One of the most frequently asked questions by teens and young adults is “how long do drugs stay in your system?”
Testing for the presence of illegal drugs in a person’s system has been around for quite some time now, and new technologies in drug screenings have made these tests nearly impossible to beat.
Parents can even purchase home testing kits if they suspect their children of using drugs. While a simple Internet search will bring up numerous methods to beat a drug test, the only rock-solid way is to abstain from using illicit drugs.
The Department of Labor estimates that more than $80 billion is lost annually in the workplace due to drug use. This can be from lack of productivity to missed days related to substance abuse. Businesses don’t take losses like that lightly.
According to HireRight’s 2013 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, 78 percent of companies who responded to the survey said they conduct drug testing on some of their workforce. This is another reason so many employees want to know how long drugs stay in your system.
Reasons for Drug Testing
Considering that 3 out of every 4 drug users in the U.S. are employed, many businesses require testing because of the nature of the work to be done. Generally, these are either pre-employment tests or random tests in jobs where ongoing safety is of the utmost importance.
Other reasons for drug testing include:
- Probation and criminal drug screenings
- Therapeutic testing
- Military testing
- Parental testing
The Types of Drug Tests Impact How Long Drugs Stay in Your System
There are two main types of drug tests. For instance, a basic immunoassay screening is known as a 5-panel test and will register the following substances:
- Cannabinoids (marijuana)
- Amphetamines (speed/stimulants)
- Opiates (heroin, morphine et al.)
There are also expanded panel tests on the market that screen for all of the above, as well as:
- Opioids (Oxycodone/Hydrocodone)
- Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin)
- Propoxyphene (Darvocet)
- MDMA (Molly/Ecstasy)
The most common form of drug screening is done with urine, but tests can also be performed by taking a saliva or blood sample, so it’s important to know how long drugs stay in your urine.
Hair samples can also be used and are nearly impossible to cheat because nearly all drug residue can remain in follicles for as long as 90 days.
How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System (in the Body or Urine)?
When trying to determine how long drugs stay in your system, a number of factors must be considered, as well as the type of drugs being tested for.
The presence of illicit substances and how long they stay in your urine or blood system depends largely on the frequency of use and amount used, along with other factors, such as body weight.
Each type of drug used, as well as the frequency and duration or length of time used regularly, will have an impact on the results of the drug test.
Here are commonly used drugs and the general length of time these drugs will stay in your system. Keep in mind the results will vary for most of them.
- Marijuana – 2 days to 40+ days
- Cocaine – 2 to 4 days
- Heroin – 2 to 4 days
- Methamphetamine – 2 to 5 days
- Amphetamines 2 to 4 days
- Ecstasy (MDMA) – 2 to 4 days
- Alcohol – 6 to 24 hours
- PCP – 3 to 14 days
While there are ways for a person to “flush” their system out before a drug screening, they are chancy at best.
Professional screeners have seen it all, from detecting bleach in someone’s urine to being handed a cold, purple-colored urine sample.
To reduce the likelihood that an individual will substitute their urine sample with someone else’s, many labs require that a test administrator be present as it is being taken, ensuring the sample’s origin and purity.
Wondering How Long Drugs Stay in Your System Could Be a Sign of Other Problems
In 2013, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimated that 9.4 percent of the population, nearly 25 million people, had used drugs in the past month.
Continually failing drug screenings or being unable to stop using an illicit substance in the case of an impending test might be a signal of a greater issue, one of dependency or addiction.
Some drug tests in the workplace or by parents might be random and arbitrary without any prior notice of when they will occur. In these cases, there’s not much anyone can do to abstain from using drugs ahead of time.
In other instances, like when applying for a new job, drug tests might be announced before testing so people can abstain from drug use for a few weeks. This should be enough time to pass the test, yet many people still fail because they cannot stop using it for even a few days or weeks.
Some people are simply addicted to using drugs. Others feel the need to use drugs to self-medicate or reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, or even PTSD. Whatever the case may be, continued use of drugs or alcohol without being able to stop at will is a cause for concern.
Being worried about how long drugs stay in your system because it’s impossible to stop using them for any length of time might be a clear sign of addiction. If this is the case, it is probably time to speak with a doctor or addiction specialist.
There’s no shame in seeking help for addiction of any kind, and for those who rely on drugs to cope with mental health issues, recovery from addiction can also help with those issues. Being able to stop using drugs also alleviates any apprehension about taking a drug test.