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Detectable Drugs

Common types of drugs and their detection times


Among the substances that can be tested for are those that are sold legally in the UK, those that are prescribed by doctors and those that are only available on the black market. Some of the more common substances that companies and individuals may wish to test for are listed below.


  • Alcohol


This is one of the most often abused substances in the modern world. Although it is not illegal to buy and consume, assuming age requirements are met, it can impair one’s ability to operate machinery and drive. It can be detected for up to 24 hours in urine and saliva, and up to 90 days in hair.


  • Marijuana


In common with alcohol, marijuana is a depressant that can affect one’s ability to operate machinery and carry out tasks that require mental concentration. Single use can be detected for up to 8 days and habitual use for up to 63 days after cessation.


  • Nicotine


A stimulant contained in tobacco products, it can be detected from 4 to 10 days after being ingested.


  • Cocaine


A white powder produced from coca leaves that is a powerful stimulant, which can be very addictive. It can be detected from 2 to 5 days after use.


  • Methamphetamine


A stimulant that is available in tablet form and can be taken orally or smoked by melting the tablets on tin foil. It is approved for treatment of people suffering from ADHD, whom it calms down, but it has the opposite effect on those who are not suffering from this condition. It can be detected from 2 to 5 days.


  • Ecstasy


In the same class of drugs as amphetamines, it will come as no surprise to learn that this substance causes feelings of euphoria and hyperactivity in users. It can be detected from 5 to 7 days after it has been taken.


  • Phencyclidine


Commonly known as angel dust or PCP, it has hallucinogenic and anaesthetic effects. It is less common than many other recreational drugs but can cause violent behaviour so it is worth testing for. Detection period is from 2 to 8 days.


  • Opiates


A group of alkaloids found in the opium poppy plant, which includes heroin, codeine, methadone, morphine and opium, that act on the central nervous system. Sometimes administered medically for pain relief, they can be detected from 5 to 7 days after use.


  • Barbiturates


Central nervous system depressants that have been largely replaced by benzodiazepines in medical practice. Addictive when taken regularly, they can be detected from 2 days to 4 weeks after use.


  • Tricyclics


A group that contains antidepressants, antihistamines and antipsychotics with stimulant effects that can affect concentration. The detection period for these drugs is from 3 to 5 days.