A comprehensive guide to how long drugs can be detected in your body
If you are visiting this page, then chances are you have recently taken a drug (legal or illegal) and are wondering if you will provide a positive result if drug tested. This page is aimed at informing you and educating you, not only around how long drugs stay in your system for but the personal factors that affect the way you metabolise drugs and the different window frames of detection for the different types of drug tests available.
Drug testing in whatever form is usually compulsory; a direct refusal to provide a specimen for testing is always considered to be a positive result.
Drug testing how long drugs stay in your system
Why is drug testing important?
DUI – Driving under the influence. This not only applies to alcohol but also intoxication from drugs. A positive drug test for driving carries the same hefty penalties as drink driving. Alcohol and drug testing are routinely carried out at the roadside on drivers suspected to be under the influence.
Police – The police will routinely conduct drug testing back at the station for anyone who is arrested and suspected to be under the influence of drugs
Local drug and alcohol services – Local drug and alcohol service teams routinely carry out drug tests for those that are provided with a script (a substitute drug prescription) and those that are being considered for drug rehab funding. Those that are under social services and required to engage with the local drug and alcohol services and those that are referred by court order.
Probation services – Local probation teams are required to carry out routine drug testing where there is a court order that dictates the individual needs to provide clean drug specimens in order to remain in the community.
Social Services – Social service may conduct routine drug screening and alcohol testing where there is a cause for concern of the care of a child or family member and a history of drug and alcohol abuse.
Workplace – Many workplaces now include in their contracts a clause for randomised drug screening and alcohol testing. This is especially applicable to job roles that involve driving, operating heavy machinery and working with vulnerable children and adults.
Drug and alcohol detox clinics and rehab centres – Drug and alcohol detox clinics and rehab centres conduct randomised drug testing to ensure patients safety.
Sober living accommodation and support living – Sober living accommodation and supported living for those that are in recovery from drugs will conduct randomised alcohol and drug testing to ensure that their houses are a safe and kept drug free for residents.
If you know that there is a possibility of you being drug tested yet have still knowingly taken drugs, this indicates that you may well have a problem that requires treatment.
Providing a positive drug specimen nearly always carries consequences. These consequences can be far-reaching and affect many areas of your life, not just your career or legal status for driving.
Possible consequences of a positive drug test
A positive drug test can cause all manner of disruption, stress and outcomes, both directly and indirectly. A positive drug test is very rarely a good thing!
- If you test positive for drugs in the workplace, this can result in a disciplinary hearing, a warning or even dismissal from your job.
- If you test positive for drug driving (DUI), this can carry financial penalties, time in prison and a driving ban.
- If you test positive under probation, this is likely to result in a return to court for a review of your bail conditions and could result in serving time in jail.
- If your drug test is positive, under social services, then this could affect your case; ultimately, you could lose custody or visitation rights to your children.
- Testing positive after a road traffic accident carries severe legal implications and consequences
- Testing positive at a drug or alcohol clinic or rehab centre during treatment often results in discharge. The same applies to sober living houses and supported accommodation, and you could well find yourself homeless without notice.
- Testing positive for drugs can also impact on your relationships, finances and family. Those that are close to you tend to feel let down and lose trust in your relationship.
- If a positive drug test results in a driving ban, this could also affect your career – if you are required to drive for a living or need to drive as an only means of transport to and from work.
How long different drugs stay in your system – Urine, blood, saliva, hair and breath
Detox Plus UK receives many calls from individuals inquiring as to how long certain drugs stay in your system for and can be detected using various testing methods. The detection windows depend primarily on the consumed drug and the means in which it is carried out and on what the drug test is measuring.
We have therefore put together a comprehensive guide for you to refer to. Please bear in mind that if you have taken a drug, knowingly with the risk of being tested, then you may well have a substance abuse problem that requires professional help.
How long does alcohol stay in your system?
Our bodies process on average, 1 unit of alcohol per hour (23). This is subject to a number of variables that can affect how quickly we eliminate alcohol from our system. As a guide, using the following testing methods, alcohol remains detectable in our system for :
Alcohol Breath Test
As part of a routine breathalyser test, alcohol can be detected on the breath for up to 24 hours after the last drink was consumed (13).
