Urine drug testing

A urine drug screen looks for illegal or prescription drugs present in your body by testing your urine. It is the most common type of drug test.

There are certain drugs that test distributors look for more than others, these include:

  • Marijuana
  • Opioids (heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and morphine)
  • Amphetamines (amphetamine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam)
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

What are urine drug screens used for?

A urine drug screening may be used in a number of different situations to find out whether a person has taken or is taking a specific drug.

Employment screening

Some employers may require you to pass a drug test before they hire you or to check for drug use while on the job.

Sports participation

A number of sports organizations, both collegiate and professional, usually test their athletes for performance-enhancing drugs and other substances.  This may include testing for substances like anabolic steroids that may not be commonly tested in other settings.

Legal purposes

If you get into an accident you may have to take a drug test as a part of the investigation or as part of a criminal investigation.

Monitoring opioid use

Your doctor may want to monitor your medication use if you have been prescribed an opioid or other controlled substance for chronic pain to make sure you are taking the correct and prescribed amount.

Why do I need a urine drug screening?

Drug tests may be administered as a part of your job, in order for you to participate in a sporting event, or as a part of an investigation or court case. It is also possible if you are showing symptoms of drug abuse, your health care provider may order a drug test. Symptoms of drug abuse include:

  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Dilated or small pupils
  • Panic
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Delirium
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Changes in blood pressure or heart rhythm

How is the test performed?

When you get a urine drug screening you will be given instructions to give a “clean catch” sample. This is done by following these steps:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water
  2. Clean your genital area with a cleansing pad given to you by your test provider. Men should wipe the tip of their penis. Women should open their labia and clean from front to back.
  3. Start to urinate.
  4. Move the collection container under your urine stream.
  5. Make sure you collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container, which should have markings to indicate the amounts.
  6. Finish urinating.
  7. Return the sample container to the lab technician or health care provider.

Under certain circumstances, a medical technician or other professional may need to be in the same room while you provide your sample.

How can I prepare for the test?

It is important to tell the testing provider or your health care provider if you are currently taking any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or other supplements. Certain medications and supplements may give you a positive result for certain illegal drugs, so it is crucial to share this information. You should also avoid eating foods with poppy seeds, which can cause a false positive result for opioids.

What do my results mean?

A negative result means there were no drugs found in your system, or the amount of drugs was below a certain level, which varies depending on the type of drug.

If your test is positive, it means drugs were found in your system above a certain level. But, false positives are possible. If your first test is positive you will be subject to additional testing to determine whether or not you are actually taking a certain drug or drugs.

What should I know before I take the test?

You should be told:

  • What you are being tested for
  • Why you are being tested
  • How the results will be used

If you still have questions or concerns about the test, you should talk to your health care provider or contact the organization that requested the test.

Last reviewed: 
February 2018

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