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Article Summary

Opiate Drug Testing

Tested for in Standard Drug Tests? YES
Detection Periods in Urine
Opium 24-48 hrs
Heroin 1-4 days
Morphine 84 hrs (at least)
Meperidine 4-24 hrs

Urine Testing

Opiates are one of the "NIDA 5". The five drugs tested for in the standard NIDA approved drug test.

The standard tests are an one step rapid qualitative immunoassay for the detection of opiate and opiate metabolites in urine. The cutoff concentration for this test is 2000 ng/ml, as recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Prior to December 1, 1998 the cutoff level was 300 ng/ml but was raised in order to reduce the possibility of false positives from poppy seeds. The cutoff for GC-MS, which detects morphine or codeine, is 150 ng/ml. The US Military uses a cutoff level of 3000 ng/ml in order to try to avoid false positives.

Heroin breaks down into codeine and morphine. Codeine breaks down into morphine. The opiate drug tests look for codeine, morphine, and 6-acetyl-morphine. The presence of 6-acetyl-morphine is relatively conclusive of recent heroin use, but is only detectable for a few hours after use. The presence of codeine can be the result of either heroin or codeine use. The presence of morphine can be the result of the use of heroin, codeine, or morphine. Relative levels of codeine and morphine can help determine their origin.

With the new higher cutoff levels (2,000 ng/ml), Heroin use will generally only produce a positive test result for a day after single use (somewhat longer with chronic use).

Hair Testing

Many opiates are detectable with hair tests (the same which are detectable in an urine test) and are included in the standard set of substances tested for by many companies. The standard hair screen takes the most recent 1.5 inches of growth and use those for testing. That provides a detection period of approximately 90 days. If an individual's hair is shorter than 1.5 inches, this detection period will be shorter.

Saliva Testing

In the past few years, new technologies have been developed which allow for saliva testing for the presence of Opiates. We do not currently have information about which opiates are detectable or what the detection period is for these tests.

Substances or Conditions which can cause false positives

Poppy Seeds
Most prescription pain medications
Cough suppressants with Dextromethorphan (DXM)
Kidney infection, Kidney Disease
Diabetes, Liver Disease
Various Quinolones & Antibiotics

Some antibiotics may cause false positives for opiates:

"A total of 13 quinolone antibiotics were solubilized to represent expected urinary concentrations for testing via 5 different commercial immonoassays (levofloxacin [levaquin], ofloxacin [floxin], gatifloxacin, enoxacin, moxifloxacin, sparfloxacin, pefloxacin, trovafloxacin, lomefloxacin, ciprofloxacin [cipro], cinafloxacin, norfloxacin, and nalidixic acid. The assays included EMIT II reagents, AxSYM flourescence polarization immunoassay, CEDIA, Roche Abuscreen OnLine reagents, and Beckman opiate reagents. In vitro testing against a positive concentration of morphine (300 ng/mL) revealed that 9 of the quinolones (levofloxacin, ofloxacin, perfloxacin, enoxacin, gatifloxacin, lomefloxacin, moxifloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and norfloxacin) caused false positives in at least one of the assay systems. The quinolones that cross reacted most often included levofloxacin (4/5), ofloxacin (4/5), perfloxacin (3/5) and enoxacin (2/5)."

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