Drugs of Abuse Testing

Choosing a sample to analyse

The following samples are most commonly used to screen for drugs of abuse in the workplace:

  • Urine: Around 75% of the organisations that SYNLAB works with utilise urine testing as their sample of choice. Within the workplace urine is considered to be the gold standard across the industry as it’s highly reliable and easy to collect and analyse. Urine is also the easiest sample medium used for cannabis detection – the most commonly abused substance within the UK.
  • Saliva: Particularly useful in situations where toilet facilities are not readily available, saliva testing is an unobtrusive method, commonly utilised within the workplace to screen for drugs of abuse. With a narrower window of detection, closely mimicking concentrations in the blood, saliva is used to look at current impairment i.e. is the employee fit to work right now?
  • Hair: Collecting a hair sample to screen for drugs of abuse is not commonly used as a front line method within the workplace, but is more commonplace in the medico-legal sector such as child custody cases. In the workplace if an employee has come forward and says they have a drug or alcohol problem, hair testing can be used during the rehabilitation process for a longer term assessment as it has the largest detection window, and can look at historic drug abuse over a number of months, as well as being used as as tool to prove abstinence. Learn more about hair testing in our FAQ here.
Drug Group Window of Detection in Urine Window of Detection in Saliva
Amphetamines 1 – 5 days Up to 12 hours
Barbiturates 1 – 4 days 1 – 2 days
Benzodiazepines 1 – 7 days 1 – 2 days
Buprenorphine 3 – 5 days 1 – 3 days
Cannabis
Prolonged use
2 – 7 days
2 – 30 days
24 hours
Cocaine 2 – 5 days 1 – 5 days
Ecstasy 3 – 5 days Up to 24 hours
EDDP 3 – 5 days 1 – 3 days
Ketamine 1 – 4 days 1 – 3 days
Methadone 3 – 5 days 1 – 3 days
Methamphetamine 3 – 5 days 1 – 3 days
Opiates 2 – 4 days 1 – 3 days
Phencyclidine 3 – 7 days 1 – 3 days
Propoxyphene 3 – 5 days 1 – 3 days

Now you have chosen a sample type, why not look at how you can test it?