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What Is A Drug Test and How Do I Pass It?

When the phrase "drug test" is used, it can be used in two ways. One is when a drug company develops a new pain-killer or disease treatment drug; the pharmaceutical company is required to conduct a variety of tests over a period of time to determine that the new drug is safe to use and effective as claimed.

The second type of "drug test," which we will be discussing here, is to determine whether or not an individual has illegal or controlled substances, or alcohol or nicotine, in his or her system. While they are not illegal, insurance companies test for the presence of alcohol or nicotine for the purpose of determining health risk and insurance premiums. The presence of alcohol after an industrial or automobile accident, or during a traffic stop, is detected by an alcohol test, (usually blood), administered by a law enforcement officer and lab.

Ever since the government decided that alcohol and drugs contribute to poor job performance and a higher incidence of accidents, various governmental agencies, law enforcement departments, and employers have gotten on the drug testing train. And, there's been basically no discussion or distinction as to what level of drugs or alcohol in your system means that you should be fired, refused a job or, worse yet, slapped in jail.

Trying to determine whether or not you are using drugs or alcohol has evolved into four types of tests:


The general procedure is to keep the subject from drinking or inserting anything in the mouth for a period of time…about 15 minutes. A collection of saliva is then obtained and either mixed with chemicals or placed onto a color-test strip in order to determine the presence of alcohol or other drugs. This general procedure is also used to test levels of hormones and other body chemicals. Once widely used for the testing of illegal drugs, its use is now declining; the time period during which alcohol and drugs can be detected by this method is relatively low, 3 hours to 4 days max.


Urinalysis has long been a tool of medical labs to detect kidney problems and other body diseases or malfunctions. More recently, it is being used to detect the presence of Alzheimer's disease. It is now widely used for the testing of alcohol and drugs, which can be detected for several days to weeks after use, depending upon the type, frequency, and amount. One of the original methods of avoiding detection was to make a mixture of fake urine, which would be poured, from a container into the specimen cup by the user. Others would save clean urine from when they were not using, for use later. Testing labs caught on to this trick and started asking clients to empty their pockets and leave their purses outside of the lavatory when they went in to give their specimen. Along came a contraption called the "Whizzinator" that is tied to the leg or waist underneath clothing. It contains a small pouch into which clean or fake urine is poured for later retrieval in the restroom.

Labs know what the temperature of a fresh urine sample should be and they also know that a sample should have blood particles in it of the blood type of the person being tested; so it is riskier to try and evade the urinalysis test by using a urine substitution. Labs take the specimen and either mix it with chemicals or dip a chemical colored test strip into it; or in some cases they examine it more closely in lab testing devices, depending on the type of substance they are looking for. This test is now usually used for random job tests, or when an employer feels he has cause to test you, because they can get a faster answer.


As part of your health exam and prior to issuance of a health or life insurance policy insurance companies usually require blood testing. These are also increasingly being used by employers as a pre-hiring screen. Law enforcement agencies use this type of test to determine the level of intoxication after an accident or arrest. Doctors and hospitals use this test to determine how various glands and organs in the body are doing their job, for cancer detection, and for other health checks.

A vial or two of blood is drawn by a nurse or lab technician and run through various procedures in the lab to determine the types of drugs being used and the level of toxicity in the body. This procedure generally takes longer to develop an answer than a saliva test or urinalysis.


This is the most accurate type of test, and it allows detection for weeks and months after use, depending on the type of drug and usage length and amount. When first invented, large clumps of hair were collected, and this raised legitimate gripes from those being tested. Methods have improved, and smaller amounts are now taken that rarely show. Hair strands are examined under microscope before and after being chemically treated, to determine how long ago the drug was used, the type of drug, and the duration of use. Keep in mind that the human hair grows about 1/2 inch per month, which enables this type of determination to be made. As the methods for collecting samples and testing have improved, the costs to the employer have gone down and the use of this type of test has risen, particularly for pre-employment screening.

We should mention here that there have been some allegations that ANY shampoo will cleanse the hair of toxin traces. Well, that is true, if you use a common shampoo long enough and often enough. We're talking about a lot of hair washes over a fairly long period of time here.... many days, weeks, or months, depending on the drug type and amount of usage. You usually have notice about a hair within test hours, or within just a few days.

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