Know before you go — drug testing myths disspelled

So you want that job at the latest music shop or the big department store. The application is all filled out and you know you can ace the interview. There’s only one thing that stands between you and your cash flow.

The drug test.

Not only is the test uncomfortable, but it can also put a major hindrance on your career if the fun you had at last Saturday night’s party is detected. But fear not – there are a number of rumors about drugs and the duration of their stay in your body.

Breathe easy, as long as you are not a heroine junkie or chronic marijuana user. Here is the low down on the drug test, according to Hank Fradella, professor of law and justice.

Urine tests typically screen for common drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and speed. Most employers use the most standard test, which would detect these drugs according to the following guidelines.

Marijuana, after one-time use, can be detected for approximately three days. With moderate use (3-4 times per week), the drug can remain in the body’s system for about five days, while heavy use (daily intake) will be detected for 10 days.

Chronic users who smoke pot more than once a day need 21-27 days to completely expunge their system. Most try cleansing methods such as Niacin in order to pass a drug test, but often times to no avail.

“You can flush your system all you want,” Hank Fradella, professor of law and justice, said. “It’s still going to be there if you’re a chronic user.”

According to Fradella, more sophisticated measures can even detect the drug for up to three months. Jobs for security officers – such as police and state troopers – have sensitive blood tests that can detect marijuana after an even longer period.

This method is usually too expensive for run-of-the-mill drug testing, however, so regular urinalysis is the most common means of detecting a drug user. Urinalysis is still effective, as it detects all other common drugs.

Amphetamines such as speed will be detected for up to three days. Cocaine will be picked up for 2-3 days, as it is water-soluble and washes out of the body easily. Opiates such as heroin are also water-soluble, and are excreted from the body within two days as well.

So, if marijuana smokers can get in trouble for up to 30 days after their illegal dealings, do heroin users get off easier?

“A junkie wouldn’t be able to go eight hours, let alone two days,” Fradella said. “If someone recreationally uses narcotics, we can find that out for about 10 days. We catch it quite regularly even if it’s just prescription narcotic pain killers.”

So heroin junkies and potheads can’t pass the test, but what about users of other drugs such as LSD?

“Since LSD is not a huge drug of abuse anymore, it is not in standard screenings,” Fradella said. He said LSD is so powerful that a typical dose is not in milligrams, but in micrograms. Because the dosage is so small, standard drug tests will not even pick up traces of LSD.

“When its use is suspected, urine must be collected over a period of many hours, say over the course of a day, and analyzed with very sensitive techniques such as radio-immunoassay or the use of a mass spectrometer,” he said.

Typically, one-time users have less to fear than drug addicts. However, drugs have always been the cause of major health and psychological problems. To be assured of a passing grade on the drug test, the best recommendation is to not abuse any substance at all.