All You Need To Know About Urine Drug Testing

Drug addiction has been one of the major problems in the world. Despite all efforts in trying to prevent these illicit substances from circulating further, drug traders seem to have a way to get past authorities. This is the reason why detection of drug use has become popular, particularly through the use of a urine test.

The Reality of Drug Abuse and Addiction

Taking illicit substances usually starts out as an outlet for something unfavorable in a person’s life. However, due to the habit-forming nature of these drugs, the intention of just trying it once becomes a frequent activity until it gets out of control.

Drug addiction does not only affect the user, it also hurts family and other surrounders. Some of these drugs have caused broken relationships and destroyed lives. Unless somebody cares to help a user get out of the hole, drug addiction will continue to entice more people to go through with the vice.

What’s worse is that a lot of people receive wrong information that could eventually lead to their early demise.

What Is Drug Testing?

Drug testing is a process by which an individual is asked to provide a sample of urine, blood, hair or saliva to detect the presence of drug metabolites in his system. This has been a controversial issue in the workplace, as employees perceive the activity as an invasion of privacy if they were asked to undergo drug testing. For some people, as long as they are able to perform their jobs well, whatever they do outside of work should be not of any concern by their employer.

While this may be true in some sense, a large percentage of workplace accidents are caused by employees who report to work heavily intoxicated with either drugs or alcohol.

Workplace drug testing may be an additional expense on the employer. However, apart from the goal of becoming successful in the business that they are in, company owners need to provide assurance to employees that they are working with a healthy and safe work environment for everyone.

Drug testing as part of the pre-employment process can be a big help in identifying applicants who may be using drugs. This may be perceived as a form of discrimination, but people should start seeing the whole picture in a different perspective. The end goal would mean success and safety for the employers, employees and the customers.

Here are some of the benefits of implementing a workplace drug testing policy:

  • Pre-employment drug testing can screen drug users prior to employment.
  • Allowing to have drug testing promotes a healthy and safe workplace. Employees who are handling different types of heavy machinery are at high risk of succumbing to accidents and injuries. Therefore, they should always have a clear mind to be able to make decisions with the best intention of performing their respective jobs dutifully.
  • Employees who may have problems with drug problems can receive assistance by recommending to them a rehabilitation facility where they can be treated.
  • A safe workplace promotes better productivity among employees. It creates little to no obstruction with the normal flow of everyone’s work, and it provides everyone with peace of mind that they are working in a safe environment.
  • Changing jobs frequently will not be a problem because drug-free employees are able to perform well in their assigned jobs. It can significantly drop the rate of employee turnover.
  • It helps reduce conflicts between employees and employers. Individuals who use drugs may have an aggressive behavior. By having a drug testing program, the company can detect employees who are using drugs before conflicts arise.
  • Having a drug testing program allows the employees to have awareness regarding the dangers of drugs. Information dissemination can be done through seminars, workshops, drug forums and distribution of flyers and post anti-drug ad campaigns within the company premises.

Drug Testing Methods

Drug testing has been proven to be one of the best solutions for maintaining company reputation. It also promotes the production of high-quality products and services backed up by employees who work their individual jobs in a healthy and safe environment.

Below are the drug testing methods used to detect the presence of drugs in the body.

Each of these drug testing methods has their own window detection time. This is the period in which the drug test can still detect the drug metabolite in the sample.

The testing method should be conducted appropriately to ensure accuracy and reliability. It is likely to have a negative test result when the test has been done beyond the detection window. The drug detection time can be affected by the amount of drug intake, the type of drug, the type of specimen used, and the frequency of drug use.

What is Urine Drug Testing?

Urine analysis is one of the most commonly used methods for detecting drug use. It is often preferred to other procedures because of its low cost and convenience. Urine testing verifies the presence of a parent drug or its metabolites, which can point to the recent use of the substance.

A typical urine test can detect various components of urine. It does not only detect the presence of drug metabolites but can also determine the cause of existing symptoms.

Waste materials, fluids, and other substances from the blood are passed in the urine through the kidney. The kind of food consumed, the quality of lifestyle and the condition of the kidney will affect what is in the urine.

There are various tests which can be done just by simply using a urine sample. A regular urinalysis often includes the following tests:


Fluid balance, diet, medicines, and presence of diseases may affect the color of the urine. A darker urine color may indicate low water content.


