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Drug Detection Periods of Time

Drug of abuse testing by blood, urine, saliva or any other method (except forensic hair analysis) is designed only to detect whether or not a specific drug or drug metabolite is present at the time the test is performed. While there are very broad estimates as to how long a particular drug may have been in the system, no drug test, regardless of method, is intended to include a time variable. Many factors unique to the individual being tested determine the actual half-life of the particular drug including such variables as age, weight, body fat index, sex, metabolic rate, overall health and amount of drug consumed over what period of time. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn as to when a particular drug was taken or how much was consumed with any type of drug of abuse test. The following chart illustrates typical drug detection periods. For reasons noted, the range stated is necessarily broad. Generally however, chronic use of high potency drugs by individuals with a high body fat count, low metabolism rate (older) and in poor general health will place drug clearance periods at the higher range. To re-emphasize, it should be clearly understood that drug tests are not intended to determine when drugs were used, only whether the drug screened for is present at the time the test is performed.  If it is desirable to screen for historical drug use, a forensic laboratory hair analysis test is available that will screen for illicit drug use up to 90 days dependent on hair sample length. It should also be clearly understood that complete abstinence from the target drug is required from the start of the "minimum" to the end of the "maximum" detection period to clear the user's system completely.


Target Drug




0-4 hours

<=6-12 hours


2-7 hours

2-4 days

Anabolic Steroids

4-6 hours

Oral: 2-3 weeks / Injected: 1-3 months (Naldrolene 8 months+)


2-4 hours

Short acting type (Alphenal, Amobarbital, Allobarbital, Butethal, Secobarbital) 1-4 days.
Long acting type (Phenobarbital, Barbital) 2-3 weeks or longer


2-7 hours

Infrequent user: 3 days / Chronic user: 4-6 weeks

Cannabinoids (THC-Marijuana)*

6-18 hours

*Infrequent user: up to 10 days / Chronic user:30 days or longer

Cocaine Metabolite

1-4 hours

2-4 days


2 hours

1-4 days


1-2 hours

2-4 days


2 hours

2-6 days


1-3 hours

2-4 days


3-8 hours

Up to 10 days

MDMA (ecstasy)

1 hour

2-3 days

Nicotine (Tobacco)**

4-6 hours

**Infrequent user: 2-3 days / Chronic user: 7 to 14 days

Opiates (Heroin, Morphine, Codeine)

2 hours

2-3 days


1 hour

1-2 days

Phencyclidine (PCP)*

5-7 hours

*Infrequent user: 6-8 days / Chronic user: 21-28 days+


4-6 hours

1-2 days

Psilocybin (Mushrooms)

2 hours

1-3 days


1 hour

< =8 hours


1 hour

< =8 hours

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA)

8-12 hours

2-7 days

* THC and PCP in particular are stored by the system in the fatty lipid tissue and are gradually released into the blood stream until cleared. For chronic users with a high body fat count, this process can take several weeks.
** Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs known. Consequently most users of nicotine are chronic users by default. Nicotine consumption includes all forms of the drug including tobacco, snuff, transdermal patches and gum.     

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