similar to the IA test but provides more specific results. Moreover, there are tests for specific drugs, such as amphetamine and marijuana (THC) testing. The choice of which method to use depends on the purpose of the test and the desired level of accuracy.
What Drugs Are Tested in Urine Samples?
Urine drug screening can detect multiple substances at once. The most common drugs are marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, and benzodiazepines. These are drug classes that can have a significant impact on a person when taken on immoderate levels. Depending on the type, they can slow down or speed up the functions of the brain and the central nervous system.
Alcohol is another substance that is detectable in urine. Employers may include ethanol when checking for intoxication in the workplace. However, for alcohol testing alone, a workplace breathalyser is more convenient. Companies may also screen more substances using multi-panel urine test kits or laboratory testing.
Urine Drug Testing Procedures
The procedure for urine drug tests is simple. A person provides a urine specimen into the sampling container up to a pre-marked level. The sample must be new and uncontaminated. A medical examiner or lab technician secures the container for testing. Make sure to follow the instructions to ensure the accuracy and validity of the test.
In rapid screening, a test strip or card is dipped in the sample. The strip will change colours or draw a line if it detects drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, GC/MS tests require examining the specimen in a laboratory setting. It uses more advanced equipment to detect and measure the quantity of substances present. Typically, the results will be available after 24 to 48 hours.
The accuracy of the test depends on several factors. Firstly, adulteration may lead to false results because it alters the composition of the sample. Secondly, eating certain foods or beverages may cause false positives. Thirdly, the type of method must be appropriate for the drug class being tested. Lastly, proper handling and storage is vital.
The test results vary with the testing method. For urine drug screens, it shows negative or non-negative results. A negative result means the person did not consume drugs within the detectable time frame. If the test detects substances, confirmatory testing is essential to verify the findings.
A laboratory analysis can provide more detailed information regarding the amount of drugs in the sample. It can also reveal additional substances that may have been taken. When applicable, a medical review officer will evaluate the test before releasing the final result to the client or employer. In any case, the results should be interpreted carefully.
A urine drug test is the process of detecting illegal or recreational drugs in a urine sample. It can detect a wide range of substances, including alcohol. Its main purpose is to determine if a person is under impairment. It is beneficial for various settings. In the workplace, it can help manage safety risks and prevent accidents and injuries. Moreover, healthcare professionals use this method to assess patients and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
There are two main types of urine screening that individuals or companies may use. The first kind is the immunoassay test. This method is fast and cost-effective but can produce false-positive results. The second type is the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test. It is more accurate, but it takes time to get results due to laboratory processing. Nonetheless, it is vital to interpret the results carefully to make informed decisions.