Urine is normally clear, but the presence of blood, pus, or bacteria can make it appear cloudy.


Normally, the urine does not have a strong odor. The odor may be caused by the presence of an existing medical condition, particularly bacterial infection.

Specific Gravity

This determines the balance of water in the urine. A high specific gravity indicates more solid materials in the urine while a low specific gravity indicates more water in it.


The normal pH of urine is 7. Anything lower indicates that the urine is strongly acidic, while higher pH values indicate that the urine is strongly alkaline. Abnormal pH level may show indication of the formation of kidney stones.


This is not usually found in urine, but traces of protein may show an indication of fever, pregnancy or a kidney disease.


This is the type of sugar found in blood. An unusual amount of glucose in urine is a clear indication of uncontrolled diabetes. It is also possible to see glucose in urine when kidneys are damaged.


The presence of nitrates in urine is an indication of the presence of bacteria that cause a urinary tract infection.

Leukocyte / WBC Esterase

This indicates the presence of white blood cells in the urine, which may mean the presence of a urinary tract infection.


Ketones are products of broken down fats. A large amount of this in the urine may indicate a serious condition such as diabetic ketoacidosis. It is also possible to cause ketones in urine when one has a diet that is low in carbohydrate or has severe vomiting episodes.

Red Blood Cells

This may show an indication of a disease, inflammation, or injury to the kidney, bladder, or urethra.


Casts are formed when there is a presence of kidney disease in the form of red blood cells, protein or fatty substances.


A large number of crystals in urine is an indication of the presence of kidney stones.

Squamous Cells

The presence of squamous cells in a urine sample is an indication that the sample is not pure.

Bacteria, Yeast Cells or Parasites

Presence of any of these may indicate an infection.

Substances Identified By Urine Drug Testing

Urine analysis can identify various substances within certain detection windows. Here are some of these drugs:


Detection Period


2-5 days

Barbituates (Long-Acting)

3-4 weeks

Cannabinoids (THC, Marijuana)

5-60 days


1-4 days

Euphorics (Ecstasy, Shrooms)

5-7 days


7-10 days

Steroids (anabolic oral)

14-28 days

Steroids (anabolic parenterally)

1-3 months


10-20 days

Barbituates (Short-Acting)

2 days


7-10 days


4-6 days


5-7 days

Ketamine (Special K)

5-7 days


5-7 days


5-7 days

Phencyclidine (PCP)

2-4 days


6 hours to 2 days


For a complete list of drug test cutoff levels and detection times by drug test type, visit our resource, here

Advantages of Urine Drug Testing

When drugs are ingested and processed in the body, they produce by-products called metabolites, which are excreted in the urine. Urine analysis is able to detect these metabolites to confirm drug use within a certain period.

Urine drug testing is one of the most widely used methods due to its numerous advantages. These include the following:

Convenient sample collection

The person being tested only has to provide his urine in the given container. There is no need to extract blood or cut off his hair.


One of the reasons why urine testing is the widely preferred is because it costs less than other tests. The testing involves the use of a test strip and a lab reagent that is added to the urine sample to be tested. The entire procedure is less costly compared to hair and blood testing.

Can detect more drugs

Compared to other methods, urine drug testing can detect a wider range of drugs and by-products. These include amphetamines, cocaine, benzodiazepines, marijuana, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), barbiturates, methamphetamines, semi-synthetic-opioids, MDMA, alcohol, and nicotine.

Can detect recent use

Because metabolites are quickly excreted in the urine, their presence indicates that the person tested has recently used the substance. Unlike hair testing which establishes a history of use, urine screening can detect recent drug consumption.

Fast results

Urine screening delivers instant results because the color change in the test strips occurs almost immediately. It is preferred in cases where quick-testing is necessary.

Disadvantages of Urine Drug Testing

Although it sounds like a perfect drug testing procedure, urine analysis has its own weaknesses. Some of the disadvantages of urine drug testing include the following:

Invasive sample collection

For sample collection, the person being tested is asked to provide his urine sample and store it in a given container while inside a private bathroom. A supervising medical or laboratory staff waits outside. Some patients find this procedure to be invasive and embarrassing. Compared to hair follicle analysis, urine testing seems more intrusive.

