Also referred to as urine drug screen(ing) or a UDS, urine drug tests are a quick and painless way to test for a variety of substances such as illegal drugs and prescription medications. The compounds (and metabolites) a urine drug test will usually test for are: opioids, cocaine, methadone, barbiturates, amphetamines, marijuana, benzodiazepines and methamphetamines. It is possible to test for alcohol levels in the system using a urine test, but breath and blood tests are the preferred methods (particularly the former).
Urine drug tests may help to discover drug misuse/abuse and therefore are the first stages in detecting and addressing any drug related issues someone may be experiencing. Once any drugs have been identified the patient’s physician or medical professional can begin a treatment plan, which will involve more drug tests to ensure that the treatment plan is working.
What is the purpose of a urine drug test?
There are a plethora of situations where a urine-based drug test may be necessary. For example, if a physician suspects that a patient has a problem with drugs or alcohol they may order a test to see if they’re right and the patient is indeed suffering from a drug misuse related problem. Other scenarios where drug tests may occur are in employment. Some employers may require all employees to take a urine drug test before they are hired for their respective jobs. This is especially important in jobs where remaining focussed and alert at all times is absolutely vital, such as a vehicle operator, haulage driver, air traffic controller etc – the types of jobs where people’s lives will be at risk if the person was to make an error.
Drug and alcohol rehab centres will also test their patients on a regular basis to ensure that they are staying sober and refraining from taking things that they shouldn’t be, i.e. drugs and/or alcohol. Urine drug testing is also common in criminal situations such as those that involve parole or probation, particularly for offences that involve drugs or alcohol. Although rare, there are cases of drug tests being used in domestic situations where a family member may want to prove that they are not taking drugs.
Types of urine drug tests
Immunoassay: This type of test is inexpensive and has a quick turnaround time, however it does have its drawbacks such as the fact it isn’t able to detect opioids and can give false-positive tests.
Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry: If an immunoassay test comes back positive then it will usually be passed on for this type of testing to confirm (or dispute) the results. Whilst GC/MS also use urine in the same way that immunoassay does, the testing procedure is a lot more accurate (and rarely produces false-positives), however they are far more expensive and have a longer turnaround time.
Both test types are equally prone to producing a false-negative result and may also fail to detect same-day drug usage.
How is a urine drug test taken?
Urine drug tests are usually taken in a bathroom. Most test will involve the following steps:
1) You will receive the specimen cup from the person conducting the test.
2) Before going to the bathroom you will be asked to empty your pockets of all belongings, as well as leaving any bags or purses etc. behind.
3) In some instances a nurse of the same gender as you will accompany you to the testing room to ensure that you complete the test in the correct manner.
4) Clean your genitals with the wipe provided and then urinate into the cup, providing at least 50ml.
5) Once you have filled the cup, put the lid on it and hand it to the person who is conducting the test.
6) The sample will then be tested to ensure it’s within the right temperature range.
7) The urine sample will be kept in plain sight of yourself and the test conductor before it is sealed and taken away.
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