- August 30, 2014
- Posted by: Andrew Easler
- Category: Testing
There are a number of home testing kits for drugs of abuse. How do they work? Essentially, they determine if one or more illegal drugs or prescription drugs are present in a person’s urine. They’re used to detect the presence of drugs like cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, amphetamines, opiates, PCP, barbiturates, benzodiazepine, tricyclic antidepressants, oxycodone, ecstasy and methadone.
First, a quick test is done at home. If it suggests the presence of drugs, then the sample is sent off to a lab for further testing. These tests will tell you if a drug is present in the urine, but they won’t tell you how much is there.
What are Drugs of Abuse?
A drug of abuse can be an illegal drug, obviously. It can also be a prescription drug, like Valium, Oxycodone, Percocet or Ritalin, to name a few, that are taken for recreational or non-medical purposes. A non-medical purpose would be taking the drug for longer than it was prescribed, or for a purpose other than that for which it was prescribed.
Are the Tests Reliable?
They are reliable to a certain extent. However, if the test shows a positive result, it’s very important to send it to the lab to confirm that the result is accurate. Professional tests are virtually infallible, but home tests can deliver false positives depending on what type of foods, beverages, food supplements or medications are taken during the test period. They can also be affected by the way the sample was taken or stored.
Additionally, because the home tests won’t identify the amount of drug in the urine, the mere presence of a suspect prescription medication doesn’t necessarily mean that the drug is being abused. Similarly, a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean that a drug ISN’T being abused. It’s possible that the wrong drug was being tested for, or that the urine was collected too soon or too late to identify the presence of drugs.
What Does the Test Contain?
The tests usually include a collection cup, and a method like strips or cards to collect the urine. There should also be an instruction booklet, and it’s very important to read the instructions before collecting the urine. This is important because the time between collecting the urine and reading the result is usually very brief – typically no more than a matter of minutes.
The urine is collected in the cup and then tested following the instructions. If the result is positive, then the sample is placed in a shipping container and pre-addressed mailer and sent to the lab for further testing.
The Final Word
Although home urine test kits are FDA approved, the FDA makes no representations as to the accuracy of the kits – the FDA simply warrants that they are safe to use.
In the final analysis, for truly accurate urine testing, a qualified instructor who has completed a recognized course in urine analysis is the most reliable person to analyze urine for the presence of drugs. It’s sad to say, but in this day and age when more and more people are demanding urine testing for children they suspect of using drugs, or for spouses who have abuse issues but have promised to stay clean and submit to testing, urine testing by parties other than employers or athletic coaches is becoming more common. This means great opportunities for qualified drug and alcohol test technicians, but it doesn’t say much for the state of our society.