Limited window of detection

The method can only detect the metabolites that are currently being expelled in the urine. This means that if the drugs were ingested more than a few days prior to testing, the by-products may have already left the body and drug use would not be detected. Other methods such as hair analysis, has a longer detection period.

Cannot measure amount of drug ingested

A positive result only confirms the presence of a drug or its metabolite. The procedure cannot provide an estimate of the amount of drug that an individual has taken. As such, it is insufficient to form a basis as to the degree of treatment a patient needs.

Risk of adulteration

There are means to cheat a urine drug test. Some people may adulterate the urine sample with substances to return a false negative. Also, when the sample collection process is not closely supervised, it can be swapped.

Methodologies of Urine Drug Testing

A sample is first collected from the person to be tested. He is asked to enter a private bathroom and provide a urine sample in a specimen cup. The cup must be secured and returned to the medical or laboratory staff. The sample is sent to the laboratory for analysis.

At the laboratory, the urine is first divided into two aliquots. An initial screen is performed on the first aliquot which undergoes a process called enzyme immunoassay. The procedure determines how the drug use interferes with the body’s ability to form antigen-antibody complexes. The test results appear on a test strip to which the urine sample has been added. The said strip will turn to a different color when it indicates the presence (or absence) of a certain substance.

If the first test returns a positive result, the second aliquot is subjected to a confirmation test. A procedure called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is performed. When the second procedure comes out positive, the entire urine drug test is recorded as positive. The medical review officer (MRO) then contacts the requesting party to inform him of the results.

Instrumental and Non-Instrumental Methods of Drug Urine Testing

Urine testing methods fall into the two categories of instrumental and non-instrumental. Both of these drug testing methods use immunoassay technology to check if there are any traces of the drug in the sample and instrumental testing uses chromatography technology to confirm the presence and determine the quantity of the drug.

Instrument Testing

This type of testing involves a machine that samples, measures and produces a quantitative result, usually as a numeric amount on a scale.

The advantages of instrumental drug testing are that it can be automated since it’s being done by a machine and it provides accurate documentation of the testing done. It’s also easy to store samples for potential retesting purposes.

Modern machines usually have the ability to put results directly into an information management system on a computer.

Reagents for testing are usually not as expensive for the machines as they are for non-instrumental testing, however, trained staff are required to run the machines. Most manufacturers provide staff training on their machines. So, although the cost per test is usually relatively low, the initial cost of the machine and the staff training required have to also be taken into account.

Non-Instrument Testing: Point-of-Contact Tests

Simply put, non-instrument drug testing is testing that is carried out without machines. This type of testing requires taking samples manually and manually observing the results to produce either a positive or negative result.

Point-of-contact testing uses a non-instrument device (like an all-in-one cup or dip strip) to perform a test at the point of collection (regardless of where the sample is collected). And while they don’t give you as much comprehensive information as instrument testing, they are easy to use and provide quick and accurate results.

The cost per test of these is generally higher than the cost per test when performing instrument testing but the total volume of tests being performed should also be taken into consideration.

Although anyone can perform a non-instrumental test, having trained staff is preferred, especially if the tests rely on the reading of a color card to determine a positive or negative result.

Arrangements also need to be made if samples need to be stored and test results need to be documented for retrieval.

Generally, if a non-instrumental test gives a positive result, that result should be confirmed by instrumental testing.

How Do Urine Drug Test Instant Devices Work

Although a number of different types of drug tests are available, most work in very similar ways. Some are more effective than others. One of the weaknesses of the tests has been the slowness with which results could be provided because the samples had to be sent to labs. Now instant urine drug tests are available that can help detect use quickly so necessary actions can be taken promptly by employers, law enforcement agents, or parents.

How Drug Tests Work

Drug tests work by checking your urine for compounds known as metabolites. When you take drugs, parts of the substances are left behind and stored in the fat cells of your body in concentrated forms. When you exercise or your body uses energy, some of these fat cells are burned and the stored metabolites are released into the body. Because they are considered waste products, they are discharged through your body via urine.

Different drugs leave behind different types of metabolites. That’s why a drug test can pinpoint which types of drugs you have been using. Because some non-illegal substances, such as prescription medications, can leave behind similar metabolites, it’s always important to alert drug testers if you are currently taking any prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs.

The difference between standard urinalysis drug tests and those which deliver fast results is that the test does not have to be sent away for scanning. Instead, the metabolites react with chemicals in the testing apparatus to provide the results.

