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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
One Test You Don't Want To Fail…Thinking About Drug Testing
We have received a number of
e-mails from teens asking about drug tests for marijuana and how they
can pass them. Whether they just had a few hits or were in a room where
others were smoking, we know teens are looking for information about how
drug tests work and how they can get a "negative" reading. As
we tell them, the only guaranteed way to pass a drug test is to not use
drugs or spend extensive time around others who do. But there are a few
more things you should know, so here are answers to the most frequently
asked questions we receive on drug testing.
Why should I care about drug
The chance for you to be given a
drug test is more probable now than ever before. Parents are being given
home testing kits, police stations and community groups offer free or
reduced-price testing clinics, some workplaces require it, and schools
have been given the right to test a greater percentage of the student
body. In fact, in June 2002, the Supreme Court approved random drug
tests for public high school students who join competitive after-school
activities and represent the school at various functions. So now, it's
not just athletes who get tested…members of the debate team or
students who sing in the chorus can be tested as well. This decision
impacts the majority of middle and high school students. In fact, some
States are now extending their tests to include using urine analysis to
check for tobacco use from cigarettes and other tobacco products, like
chewing tobacco. While some schools have been testing for tobacco for
years, since the recent Supreme Court decision, more schools are testing
for cotinine, the byproduct that remains in your system after using
But beyond the fact that you are
more likely to be tested, you should care about the results if you test
positively for drug use. Your parent or guardian could punish you—keep
you off the phone, off the computer and IM, and in the house with no
access to the car. Perhaps you could get fired from your job or kicked
off the team at school, or maybe even suspended or expelled. These
actions could go on your record and hurt your chances of getting into
college or obtaining a scholarship or financial aid. Ask yourself…is
it really worth it?
How many different types of drug
testing methods are out there?
There are several different types
of tests given to detect drug use. If current drug use is suspected,
often a blood or breath test is administered. If previous drug use is
suspected, a urine or hair test may be used. These tests look for
chemical metabolites, or traces, which the drug leaves behind after it
is eliminated from the body. While hair tests are usually used as a
secondary test or in cases of criminal offenses, there are a growing
number of schools and employers who are using hair tests as opposed to
urine tests. If the method is hair testing, then it is a lot easier for
a nonuser to test positive, especially if the test subject is a person
of color. Just walking through a room where there is marijuana smoke
could result in a positive hair test. Coarser hair absorbs and maintains
the tell-tale signs much better than fine hair.
The accuracy of a given drug test
is determined by:
- The technology used in the
test (accuracy varies considerably among types of tests).
- The nature of the individual
drugs (which varies considerably from drug to drug).
- The skills and abilities of
the testing organization.
- The procedures used to ensure
proper handling and processing of samples.
I've seen lots of ads for
products that will "wipe my system clean"…do they work?
If you were to do a simple online
search for information on drug testing, you will most likely find sites
and companies that want to help you pass a drug test. However, there is
nothing you can do or use to rid your body of marijuana traces. If you
are worried about an upcoming drug test, don't bother with methods of
"covering up" by drinking lots of fluids or taking some other
remedies that you may hear of. These will actually dilute your urine,
bringing you under more suspicion.
Think for a moment, what are
these companies who push these miracle solutions really interested in?
Are they your "friend" or are they just trying to make a few
bucks off of scared teens? If you are about to be tested at home,
school, or work, consider being honest about your behavior…and
stopping your drug use.
How many days does it take until
marijuana can no longer be detected in my system?
Marijuana can stay in your system
for a few weeks, but it depends on a few factors, including the potency
of the marijuana, how much you smoked, your body type and metabolism,
how often you smoke, what time of day it was when you smoked, and the
acidity of your urine (for urine tests). Even if you only took two hits,
it could still show up on a drug test. Chemically speaking, THC
(delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the active chemical in marijuana) is
readily absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces
(metabolites) of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods
several days after a smoking session. However, in heavy, chronic users,
traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after the use of marijuana
When hair testing is used, traces
of a drug can appear a week after drug use and can provide a 90-day
history of use. Because marijuana collects in the hair at low levels
(resulting in a fair amount of false negative results), these tests are
usually administered when looking to detect use of cocaine, ecstasy,
heroin, and PCP—which may only appear in urine tests for 2 to 5 days
What about secondhand smoke or
"passive inhalation"? Can being around others who smoke cause
me to fail a drug test?
It depends on a few things. How
strong was the marijuana, how close were you to it, how much smoke was
in the room, and how recent was this? It also depends on the type of
test being used. With passive inhalation, you won't have marijuana
traces in your urine unless you were inhaling a great deal of secondhand
smoke, and even that possibility is small. You can, however, have it
show up in hair or skin tests. According to some studies, hair and skin
tests can detect marijuana for a few months. The chance of receiving one
of these two types of tests is less common, and it's usually done when
there is a crime being investigated.
Many people claim passive
inhalation of marijuana smoke as a reason for a positive urine test.
While passive inhalation of marijuana smoke can be detected on this type
of test, studies show that it is highly unlikely that a nonsmoking
individual could inhale enough secondhand smoke to result in a positive
urine test. So, in other words, if you fail a drug test and use
"secondhand smoke" as your defense, it will be hard for anyone
to believe that.
Now that I know about drug
testing, what should I do?
The best bet is to keep yourself
healthy by not smoking marijuana. If you don't smoke now, we encourage
you to remain drug free. And if you have friends who smoke, be careful.
Being around drugs or people who use drugs puts you at risk for trouble.
If you are inhaling secondhand smoke, there are respiratory damage
risks. If you are getting a ride from a friend who has been smoking or
drinking, you could get hurt or even die from an accident. If you or
someone you know is smoking marijuana, call the National Clearinghouse
for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-729-6686 for information on
resources near you that can help
Courtesy of the Center
for Substance Abuse Prevention
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
Please read our full disclaimer.