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Drug Testing - All You Need To Know

By John Clarke

Test Tubes

Ahhh drug testing. A mar­vel­lous applic­a­tion of medical science for the most bas­tardly of reasons. Appar­ently, it matters to other people what do you get up to safely in the privacy of your  own home. This post takes you through the basics, the science behind it all, talks about how legal highs fit in and finally the best way to beat them!

A stand­ard “drug test” will look for any of the fol­low­ing: can­nabis, cocaine, amphet­am­ines, MDMA, opiates (and meth­adone), PCP, bar­bit­ur­ates, ben­zo­diazepines and tri­cyc­lic anti­de­press­ants. You’ll be required to give a sample in the form of hair, urine, sweat or saliva, which is pretty fucking obtrus­ive, con­sid­er­ing you’ve not actu­ally murdered anyone. The top reasons for being tested include apply­ing for a new job, random testing while you’re at work or you might be in some kind of trouble with the law, such as driving while battered or being on pro­ba­tion. I dis­agree much more with the work-related tests than I do for those involving the law (unless your offence is drug related). No one should drive while under the influ­ence of any­thing. Anyway…

First, your sample will be tested with a simple, cheap screen­ing test. Since these aren’t 100% accur­ate, a pos­it­ive score on one of these will qualify your sample for a second, much more expens­ive con­firm­a­tion test to rule out any false pos­it­ives. Test pos­it­ive on both and you’ll prob­ably be in some kind of trouble.

How Do Drug Tests Work?

AntibodyThe pre­lim­in­ary screen­ing tests are based on immun­o­lo­gical methods. This means  that some­where along the line, anti­bod­ies are used to detect any drugs in your sample. Anti­bod­ies (or immun­o­globulin pro­teins) are a true evol­u­tion­ary mas­ter­piece.  Your basic anti­body is made up of four protein chains — two light and two heavy — which together form a Y shape. Every member of a par­tic­u­lar family of anti­bod­ies shares the con­stant region with each other, while the vari­able region … varies. This vari­ation is import­ant since this is the busi­ness end of the protein. Nor­mally our white blood cells produce anti­bod­ies, which poke out of the cell mem­brane. When they encounter a patho­gen (a bac­terium for example), the vari­able region of the anti­body might bind to its surface. Whether or not it binds depends on whether or not the protein sequence at the vari­able regions is the right shape to fit it. Since our bodies have no way of telling what’s going to attack us next, they produce mil­lions of anti­bod­ies with dif­fer­ent vari­able regions in the hope that just a few will be the right shape to bind to the next invader. If the anti­bod­ies on a white blood cell happen to bind to some­thing foreign in our bodies, that white blood cell then shits out tonnes more of the same anti­body, and we become immune to whatever it is that’s des­troy­ing us from the inside.

A Scientist

A Typical Sci­ent­ist

So what’s this got to do with drugs testing? Well, a common way sci­ent­ists try and look for stuff in samples is with the help of anti­bod­ies.  First, the sci­ent­ist needs an anti­body for some­thing. That means that the anti­body has the right shaped vari­able region to bind to whatever it is the sci­ent­ist is looking for. That anti­body is nor­mally pro­duced by repeatedly inject­ing whatever the some­thing is into an animal, such as a rabbit. Then, after a while, you kill the rabbit, collect it’s blood, and purify out the anti­bod­ies (mwuhahaha!)

Once you have an anti­body spe­cific to the thing you’re looking for, you can do any number of immun­oas­says to test whether or not that some­thing is in your sample. A pretty stand­ard example is the ELISA (or enzyme-linked immun­osorb­ent assay :o) pro­tocol. It might sound totally incom­pre­hens­ible, but it’s actu­ally a piece of piss. It must be, con­sid­er­ing that I’ve done more of these than I care to remem­ber.  The gist

is as follows:

sandwich_elisa

  1. Attach your anti­body to the bottom of the wells in your plate (each well is like a little mini test tube that only holds a few micro­litres of liquid; a typical plate might have 8 rows and 12 columns, making it a 96 well plate)
  2. Add your sample to each well
  3. Wait for a bit, so the stuff in your sample has chance to bind to the anti­bod­ies at the bottom of the wells
  4. Wash the entire plate. Any­thing not bound to the anti­bod­ies (ie everything you don’t care about) will wash off, while any­thing of interest remains stuck to the bottom of the well.
  5. Add some more of the ori­ginal anti­body, then wait for a bit and wash again.  This makes sure that your molecule of interest is sur­roun­ded by anti­body on all sides
  6. Add your sec­ond­ary anti­body. This is a much more general anti­body that was selec­ted to recog­nise the con­stant region of the ori­ginal anti­body. This will also have been engin­eered to contain an enzyme, such as horse radish per­ox­i­dase, which is neces­sary for the genius that is step 8
  7. Wash once more to get rid of any unbound sec­ond­ary anti­body
  8. Add a some­thing that changes colour in the pres­ence of the enzyme attached to the sec­ond­ary anti­body. If there was the molecule of interest in your ori­ginal sample, then your ori­ginal anti­body will bind to it, holding it in the well. The sec­ond­ary anti­body will bind to the first lot of anti­bod­ies, and since it’s got an enzyme attached to it, it will change the colour of the well.
  9. Measure the colour change of the wells. The more the colour has changed, the more of that some­thing there was in your ori­ginal sample

That’s it. Geni­usly straight­for­ward. There are tonnes of vari­ations on this assay, like attach­ing some­thing radio­act­ive to the sec­ond­ary anti­body then meas­ur­ing the amount of radi­ation present, rather than colour change. A fluor­es­cent tag would also do the trick, allow­ing you to measure the amount of light given off. This is also the same kind of thing found in a preg­nancy test, which changes colour if the hormone human chor­i­onic gon­ado­tropin is present in your piss.

That’s the screen­ing test, but what about the con­firm­a­tion tests?

Con­firm­a­tion tests rely on two tech­niques:  gas chro­ma­to­graphy and mass spec­tro­metry.

Gas spec­tro­metry sep­ar­ates the sample into its com­pon­ent parts by forcing it through a column with an inert gas at high pres­sure. Dif­fer­ent com­pounds stay in the column longer than others, so their reten­tion time is what is used to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them. Mass spec­tro­metry is then used to give us the “molecu­lar fin­ger­print” of the com­pound in ques­tion. When a sample is added to a mass spec­tro­meter, it’s bom­barded by elec­trons which split the molecule up into frag­ments. The way a molecule breaks up is unique to that molecule, so ana­lys­ing the frag­ments tells us exactly what was put into the machine. The two tech­niques provide a very accur­ate (and expens­ive!) way to check for drugs in your system.

While we might despise drug testing, you have to admire the awesome science behind it all!

Detection Times

The fol­low­ing table lists the amount of time a sub­stance is detect­able in your urine, hair, blood or saliva. In case anyone was won­der­ing, I robbed it from Wiki­pe­dia.

Sub­stanceUrineHairBlood / Oral Fluid
Alcohol6 – 24 hoursup to 90 days12 – 24 hours
Amphet­am­ines (except meth)1 to 3 daysup to 90 days12 hours
Methamphet­am­ine3 to 5 daysup to 90 days1 – 3 days
MDMA (Ecstasy)24 hrsup to 90 days25 hours
Bar­bit­ur­ates (except pheno­bar­bital)1 dayup to 90 days1 to 2 days
Pheno­bar­bital2 to 3 monthsup to 90 days4 to 7 days
Ben­zo­diazepinesThera­peutic use: up to 7 days. Chronic use (over one year): 4 to 6 weeksup to 90 days6 to 48 hours
Can­nabis3 to 5 days, and some­times up to 30 daysup to 90 daysUp to 24 hours
Cocaine2 to 5 days with excep­tions for certain kidney dis­ordersup to 90 days2 to 5 days
Codeine2 to 3 daysup to 90 days2 to 3 days
Cotin­ine (a break-down product of nicot­ine)2 to 4 daysup to 90 days2 to 4 days
Morphine2 daysup to 90 days1 – 2 days
Heroin3 to 4 daysup to 90 days1– 2 days
LSD24 to 72 hours (however tests for LSD are very uncom­mon)up to 3 days0 to 3 hours
Meth­adone3 daysup to 97 days24 hours
PCP3 to 7 days for single use; up to 30 days in chronic usersup to 90 days1 to 3 days

Do Legal Highs Show Up On Drug Tests?