Alcohol can be detected in a urine sample test for up to 2 to 4 days after the last drink was consumed (13).
Alcohol Saliva Test
Trace amounts of alcohol can be detected in a saliva swab test around 10-24 hours after the last drink was consumed (13).
Alcohol Blood Test
Alcohol is eliminated from the bloodstream relatively quickly in comparison to other testing methods. Still, it also gives a more accurate reading as too how much alcohol is in the system through a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) (23).
Alcohol can be detected in the blood for anywhere up to 24 hours after the last drink, depending on the amount the person has consumed (13).
Hair Strand Test For Alcohol
Alcohol remains detectable in the system through strand hair test for anything up to 3 months (13).
How long do Amphetamines drugs stay in your system?
Amphetamines Urine Drug Test
Amphetamines can be detected in urine for between 1-3 days after consumption (1, 18). It has been known, however, that the presence of Ephedrine / Pseudoephedrine (an amphetamine-type stimulant) can be detected in a person’s system for up to 5 days later. (14)
Amphetamines Saliva Test & Mouth Swab Drug Test
Amphetamines can be detected in a drug saliva test for anything between 1 – 2 days after consuming the drug (14)
Amphetamines Blood Test
The presence of amphetamines can be detected in blood tests for up to -6 hours after taking the drug (14)
Amphetamines Hair Drug Test
A hair drug test can identify the presence of the amphetamines for up to 90 days after it was ingested. (14)
How long does Cannabis stay in your system?
Drug tests can detect the psychoactive component of Cannabis, referred to as THC, and this is what shows up as positive in various drug testing methods.
Cannabis is identifiable in a person’s system for a long time after consumption compared to the vast majority of other drugs. This is because THC is released very slowly by the body and tends to be stored in a person’s fat cells as it is a lipid. (16) Therefore a person with more fat cells will have traces of Cannabis in their system for longer than someone with less fat cells.
Cannabis Urine Drug Test
If you have taken Cannabis for the first time signs of this can appear in urine tests up to 3 days after consumption of the drug, however, more regular users might find it can be detected in their system up to 30 days later, and chronic users up to 45 days later (18)
Cannabis Saliva Test & Mouth Swab Drug Test
Generally, most saliva tests can detect signs of Cannabis within 24 hours of consumption. Some of the more sensitive tests can detect traces of Cannabis in saliva for up to 72 hours. (21)
Cannabis Blood Test
Blood tests can detect the presence of the THC component in Cannabis for up to 4 hours after use.
Yet, in some cases, it’s been detected following 25 days. Persistent heavy use increases the period of time that it can be identified. (21)
Cannabis Hair Drug Test
Hair strand tests, the most sensitive and sophisticated type of drug test, can detect traces of THC in your system fort up to 90 days after consumption. (21)
How long does Cocaine stay in your system?
Cocaine, a Class A stimulant drug, is very addictive. It can be ingested in several ways, by snorting, smoking, rubbing into the gums, injecting or swallowing (bombing). Regardless of how the drug is consumed, the time frames for drug testing detection remain the same.
Cocaine Urine Drug Test
Cocaine in urine can be identified up to three days after use, although for a heavy user this can rise to two weeks (1,18)
Cocaine Saliva Test
Traces of Cocaine can be picked up in a saliva test for up to two days after use
Cocaine Blood Drug Test
Cocaine can be detected in a person’s bloodstream for up to two days after use
How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your Hair?
Cocaine can be detected in a hair strand test for up to several months and even years for regular cocaine users (1)
How long does Crystal Methamphetamine stay in your system?
Crystal Methamphetamine, although still mainly a problem in the US, is now becoming more popular in the UK, especially in those involved in the Chemsex scene. Crystal meth is dangerously addictive. This is one drug that is very difficult to use on a recreational basis only. A powerful stimulant, it has similar effects to that of crack Cocaine, except the effects last longer and it is much cheaper to buy.
