What is a urine drug test?

Urine drugs of abuse tests offer a practical way to monitor and detect a person’s drug use. Urine drug tests are frequently used in the criminal justice system (such as problem-solving courts and correctional facilities) as part of a court-ordered treatment program, for workplace testing by employers to test for illicit drug use that could endanger employees or affect productivity, and by pain management clinics to ensure patient compliance with drug prescriptions and to monitor for non-prescribed drug use that could impact health and treatment programs.

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After a drug is consumed, it is processed and broken down into metabolites, which are then excreted through various biological processes, including into urine. Levels of the parent drug and/or its metabolites in urine indicate if the subject has taken drugs, when he/she took them and whether the abuse is chronic.

Urine drug tests can detect the following drugs and drug metabolites:



Clearance rates for excretion vary by drug. For example, benzodiazepines are present in urine for approximately three days after a person takes a prescribed dose, but chronic use or higher dosages can lead to metabolite excretion as long as four to six weeks after dosage.1,2

A single dose of marijuana is detectable in urine up to seven days. However, urine positive for cannabinoids can be detected up to two months after use and suggests the person was previously a heavy user.1

Urine drug tests offer a flexible and cost-effective way to administer a toxicology screen. Collecting a sample is as easy as asking someone to “pee in the cup.” Except for circumstances where proactive supervision of subjects is necessary to prevent tampering, collecting a urine sample doesn’t require specialized personnel or equipment.

Once the specimen is collected, it can be tested immediately if the testing facility is on site. Otherwise, the specimen can be stored at room temperature for up to 7 days (applicable for most drug tests, but please refer to product package insert for more information on specimen collection and handling) and transported to an off-site testing facility.

There are two types of urine drug screening methods:

Urine Screening Cups and test strips are also referred to as Point of Care (POC) and Automated Drug Testing. Of the two, automated drug testing is more accurate than POC. While POC devices can measure multiple drugs at one time, automated immunoassay tests are specific to a single type of drug and thus more sensitive and accurate.

Automated immunoassay drug testing


Automated immunoassays use chemistry analyzers, which are finely tuned machines that automate the drug-testing process.

  • They provide a more accurate assessment of the drug and/or drug metabolites present in the specimen compared to POC.
  • Several samples can be processed at the same time for various tests.
  • Clear, Easy to read test results.
  • Compatible with Data management systems for sample tracking data storing.
  • Reduces human error

Learn more about Automated Testing Solutions.


Point-of-Care (POC) tests



  • Collect urine from test subjects and provide a result readout.
  • An integrated panel on the side of the container provides visual cues (such as a line or a change of color) indicating a positive or negative result.
  • Results are subjective as test results may be perceived differently by different examiners.

Test Strips:

  • Test strips are inserted into the urine cup.
  • Test strips contain indicator chemicals that react with the drug and/or drug metabolites.
  • Test results are interpreted by visual cues (such as line or a change of color).

Learn more about the One Step Fentanyl Dipcard.

1. Williams, Robert H. Cut-Off and Toxicity Levels For Drugs-of-Abuse Testing. Clinical Laboratory Reference, 2012–2013, http://www.clr-online.com/clr201213-table-of-cutoff-toxicity-doa.pdf. Accessed 15 March 2018

2. “Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets.”  U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2004, http://www.wsp.wa.gov/breathtest/docs/webdms/DRE_Forms/Publications/drug/Human_Performance_Drug_Fact_Sheets-NHTSA.pdf. Accessed 15 March 2018