So, what do we know about drug testing so far?

  1. They check for spe­cific molecules one at a time
  2. The checks are based on the molecule’s size, shape and charge, which are unique to that com­pound
  3. While a screen­ing test might be cheap, the con­firm­a­tion tests cer­tainly aren’t, which means a lot of money has to be spent to say for sure that you’ve been taking drugs

While legal highs might mimic the effects of illegal drugs, the active ingredi­ents are cer­tainly not chem­ic­ally identical to the drug itself. Some legal highs might be struc­tur­ally related (or ana­log­ous) to illegal drugs, but they’re still not exactly the same, and other legal highs share no sim­il­ar­it­ies with their illegal coun­ter­parts, they just tickle the same recept­ors in your brain. This rules out any chance that having legal highs in your system will acci­dent­ally cause a pos­it­ive result.

Add to that the fact that legal highs aren’t actu­ally illegal (the clue is in the name…), then why would a lab bother spend­ing a lot of money to confirm that you’ve con­sumed some­thing legal? The tech­no­logy cer­tainly exists to check for legal highs in your system, but since you’re not break­ing the law, it would be a massive waste of money. Unless of course, your employer has more money than sense and no regard for per­sonal privacy. Just make sure you’re not high at work, and you’ll be fine. I imagine the rules about that would be the same as alcohol — that’s legal, but no one would want you to turn up to the office com­pletely hammered.

If I get another “Does salvia show up on a drug test” email, then I’m point­ing them to this post!

How To Beat A Drugs Test

For­tu­nately, there are many ways to score a neg­at­ive result on the initial screen­ing test, meaning you won’t even come up against the scary con­firm­a­tion test. Here’s the gist for each:

Helping Your Body Clean Itself

ExerciseEat health­ily, drink plenty of fluids, and start exer­cising! THC in can­nabis is fat soluble, so stays in your fat cells. The only way you’re going to get rid of that is through car­di­ovas­cu­lar exer­cise, or a high fibre diet.

Producing Clean Urine

Unfor­tu­nately, drink­ing a shit­load of water before your test won’t be enough. To prevent this from hap­pen­ing, cre­at­in­ine levels are also ana­lysed. If the con­cen­tra­tion of cre­at­in­ine is lower than it should be, then it’s a pretty good sign you’ve been trying to dilute your piss. For­tu­nately, there are ways around it. Cre­at­in­ine is the break­down product of cre­at­ine phos­phate, which is used for energy in muscles. Since red meat is pretty much all muscle, eating lots of it start­ing from three days before your test will help raise it to an accept­able level. You can also chomp 100mg of Vitamin B to make your pee yellow. Diur­et­ics will also help you pee more fre­quently, and include caf­feine, alcohol, cran­berry juice and many more.

Substituting Someone Else's Sample

Eww

Eww

A great yet dis­gust­ing way to evade detec­tion is to use someone else’s clean urine. This can work wonders is you do it right. If no one’s watch­ing you pee, you can strap a con­tainer to you leg and empty it into your sample bottle as soon as you’re left to it. In case its tem­per­at­ure gets recor­ded, you might want to “collect” the clean sample only minutes before your test. If that’s not pos­sible, or your test is super­vised, you can put the clean sample straight in your bladder. Say whaaaaat? Yes, that’s right. First you’re going to need to empty your bladder the old fash­ioned way, then cath­et­erise your­self and inject the sample straight into your­self down the tube. It’s going to be uncom­fort­able, but your sample will be drug-free, warm, the correct pH and come out of the right hole, which is espe­cially handy for super­vised tests.

