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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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