Drug Abuse: It Affects Us All
Types of Tests and How They Work

Saliva and breath tests, used in checking for alcoholic intoxication, are not commonly accepted as screens for drugs of abuse. The remaining options include urine screening and blood testing. Urine testing is preferable for large-scale use. Because the collection of a urine specimen does not require the puncturing of skin, licensed medical personnel are not required to administer the test and there is no danger of infection.

Urine screening tests are designed to detect drugs that have been consumed by the user and whose metabolites (chemicals) are still present in the body. For this reason, a specimen may yield a positive result days or even weeks after an individual has used a drug (see chart). The length of time a drug remains detectable in urine depends on the characteristics of the specific drug, the amount taken and frequency of use, as well as the individual's age, weight, health and body chemistry.

A positive urine screening test result reveals only the presence of a drug in a urine specimen, not how or when the drug was taken. Drugs detected in urine are reported as having been scientifically identified as present in the individual's body system. A positive drug test result does not indicate whether an individual is impaired by drugs but indicates confirmed presence of the drug.

Signs of possible drug use include excessive absenteeism or tardiness, unusual irritability, sharply limited attention span, sleeping on the job, deterioration of work quality, unpredictable and unsafe behavior and mood swings. However, some of these behavior characteristics can be caused by other factors as well.