Detecting Long-Term Usage

The amount of time the metabolites stay in your body varies. If you have a faster metabolism, they will generally leave your body faster because your fat cells will be burned at a much higher rate. If you have a large number of fat cells, have a slow metabolism, and are relatively inactive, the metabolites are going to be present in your body for a lot longer and will continue appearing in quantities in your urine over that time.

As a general rule of thumb, however, a fast-acting urinalysis test can detect drug use within the last several days. The amount of time varies for each type of drug, as well as for your body’s unique way of processing the metabolites. For example, barbiturates can stay in your body and appear in your urine sample for up to 21 days while amphetamines are usually gone within 4 days. Traces of marijuana, on the other hand, can remain in your urine specimens for up to 12 weeks.

While hair follicle tests can check for drug use within the last 90 days for almost every drug included in the test, fast-acting urinalysis tests provide results much faster.

Because of the way drugs are processed by your system, the secondhand s

moke from crack or marijuana being used by someone around you can sometimes be absorbed into your system and stored as metabolites as well. That means you could end up literally being guilty by association in some instances. However, these amounts should be small and may even appear under the threshold for positive results.

Urine Drug Testing Products

Typically, the specimen collection for urine drug testing is performed on-site when so requested such as by the employer or school administrator. It may also be done at the laboratory where the laboratory technicians or medical staff read the results. However, there are some urine drug testing products available which allow home testing or instant reading of the results on-site.

Drug Test Cups

Drug test cups are used to test urine samples for different types of drugs that are commonly abused. They are favored for their simplicity and the fact that they offer instant results for the end user. Test strips or test cards basically come with these cups and are dipped over the sample for the reading of results.

There are different choices when it comes to drug test cups. Among them are those that come from different brands like:

DrugCheck NxStep

This brand launched its very own Onsite Urinalysis Test Cup that can be used easily in the detection of onsite drugs. It makes use of a testing device with its collection cup to detect the presence of various drug metabolites in a matter of minutes. It can test up to 15 drugs and adulterants from amphetamine, buprenorphine, cocaine, meth, opiates, phencyclidine and TCA to barbiturate, benzodiazepine, MDMA/Ecstasy, methadone, oxycodone, propoxyphene and marijuana/cannabis.

T-Cup Urine Test 

A multi-drug urine drug test cup, this one is ideal for testing a variety of drugs including amphetamine, barbiturates, buprenorphine, cocaine, methamphetamines, methadone and opiates among others. It provides easily readable, instant results.

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Eco II Cup

This convenient, one-step drug testing cup specifically helps in detecting elevated levels of certain types of drugs and their presence in urine. It is FDA-approved and comes with a security strip that guards against possibilities of specimen adulteration. It comes with a wide-mouth cup opening that makes specimen collection easier and less messy.

E-Z Split Key Cup

This brand offers an integrated urine drug testing kit that can be used either by employers, pain centers, clinics and other health centers. Ideal for the needs of many professional organizations, this can be used for testing drugs of abuse like antidepressants, benzodiazepines, methadone, oxycodone and propoxyphene.

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DrugConfirm Advanced Drug Test Cup

This is the brand that is best suited for home drug testing. DrugConfirm is a proven drug abuse prevention tool that is both convenient and confidential for the end user. Providing results in minutes, the kit comes with a specimen transport box and a specimen ID card. It can be used to test drugs like cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates and phencyclidine.

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iCup Drug Test

This drug test cup is manufactured by Alere Toxicology and offers a wide range of integrated test cups for multi-drug testing. The iCup urine test come in a variety of configurations and offer the ability to detect anywhere from 3 to 13 drugs of abuse in one test. These test cups also come with the option of detecting up to 6 adulterants in one test, helping to all but eliminate urine specimen tampering. 

Instant results populate in under 5 minutes and provide up to 99% accuracy while the flat sided results panel makes for ease of photocopying drug test results. 

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Drug Test Cup Designs

Apart from the different brands to choose from, there are also different drug test cup designs that one has to put into consideration before using these testing products. The most common designs for drug testing cups are the following:

Split-key Drug Test Cups

This is more than just the usual compact drug testing cup. It is also gifted with a feature that helps split specimen format. The innovative design eliminates that need to handle urine and the possibilities of tampering the specimen thus making on-site drug testing even more efficient. Such cups can be used at anyone's convenience with the usual promise of rendering instant results in no time.