Drug Screens

These work by inter­fer­ing with the assays to produce a neg­at­ive result. The only valid drug screen seems to be Aspirin. Appar­ently, taking 4 aspirin a few hours before the test pre­vents a pos­it­ive result by inter­fer­ing with the absorp­tion of light during step #9 dis­cussed earlier.  I cer­tainly wouldn’t trust any com­mer­cially avail­able products to do the job for you. Most are untested or simply don’t work..

62 Responses to Drug Testing - All You Need To Know

  1. Zach says:

    (Import­ant message follows. Please read)

    Firstly, before I forget, I’d like to address what kdizzle said about feeling like he was having a heart attack when he smoked the legal spice.

    That is how I felt the first time too. Hell, I felt that way the first 2 – 3 times… But as time pro­gressed, I got used to it. Kind of like how I am cur­rently getting used to being a veget­arian (just not as extreme). Your brain just needs time to adjust to the change. Your brain will fool you if you add some­thing to it that it isn’t used to. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad though — just don’t smoke a lot at once. If legal spice becomes illegal, it will be because of idiots who smoke irre­spons­ibly and ruin the great feel­ings that a good high is capable of giving.

    I don’t smoke weed, but I do smoke the legal stuff 2 – 3 times a week. Now that I am used to legal highs, they provide me with an amazing and peace­ful exper­i­ence. I have a 1,000+ page, 6,000+ entry journal in which I type out my thoughts. I also have a drug test coming up for the coal mines, which will pay me $30/​hour. I am going to light up some Bayou Blaster as soon as I click ‘Post Comment’. Crazy and stupid, you say? Read on.

    I came to this website in search of answers from the blog and the online community’s per­sonal exper­i­ences. I need this job because I am cur­rently home­less, staying with dif­fer­ent people from time to time, and working a job for $8/​hour, just barely able to pay bills and survive. But I will not give up feeling maximum peace (aka — getting high) just so that I can throw myself into con­form­ity. I hate money. But I love feeling peace­ful. So… I will post the results of my test in hopes that it helps someone else out. I’ll also post the last time I smoked BEFORE the test. Any inform­a­tion that could be useful, I will post. Whoatemypiano@​hotmail.​com if you have any ques­tions or any inform­a­tion to pass along to me. Long live the high!

    -Zach-

  2. Aiden L says:

    First off I’d like to thank you for taking the time for this inform­a­tion and also to the people who have left their useful input.

    I am cur­rently on CCP (House Arrest) and have found myself smoking this spice “crazy monkey” earlier today. Its been atleast maybe half a year since my last encounter with spice and after today I wanted to research the test sticks called “TOX” that they use at the CCP to see if these detect spice. Thank­fully, these do not, and I report twice a week for drug tests.

    Fol­low­ing my com­ple­tion of CCP, I am to be re-instated back onto regular felony pro­ba­tion where they use dif­fer­ent tests, and not the TOX sticks at the CCP office. After reading this thread, I have dis­covered that these tests that felony pro­ba­tion util­lizes are the RediCup drug screen by Redwood Tox­ic­o­logy Labor­at­ory. Per­son­ally, being on felony pro­ba­tion for 2 years now and having 4 viol­a­tions due to mainly dirty UA’s, these tests are the best on the market. The link to the article above by “pushin’_1s-&-0s” does not suprise me that tests have been developed to detect spice.

    I think this certain kind of test varies from state-to-state. I live in Albuquerque, NM and have served my pro­ba­tion here, and still have yet to see these tests for myself. Although, I have heard they do exist for certain kind of pro­grams such as drug court or pre-trial.

    I suppose in the end, its the indi­vidu­als job to find out what kind of test your type of pro­ba­tion con­ducts. Take notice of the brand of the test and google it to research what it can detect. Threads like this one are useful because they offer the best insight and people who are going through the same issue. Without help from fellow pro­ba­tion people the system will end up coming out on top. Good luck on each of your research 😀

  3. boiblu says:

    So taking asprin may work?

