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Blood & Urine Drug Test Detection Time Frames

Blood & Urine Drug Testing Detection Times

Whether you are an employer, employee, legal professional, substance abuse treatment professional, or health care provider, drug testing detection times are important facts to keep in mind. Understanding the effects of various drugs in the human body, as well as how long it will take these substances to be metabolized, is essential.

In this article we will discuss drug test detection times for various substances, blood vs urine drug detection time, changes in detection times depending on the test, and why different tests have differing detection time windows.

Detection times for alcohol

Detecting alcohol using urine and blood alcohol test methods is difficult because alcohol metabolizes quickly. However, alcohol byproducts can be detected within a longer window of time. Generally, alcohol can be detected in a urine test between 12 hours to 3 days after consumption, while alcohol is detectable on blood tests for a period of only 6 to 24 hours. Blood sugar levels are affected by alcohol —  if you are taking a glucose or other blood sugar test, you should not be drinking alcohol within at least 24 hours of the test. These are all important factors to consider regarding urine alcohol test detection times.

Byproducts that can be detected in a urine test for alcohol are metabolites such as ethyl glucuronide (EtG) or Ethyl Sulfate (EtS). Urine drug detection time for these metabolites is 3 days after consumption in a urine test. This is opposed to a blood test, where ethanol can be detected for only up to 12 hours after consumption. Measuring for metabolites that are directly created by drug use, as opposed to the substance itself, is a common factor in extending urine drug testing detection times.

Detection times for marijuana

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can be detected for up to 24 hours with a blood test and for 3 to 5 days on a urine test. In urine, especially for active users, urine drug detection time can sometimes be extended for up to 90 days. You can learn more via our marijuana drug test page.

Urine test VS blood test detection times

Generally, the presence of various drugs can be detected instantly by a blood draw if they are present in the system. However, drugs in the bloodstream are metabolized quickly. Urine tests, on the other hand, are the standard for employee drug testing.  This is due to both the length of time that metabolites of various drugs remain in urine, and the more affordable cost. Urine drug detection time windows also tend to be longer. Because they are the standard, urine drug screen protection times present greater relevance for consideration than blood drug test detection times.

Why do detection times change depending on the type of test?

Different kinds of drugs are metabolized at different rates, which results in different drug test times. The SAMHSA 5 Panel test is the usual standard for employee drug testing, and tests for the byproducts of the 5 most used illicit drugs.

The issue is made complicated by the fact that general tests for opioids do not necessarily detect certain specific substances. Fentanyl or Oxycontin, for example, require specific tests in order to be detected. Of course, 10 or greater panel tests can be ordered which test for specific substances. This is mostly done for operators of heavy machinery, air traffic controllers, and those who work in sensitive jobs that require employees to be especially lucid. 

Drugs also interact with bodily systems in different ways. Urine drug tests don’t measure the substance directly, but instead measure metabolites, or metabolic byproducts, of various drugs. Different metabolites are produced by different bodily systems. Blood draw tests, on the other hand, are better at measuring the substance before it has been metabolized by the liver and kidneys.

Why do different substances have different detection times?

Different substances have different chemical structures and react in different ways when passing through the kidneys, liver, and other body systems. This table published on the Countrywide Testing blog describes various drug detection times, depending on which substance is discussed. How body systems interact with substances influences both blood and urine test detection times.

Generally, most drugs have a drug test time frame of about 72 hours to one week before completely passing through someone’s system. This can be much longer if hair tests are involved, but for most substances, one week is a good amount of time to allow substances to be metabolized and to test negative on a standard 5 panel test.

Why trust Countrywide Testing with your drug test needs

For years, Countrywide Testing has worked with SAMHSA/HHS certified partner labs to provide the most economical, accurate, and high-quality drug testing services for your organization’s needs. Still have questions? Contact us today for help answering your drug testing questions or in devising your drug free workplace program.