Push Button Cups

This works the same way as split key cups. The only difference is the fact that it has that so-called push-button technology that allows better handling of samples while waiting for results. It is equipped with a secure chamber where the urine can be locked at the simple push of the button. This makes testing for urine samples cheat-free and secure.

Drug Test Cups with Temperature Strips

Temperature strips are attached to the vial to help read results of the test. Commonly, when it comes to urine collection, a specimen has to be certified using a specific range of temperature measurement. In the past, a digital thermometer was commonly used but these days, temperature strips are said to be of better help since these can be used to determine the specific range with which a sample may be substituted or adulterated.

Adulteration Strips for Drug Testing Cups

In the drug collection scenario, it is already common that there are donors who would attempt to tamper or adulterate the urine specimen. The use of these adulterants can result in false negative results. In order to solve this rampant problem in the world of drug testing, drug test cups are now gifted with adulteration strips that can help provide more reliable results in that it can help detect adulteration in a matter of one minute.

What About All-In-One Drug Testing Cups?

All-in-one drug testing cups have also grown in terms of popularity, especially for corporate and professional use. This is a fully-integrated kit where the urine testing cups can help test a number of drugs with one testing. It can test two to more than 10 drugs in just one specimen.

With these cups in place, there is no need to handle samples anymore. Using such cups will allow for instant drug testing on the spot without requiring any additional equipment to be used for the test. It is a very affordable, time-saving option as it can test multiple drugs at one time.

Commonly, an all-in-one drug testing cup can test drugs of abuse like marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, ecstasy, barbiturates and PCP among others. Choices include those that test for 2 drugs, 5 drugs, 6-9 drugs, 8 drugs, 9 drugs, 10 drugs, 12 drugs and more.

How Are Drug Testing Cups Used?

While different brands may have different instructions as to how drug testing cups can be used for urine specimen collection and testing, there are some common steps to be followed when it comes to using them. Here are the simple steps to take note of:

  1. Remove the cap on the device.
  2. The donor will then collect his urine specimen in the cup.
  3. Replace the cap making sure that it is tight enough to disallow any room for mess or spilling.
  4. The cup will be dated by the technician.
  5. Peel off the label.
  6. Read results and compare it to the chart.

Dip Card Drug Test Kits

Dip card drug test kits are multi-drug testing devices that allow one to test for a number of drugs at one time. This is available in a wide array of options ranging from the 1-drug dip card kit that can test any of the common drugs of abuse to the 10-drug option that can test up to 10 drugs with just one urine sample. All other varieties of these test kits indicate the actual number of drugs it can test simultaneously while also providing a specific list of drugs that can be tested with the drug panel.

Drug test dip cards are capable of helping assess both qualitative and quantitative factors pertaining to the presence of multiple drugs and their metabolites in a variety of samples. While they are popularly used in testing urine samples, they can also be used in both blood and saliva samples. Results from such panels are interpreted using a minimum amount of concentration of the sample as specified by the NIDA and the World Health Organization.

iScreen Dip Card Drug Test Kits

iScreen offers a wide range of drug test kits that are reliable, accurate and convenient to use. These cost-effective solutions can test dozens of substances at one time thus saving time for the donor as well. Great for home and business use, the iScreen dip card drug test is capable of testing different drugs of abuse through its 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10-panel kits.2

Together with the dip card, the pack comes with specific testing instructions. The kit works once the dip card comes in contact with the sample. Results from this test are easily readable and can be obtained minutes after collection and testing. The sample remains stable for as long as four hours. It can test for tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, methadone, propoxyphene, oxycodone, barbiturates, morphine and phencyclidine among others.

Generic Urine Dip Card Test Kits

Multi-drug urine dip card test kits are also available in generic names. These ones, like the branded dip cards, are also capable of testing several drugs of abuse at one time thus rendering the same benefit of saving the user time and money when performing a drug test. They can also be used in detecting cocaine, marijuana and opiates among others. 

How are Dip Card Test Kits Used?

The procedures for using dip card test kits are fairly simple. First, the user or technician should tear the pouch using the notch before removing the testing panel from the package. From there, the device should be held using one hand while the other hand will be used to remove the cap. This will expose the absorbent on the other end of the dip card. This will then be dipped in the urine sample for approximately 10 seconds making sure that the urine sample does not go beyond the max level.