Crystal Meth Urine Drug Test
Regular users of crystal meth will find that the urine test will be able to detect the presence of this Class A drug for between 1 – 4 days after consumption of the drug. However, heavier users of crystal methamphetamine will likely find that drugs in urine tests can detect evidence of the drug in their body up to a week later. (1)
Crystal Meth Saliva Test & Mouth Swab Drug Test
Saliva tests for crystal meth can identify trace amounts of the drug for between 1 – 4 days after a person consumes it (1)
Crystal Meth Blood Test
This common method of drug detection can find traces of crystal meth in the person’s bloodstream between 1 – 3 days after taking it (1)
Crystal Meth Hair Drug Test
This is probably the most sophisticated and expensive method of drug analysis and can detect the presence of crystal methamphetamine in your system for up to 90 days after use. (1)
How long does Heroin stay in your system?
The Class A narcotic drug heroin is broken down into morphine in a person system. It is this that can be detected by various drug testing methods. Most individuals that use Heroin regularly require a heroin detox to stop using the drug. Heroin is also responsible for most drug-related deaths in the UK.
Heroin Urine Test
Traces of Heroin can show up in a urine test for up to 3 days after consumption (7)
Heroin Saliva Test
The chemical properties of Heroin can show up on a saliva test for up to one hour after taking the drug (7)
Heroin Blood Test
Heroin can be detected in your bloodstream for up to 6 hours after intake (7)
Heroin Hair Drug Test
Heroin can still be detected in your hair 90 days after you last consume the drug (7)
How long do Barbiturates drugs stay in your system?
Barbiturates are a class of drugs that were used extensively in the 1960s and ’70s as an effective medical treatment for anxiety, sleep disorders and seizure-related conditions. Barbiturates are far less commonly prescribed now due to being superseded by more effective drugs, which are considered to be much safer, although still as addictive.
Barbiturates Urine Test
For shorter-acting barbiturates, this drug will likely be detected 1-2 days after consumption, and for longer-acting barbiturates, this rises to up to 7 days, (1)
Barbiturates Saliva Test
Barbiturates can be detected in a saliva test up to 3 days after a person has taken the drug (9a)
Barbiturates Blood Test
Barbiturates stay in your bloodstream for up to 2 days after last ingesting the drug (9a)
Barbiturates Hair Strand Test
A hair strand test would be able to detect any traces of Barbiturates up to 90 days after taking the drug (9a)
How long do GHB/GBL drugs stay in your system?
GHB is a liquid drug with potent sedative and anaesthetic properties; it also dramatically reduces inhibitions and can be misused to facilitate sex during Chemsex. GBL is converted into GHB once ingested. GBL is often more potent and has a faster onset than GHB, so a smaller amount is required to achieve the same effects.
GHB / GBL Urine Test
GBL, which is converted into GHB can be detected in a standard urine test for up to 12 hours after taking the drug (3)
GHB / GBL Saliva Test
Saliva tests can identify evidence of GHB/GBL for up to 6 hours after use (3)
GHB / GBL Blood Test
Blood tests for GHB / GBL are only able to identify physical traces of the drug in the person’s system up to 8 hours after the drug was last taken (3)
GHB / GBL Hair Strand Test
Hair strand tests are not as reliable as other methods of detecting the presence of GHB/GBL drug, but the tests can identify its presence for up to one month after use (3)
How long does Methadone stay in your system?
Methadone is a powerful opiate painkiller that is commonly used as a substitute in heroin and opiate detoxes by the NHS. Methadone is equally as addictive as other opiates and has a huge potential for misuse. For those that have been using Methadone on a long-term basis – specific drug tests can detect the presence of the drug for longer.
Methadone Urine Test
Methadone can be detected in urine 1-3 days after consumption, however more chronic drug use may lead to the drug being detected in a urine test for up to 7-9 days after taking the drug. (18)
Methadone Saliva Test
Methadone can be detected in a saliva test around 30 minutes after consumption and be identified using this test for up to 2-3 days since it has last been used (1, 4)
Methadone Blood Test
Methadone can be detected in a person’s bloodstream for up to 3 – 4 days after last consumed (4)
Methadone Hair Strand Test
Traces of Methadone can be found by testing hair sample tests for up to 3 – 4 months after last consuming the drug (4)
How long does Crack Cocaine stay in your system?