  4. cokewell says:

    I went to redwood​.com and did some research they only test for jwh products… I found dif­fer­ent kinds at some head shops that say they contain no jwh products and some that say 100% marsh­mel­low leaf. Does anyone know if they have other tests?

  5. cokewell says:

    ■ Accur­ately iden­ti­fies JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-081, JWH-250, AM-2201, RCS-4 and their meta­bol­ites…

    Thats what they say it tests for.

  6. Sal says:

    Has anyone out there failed one of the newer spice tests that test for JWH-081, JWH-250, AM-2201, RCS-4 and their meta­bol­ites

  7. Doc says:

    OK.…so someone told me in the “joint” that certain cutters mixed with cocaine can be sniffed out on drug tests. In fact…he said that’s how he got busted. He said it had been 6 – 7 days since he partied. Maybe he’s got a kidney dis­order? Or maybe they can actu­ally test for them? Whatever “them” are;) Maybe someone can shed some light. Thank you…cool page!!

  8. confused says:

    Any body no what is in the kanna black mamba and mega kush that is sold in the uk

  9. IntoSyn says:

    Ive been urine tested for years. I liked getting high. I smoked legal weed until my state banned it. Then I went to the Inter­net untill this recent mail crack­down put me into legal weed with­drawal .Over 3 months. I turned back to weed and Xanax to make life tol­er­able. Smoking over and OZ in 2 weeks. Didn’t help much at first, with Xanax, I got through it. I have a masking con­coc­tion I use ‚but this day, I didn’t take all the steps per­fectly. I was lucky and caught my shrink after lunch. He couldn’t keep his eyes awake. I told him I used it to get off the legal bud,and hope that won’t happen again. I got my script. Con­tin­ued smoking weed and Xanax . The next visit, my ritual done metic­u­lously. I passed!!!! WOW! I really need to pass it on. I will. But been told it would only mask it . Yes,my doctor has told me all non-pos­it­ives are sent to the lab. Yes,I’ve been told my samples look watered down. No, I’ve never heard any results from the lab ever, sample masked ‚watered down.
    All my shrink cares about is a negit­ive. Someone else in the office,who I clash with,deals with the Lab. And the lab results.
    He’s the one that gave me the ” Watered Down” phrase. ( Drink­ing excess water before the test,clear urine). I have not achieved a high worthy of the legal bud and hate going to the streets to get it. But!! Big but, if you’ve gone through the long legal bud with­drawal . You really don’t want to try that again.I loved it. I’m and addict and it’s a drug unlike marijuana and more like Coke.Tickles those THC recept­ors, but,may block the real stuff for months after­wards.
    And yes. Done right I can block THC and Benzo’s on a Sub­ox­one urine drug test.
    But wished,I didn’t have to.

  10. Heidi Ki says:

    I’m on pro­ba­tion and smoked about a quarter of real pot. I’ve got 16 days to be clean for my pro­ba­tion drug screen. I don’t smoke every­day anymore. What are my chances of passing? Plz help. And does Mad hatter show up on pro­ba­tion drug tests? Thank you plz help me. Freaked out in Indiana

  11. amanda says:

    I get 150 1000mg narco , 60 30mg adder­all, and 60 xanax. I had my neigh­bor pee for me . she takes adder­all and narco . because my doctor did a urine sample on me. the thing i dont under­stand is when i got my pre­scrip­tions the quanity was cut in half. the recep­tion­ist said the doctor wants to send my urine to a lab and if everything is good, i would be able to get the rest of my scripts after she receives the results. whats going on?????

  12. Kyana says:

    One of my neigh­bors smokes angel dust or crystal meth on almost a daily basis and the smell tends to fill up my house. I know you can get a contact high from marijuana, but can you get a contact high from dust or meth? Oh and this site rocks!!!!!

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