The device should then be laid flat on a dry, clean surface then the results should be read within 5 minutes.

Detecting Adulteration in Urine Drug Test Sample

For as long as there have been urine drug tests, people have been trying to cheat them. Potential cheaters have a number of methods they use to try and adulterate the sample they give so it is imperative that you know these methods and be able to counteract them accordingly.

Some point-of-contact testing kits have built-in adulteration detection systems of their own but even if using one of these tests, it is worth knowing the various ways of cheating. Adulteration techniques (including the built-in ones) may not completely ensure detection of adulteration in every case by they can alert staff to the most common methods of adulteration, thus enhancing the integrity of your drug testing program.

Water Loading

Water loading, as its name implies, is the attempt to dilute one’s urine by drinking copious amounts of water (or any other fluids).

It is one of the most common adulteration techniques and can be difficult to spot unless the testing technician is experienced in detecting water loaded specimens.

Running a parallel test for creatine concentration levels (more on that below) is one way of detecting water loading.

Adding Common Household Products to a Sample

Some cheaters prefer to add things to the specimen and will often add whatever they have sitting around their home, such as bleach, cleaning products or peroxide in an attempt to change the chemical make-up of the sample and produce a false negative reading.

In order to add these products to the sample, of course, they must be sneaked into the testing area. That is why it is a good idea to have test subjects empty their pockets and you may also want to frisk them before they are tested to make sure that they aren’t hiding something to add to the sample.

You may also want to consider requiring that a line of sight be kept on the sample container throughout the entire procedure, although this can raise problems of its own like shy bladder or the necessity to make sure that the tester and test subject are of the same gender.

Some household products are relatively easy to spot in a sample. Bleach, for example, gives off a usually pungent and recognizable odor.

Cleaning products such as Drano might make urine less acidic than usual, which can be a tell-tale sign of adulteration. It may also make the sample unusually warm or cause it to bubble.

There are many products on the internet and in some stores like head shops that claim to render a sample negative when added to it. The presence of these products can usually be detected through analysis of nitrite levels if the confirmatory tests are run immediately.

Other adulteration products are continually being developed and marketed, many of which have to be ingested. Scientists, though, are also continually developing adulteration detection methods to combat these products. It should also be noted that many of these consumable adulteration products simply do not work.

Submission of a Sample From Another Person

Instead of adding something to their sample, a person might just try and submit a sample that isn’t even theirs at all.

To prevent this, you can take similar action as preventing people from adding things to the sample as noted above, like having test subjects empty their pockets, frisking them and requiring that a line of sight be kept on the sample container throughout the entire procedure.

Monitoring the temperature of the sample closely is another way to detect this type of cheating, as recently voided urine will be warmer than urine that has been previously voided and snuck in.

Use of Diuretics

Diuretics are substances that encourage the body to urinate more frequently than normal and can potentially decrease the retention time for drugs in the system. Some teas, milkshakes, fruit juices and other fluids act as diuretics. Many of these products also require the ingestion of large amounts of water and this could result in diluting the urine enough that the presence of drugs falls below drug testing cutoff levels.

Other Tampering Schemes

There are a variety of less common ways of adulterating samples that people will use and many websites and online forums offer advice for cheating drug tests. Although it would be impossible to monitor all of these sites, it might be worth it from time to time to check them out and see what kind of advice for cheating is being given to people. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to catch cheaters.

It also must be accepted that despite the most stringent efforts, some adulteration may indeed occur undetected. But the careful interpretation of drug test results coupled with some basic anti-cheating measures will go a long way to ensuring adulteration is at least kept to a bare minimum.

Preventive Measures To Check For Sample Adulteration

It is important to observe the color, temperature and odor at the initial collection of the sample. For example, Vitamin B1 (sometimes taken by heavy drug users to help rebuild and rebalance their body’s system after years of drug abuse) gives urine a bright yellow hue.

An experienced and properly trained drug testing technician can tell that this color is quite different from the color of unadulterated urine, which should be a light to golden yellow, free from foreign materials, and have a slight ammonia odor. Samples that are completely colorless or extremely pale should be suspect because those are signs of water loading.