Crack cocaine is an extremely powerful and addictive stimulant Class A drug. It is short-acting and is usually smoked but can also be injected. Drug tests are currently unable to differentiate Crack from powdered Cocaine as they are both turned into the base of the drug in your system once taken. Cocaine related deaths in the UK are currently at an all-time high.
Crack Cocaine Urine Test
Crack can be detected in urine samples for up to 4 days after taking the drug (18, 1)
Crack Cocaine Saliva Test
Saliva drug test facts – in a test you can identify the presence of Crack in a person’s body up to 48 hours after consumption (14)
Crack Cocaine Blood Test
A blood test for Crack will be able to find evidence of the drug in a person’s system up to one day after consumption (14)
Crack Cocaine Hair Strand Test
A hair test can detect the presence of Crack in hair follicles up to 3 months after the drug was last ingested (1)
How long do Opiates/Opioids drugs stay in your system?
There are many different types and strengths of opiates and opioids, synthetic, semi-synthetic and pure; many have various components added to them. This, together with personal factors and the length and amount of use could affected drug detection times within your system. As a general guide:
Opioid Urine Test
Hydrocodone, which is a powerful opioid, is detectable for between 2 and 4 days after taking it. (12)
Opioid Saliva Test
Saliva drug test facts – tests can identify Hydrocodone from 12 – 36 hours after consumption. (12)
Opioid Blood Test
Blood tests can detect the opioid Hydrocodone for up to 24 hours after intake of the drug. (12)
Opioid Hair Strand Test
Elements of opioids can still be detected in a person’s system by hair strand test for up to 90 days after taking the drug. (12)
How long do Oxycodone and OxyContin drugs stay in your system?
OxyContin and Oxycodone are very powerful opioid painkillers, usually used in the treatment for pain in end of life cancer patients. These drugs have a huge potential for misuse due to their potency and can easily lead to drug dependence and addiction when abused. The same drug test can detect the presence of both drugs as one is short-acting and the other long-acting, but for different time frames. Both OxyContin and OxyCodone are also available in gradual release forms.
Oxycodone Urine Test
Oxycodone can be detected in a urine sample up to 3-4 days after consumption (18, 10)
Oxycodone Saliva Test
Oxycodone can be detected in a saliva test for up to 4 days after it is taken (10)
Oxycodone Blood Test
Oxycodone can be detected in a blood sample for up to 24 hours after use. (10)
Oxycodone Hair Strand Test
Oxycodone can be detected in a hair strand test for up to 90 days after it was last taken. (10)
Oxycontin Urine Test
Oxycontin can be traced in a person’s system for up to 4 days after last being used (9)
Oxycontin Saliva Test
Oxycontin can show up fairly quickly (3 hours) after consuming the drug and can be detected in Saliva tests up to 4 days after consumption (9)
Oxycontin Blood Test
A blood test will be able to identify evidence of this drug in a person’s system up to 4 days after the use of the drug (9)
Oxycontin Hair Strand Test
A hair follicle test will be able to highlight traces of this drug in a person’s system up to 90 days after they last consumed the drug (9)
How long does Codeine stay in your system?
Codeine is a commonly used opiate painkiller and is available in different compounds. Codeine is available as an over the counter medication and is often present in other medicines such as cough syrup. Stronger forms of Codeine are available for pain relief on prescription only. The strength and frequency of use of Codeine will affect how long the drug stays in your system.
Codeine Urine Test
Codeine can be detected for up to 2 days (18) of its last use for the average person. However, it is possible that it may be detected up to a week later in chronic users.
Codeine Saliva Test
Codeine can be detected in your system for up to 1 day after use when tested by a saliva test (22)
Codeine Blood Test
Codeine can be detected in a blood test up to 24 hours after use (22)
Codeine Hair Strand Test
Hair follicle tests can identify traces of Codeine in someone’s system up to 10 weeks after the person last consuming the drug (22)
How long do Benzodiazepines drugs stay in your system?
There are numerous benzodiazepines on the market. Benzodiazepines are controlled drugs that can only be legally obtained through prescription. This is because of their potential for abuse and the fact that they are also extremely addictive. Stopping benzodiazepines where there is a dependency or addiction usually requires a benzodiazepine detox to ensure that the person remains safe while stopping the drug.
