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How Long Are Drugs Detectable?

On Behalf of | May 17, 2023 | Drug charges

The amount of time that drugs show up in the event of a drug test varies depending on several factors, including the dose that was taken, what type of drug was used, how frequently that person uses the substance and the individual’s own metabolism. Different drugs can remain detectable in the body for varying lengths of time, and drug tests can detect the presence of drugs in different samples, such as urine, blood, saliva and hair.

Urine tests are the most commonly used drug tests and can detect drug use within the past few days to a few weeks, depending on the drug. For example, marijuana can show up in a urine test for up to 30 days, especially with people who are chronic users. However, a drug like cocaine may only show up on a test for a couple days.

Other types of testing methods

Urine tests are simple and common, but they are certainly not the only ones used by law enforcement officers, probation officers and employers. Blood tests can detect drugs in the bloodstream, but this presence often lasts for a shorter period than urine tests. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine may show up in a blood test for up to 24 hours after use – but sometimes for far less than that, with accurate results detectable for just six hours or so.

Saliva tests are less invasive than blood tests and can detect drugs in the saliva for up to 48 hours after use. They are often used in workplace drug testing or for roadside drug testing. Hair tests are the most sensitive drug tests and can detect drug use for certain substances for up to 90 days. The test analyzes a hair sample for the presence of drug metabolites, which are deposited in hair follicles as hair grows. Even months after the effects of that drug have worn off, it will still show up in a user’s hair.

With that in mind, it’s important to note that the length of time that drugs remain detectable in the body is not the same as the duration of their effects. Some drugs may have short-term effects but remain detectable in the body for an extended period, while others may have long-term effects but be eliminated from the body quickly. Someone could fail a drug test for marijuana after a car accident, for instance, even though they haven’t been high in a week and it didn’t impact their ability to drive at all.

What are your defense options?

Have you found yourself facing legal charges and worrying about the ramifications of a drug test? If so, consider seeking legal guidance to be sure that you understand all of your defense options.