Samples outside of the 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 to 37.8 degrees Celsius) temperature range should also arouse suspicion, as this is the average temperature range of freshly voided urine.

Normal urine has a pH of 5 to 8 and specimens above or below this value should be suspect.

Detecting possible water loading can be done through a specific gravity test, which compares the density of a drop of water to the density of a drop of urine. If the weight of the urine is below a certain level, it can indicate that the urine has been diluted. Samples with a specific gravity under 1.003 should be suspect.

Testing the creatinine level can also help to detect water loading. Creatinine is a metabolic product excreted in the urine by the kidneys and its concentration in the urine is affected by fluid intake. If the creatinine level of a urine sample falls below a certain level, it can indicate that the client consumed large quantities of fluids prior to giving the sample. Values of creatinine less than 20 milligrams per deciliter may be an indication of water loading.

Follow-up analysis should be performed through additional tests for specific gravity, pH levels, creatinine, and nitrates if cheating is suspected.

A few additional steps to help avert adulteration include requiring:

  • Observed monitoring of all sample submission, as previously mentioned;
  • Submission of a minimum amount of urine;
  • Set time limits for providing a specimen (e.g., 1 hour or less from the time of test notification to the time of collection) to minimize the possibility of internal dilution;
  • Limited access to fluids prior to providing the specimen.

Now that you know what to look for when drug testing, spotting cheaters should be easier. But the best way to ensure minimal adulteration is by having properly trained drug testing technicians.

Urine Drug Testing Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding urine drug testing:

Q: Why is urine testing the most frequently used method for drug testing?

A: While the other screening methods have their own advantages, urine analysis is the most preferred procedure because it is less invasive (compared to blood tests), less expensive, and more convenient. It also has a wider range of detection.

Q: What drugs can the Standard 5 Panel Drug Test detect?

A: The Standard 5 Panel Drug Test can detect the most commonly-abused drugs as categorized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA.) These include amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine.

Q: Are there tests to detect other substances?

A: Yes. There are “extended” tests that can detect drugs such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, ethanol, hallucinogens, inhalants, and anabolic steroids. Some laboratories may also perform specific testing to determine the presence of LSD, tryptamines, phenethylamines, and inhalants.

Q: What is the detection window of urine drug testing?

A: The detection window varies according to the type of drug. But generally, most drugs can be detected up to 72 hours from consumption. Some substances can be detected even after that period.

Q: What is a “false positive?”

A: “False positives” occur where the metabolite of a legal prescription drug is present and the test returns a positive result for an illicit drug. For instance, some over the counter cold remedies may trigger a “false positive” result for amphetamines. Individuals who test positive in these instances should insist on a follow-up test.

Q: Are there products that can be used to give a “false negative?”

A: There are a few products such as oxidizing agents (bleach or iodine) that can be added to the urine sample to alter the results of the test. However, most laboratories use validity screens to detect these adulterants.

Q: Is an initial positive result subjected to a confirmation test?

A: Yes. All results that return positive after the initial screening must be confirmed through a chromatography procedure. This can either be a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). When the second test still yields a positive result, then the drug test itself is recorded as positive.

Q: What is the standard turnaround time for a urine drug test?

A: Negative screening results are generally released within 24 hours while positive screens are released within 24 to 72 hours.

Q: How is the urine sample collected?

A: Urine drug testing requires a minimum of 30 ml of urine which the person tested collects in a private bathroom. It is poured into a specimen bottle that is turned over to a laboratory or medical assistance. It is then sent to the laboratory for testing. The “chain of custody” of the urine sample has to be documented to guard against tampering.

Q: Can urine drug testing be used for Department of Transportation testing?

A: Yes. It is the only drug screening procedure approved for all federally-mandated drug testing. The urine test results are verified by a Medical Review Officer (MRO) after the samples have been tested for the five standard drugs enumerated by SAMSHA.

Q: How long are urine drug test specimens maintained?

A: Urine drug samples that test negative are kept for a few days before they are discarded. Those that test positive are frozen and stored for about a year. However, test results are maintained for two years.


Urine drug testing is often conducted by employers who are mandated under their federal contracts to implement a zero-tolerance drug policy in the workplace. It is conducted randomly on-site at the workplace or for pre-employment purposes. This is also the method chosen by most schools that require mandatory random drug testing among students.

A licensed laboratory should be contacted to perform and monitor all screening procedures.

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