The length of time benzodiazepines can be detected will vary; some are short-acting, some long-acting and some far more powerful than others. Long term benzodiazepine use also leads to a build-up of the drug in your system, meaning that it can be weeks before a clean urine sample is obtained once the drug has been stopped.
Benzodiazepine Urine Test
As the body breaks down the chemical components of the benzodiazepine, it produces other substances such as metabolites which can actually be detected in the system for longer than the benzodiazepine which was initially consumed, so that is something to bear in mind. This is important because it is these metabolites which suggest that the nature of the drug was from a prescription based drug rather than a non-description drug which is more likely to be associated with substance misuse (8)
The presence of benzos can be detected in urine samples up to 6 weeks after intake. (9a)
Benzodiazepine Saliva Test
Saliva drug test facts – Benzodiazepines can be detected in a saliva test up to 10 days after taking the drug (9a)
Benzodiazepine Blood Test
Benzodiazepines can be detected in blood tests from 6 to 48 hours after the drug was ingested. (8)
Benzodiazepine Hair Strand Test
Benzodiazepines can be identified in a hair follicle drug test for up to 90 days after intake. (9a)
How long does Ecstasy stay in your system?
MDMA is a Class A drug with powerful and long-lasting euphoric effects. It is mostly associated with recreational use. This does not, however, mean that it is safe or non-addictive. It is possible to become addicted to this “party drug.”
MDMA Urine Test
MDMA can be detected in a person’s urine up to 3-4 days after consumption (6, 18)
MDMA Saliva Test
Saliva drug test facts – tests would be able to find MDMA’s presence up to 10 hours after taking it (6)
MDMA Blood Test
MDMA can be detected in a persons’ blood up to 4 days after they last consumed the drug (6)
MDMA Hair strand Test
This test will be able to identify traces of MDMA in a person’s body for up to 90 days after last consuming it. (6)
How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
Ketamine again is associated mainly with abuse. It does have its uses, mostly in hospital anaesthesia and as a powerful painkiller. Its dissociative properties can easily place a user in danger. While mainly used recreationally for parties and to facilitate chemsex. It is still hugely addictive, and frequent use can lead to developing tolerance, dependence and addiction.
Ketamine Urine Test
Ketamine has been known to be detectable in urine samples from 3-5 days after the drug was consumed(18, 2)
Ketamine Saliva Test
Ketamine can be identified by saliva tests up to 24 hours after it has been taken (2)
Ketamine Blood Test
A blood test is able to pinpoint any traces of ketamine for up to 2 weeks after consumption. However, blood tests for this drug are rare as organising the tests are both expensive and time-consuming. (2)
Ketamine Hair Strand Test
Hair tests are able to identify any signs of this drug in the human body for up to 3 months after last taken. (2)
Factors that affect how long drugs remain in system
Several factors govern how long drugs remain in our system; one factor concerns the chemical structure and physical properties of each individual drug. All drugs have different chemical make-ups and biological characteristics and fall into different classes depending on the effect that they have on the human body. For example, Amphetamines and Cocaine are stimulants, Barbiturates are a sedative, Heroin and Codeine are, analgesic/opiate, and cannabis is a hallucinogenic drug (18). Therefore, a person would be mistaken to use their knowledge on how long it takes one particular drug to leave the body as a guideline for another. For example, Cannabis contains THC, which is stored in the fat cells when ingested, which means it takes longer to leave the body than the majority of other drugs.
Several factors relating to our physiology (which can differ markedly from one person to another) can play a crucial role in determining how quickly drugs leave our system as well as the unique personal circumstances that people experience at different stages in their lives. The variety of short and long term factors that affect how long drugs remain in our system can be seen below.
Short term factors that affect how long drugs stay in your system
A medication that someone is taking determines what sort of effect a drug will have on them and how long the drug stays in their system (11) Some medications may make it harder for your body to break down certain drugs whereas others can reduce the effects of the drug. This all depends on the chemical make-up and physical properties of the medication being taken and the drug itself.
Frequency of use
Individuals who use a particular drug frequently will find that it takes them longer to eradicate the presence of the drug from their bodies than people who consume the drug less often or those who have only just started taking it.
For example, regular users of Oxycodone could find that the drug could become stored in their fatty tissues rather than being eliminated from their bodies. This will lead to the drug being more vulnerable to detection by various drug testing means (11)
Those who are well hydrated and drink water regularly can remove drugs from their system more quickly and efficiently. Hydration levels affect how vital organs and bodily systems work and assist with the flushing out process(16)
Levels of Use
Those that binge on drugs will take longer to rid their body of them. Toxins build-up, and the liver and other vital organs work far less efficiently as a result.
Long term factors that affect how long drugs stay in system
As people get older, their bodies cannot metabolise drugs as efficiently and swiftly as they would have been able to when they were in their physical prime. This means that the presence of a drug will remain in an older person’s body for longer and therefore be more vulnerable to detection (16).
A person’s gender is an important factor to consider as women tend to have more body fat than men. Therefore they will not be able to metabolise and eliminate drugs from their system as quickly as men. (21)
If a person has a higher BMI, they will likely have more fat cells in their body compared to individuals with a lower BMI. This is significant as the more fat cells a person has, the more likely it is that the physical elements of certain drugs will be stored in their body for longer rather.
Health problems can also be a significant factor in increasing the amount of time it takes a drug to leave a person’s body. Individuals with liver and kidney problems may find it takes their bodies longer to metabolise a drug and therefore, will take longer to leave their system. (10)
A person’s biology will have a strong influence on how efficiently they can remove the presence of drugs from their body. There are several different types of enzymes in our bodies which determine how quickly we can process drugs and toxins. The number and efficiency of these enzymes varies enormously between people and is down to genetic factors (12)
Level of alcohol use
Consuming alcohol while taking drugs means it can take longer for the presence of some drugs (e.g. Opiates and sedatives) to be eliminated from your body. (11)
Understanding drug addiction
Drug addiction is a medically recognised as a chronic disorder of the brain and complex mental health illness. (24)
Through repeated exposure to a specific drug or drugs, the brain becomes chemically altered and damaged over time. This leads to the brain developing new pathways as it becomes addicted to the high of the drug. These pathways prioritise the drug over everything else, including basic human needs such as food, water and housing.
Once addicted to a drug, an individual will do almost anything to obtain that drug. Their first priority of a day is to ensure they have enough drugs to last them.
Drug addiction is also progressive, the more drugs that are taken, the more damage the brain and other vital organs sustain. A drug addict will also develop tolerance and dependence, meaning that they will keep needing to increase the amount of drugs they take to feel any benefits. Missing a regular dose of drugs or taking any less than their brain is accustomed to results in drug withdrawal symptoms.
Because of the progressive nature of drug addiction, drug addicts tend to lose everything that is precious and of value to them. They can lose their job, their licence, their financial stability, their home, the trust and support of their loved ones, their physical health, their mental health and more often than not, eventually their life. Someone who suffers from drug addiction will give little thought to the possible consequences of their drug-taking and drug-related behaviours.
Drug addiction differs from drug misuse; addiction will often start as drug misuse and abuse, but there is still an element of control in someone who misuses drugs as opposed to a drug addict who will compulsively seek and take drugs continually. The changes that occur in the brain of someone who suffers from addiction are long-lasting and cannot be reversed. This is why there is no medical cure for drug addiction (17, 24)
The only way a drug addict can obtain and sustain recovery is through drug detox and continued abstinence from drugs. A drug addict will need to undergo extensive psychotherapy and counselling to avoid a relapse into drugs. Recovery from drug addiction is possible, but only with continued support and a lot of work put in by the individual to change.
As with any progressive and chronic disorder, addiction requires professional and very specific treatment to keep the symptoms of the illness at bay.
Help for a drug or alcohol problem
If you or a loved one are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem and want help, Detox Plus UK specialises in providing the latest in evidence-based treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
We can facilitate urgent inpatient drug detoxes and bespoke rehab programmes near you. Call us today on 02072052734 to find out more.
References and sources
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Drug Rehab Resources