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How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?

    How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?

    This page is aimed at informing and educating individuals on how long drug’s stay in the body, and what factors may influence how long drugs stay in your body.

    The exact amount of time drugs stays in your body varies depending on a number of factors, including how the test is administered.

    However, urine tests are the most common form of drug testing. Below are the average amount of days drugs are found in the body when taking a urine test [1]:

    • Heroin: can be detected within 1-3 days
    • Cocaine: can be detected within 2-3 days.
    • Cannabis/THC: can be detected within 1-7 days.
    • Meth: can be detected within 2-3 days.
    • MDMA: can be detected within 2-4 days.

    However, there is no exact and complete way of predicting how long a drug will stay in your body. The only way to know for certain that you will not test positive for a drug is to abstain from taking drugs in the first place.

    Influencing Factors

    There are a number of factors that influence how long a drug will stay in an individual’s body.

    Including which drug and how much was taken, the following factors influence how long a drug stays in the body:

    • Your body fat percentage and weight
    • Whether you’re male or female
    • How fast or slow your body’s natural metabolism is
    • The way in which the drug was administered. For example, via needle or inhalation.
    • How old you are
    • Whether or not you have any underlying health conditions
    • Your ethnic background

    Test Commonly Used to Detect Drug Use

    There are a number of different tests that are commonly used to detect the presence of drugs in the body.

    Some of these tests can detect the presence of drugs in the body within just hours after first consuming the substance.

    • Urine Testing: Lots of medical and healthcare professionals use a urine test to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in the system. As the body metabolises the drug, its byproducts are dispersed into the urine. Therefore the drug is present within the urine very quickly after first taking it
    • Saliva Testing: Saliva tests are done quickly and uninvested, and so are popular with many healthcare professionals. Nonetheless, the test must be done within the first few several hours after consuming the drug
    • Hair Follicle Testing: As with a saliva test, hair follicle tests are popular as the drug’s byproducts are passed to the hair follicle quickly after consumption of the drug. Additionally, a hair follicle test picks up a wide range of drugs such as marijuana and opioids
    • Blood Testing: Also popular is a blood test, which is able to detect lots of drugs and other possible health concerns as a side effect to their drug-taking. A blood test can also tell just how many drugs is in the body

    Why is Drug Testing Important?

    Drug testing is important for a number of reasons, and organizations such as workplaces, the police and local drug and alcohol services may ask you to take a drug test under specific circumstances.

    These circumstances include:

    1. Driving under the Influence

    Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and can end in very serious consequences. They both carry the same penalties.

    It is important to know that the police carry out routine roadside testing on drivers suspected to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

    Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in a serious accident, harming yourself or other people. Drug testing individuals suspected of driving under the influence can significantly reduce the number of accidents that happen on the road due to alcohol or drugs.

    If you’re asked to take part in routine drugs or alcohol tests whilst driving, politely agree and get tested.

    2. The Police in Custody

    It is a procedure for the police to carry out routine drug or alcohol testing for anyone in the station. This includes anyone in the station who has been arrested or is suspected to be under the influence.

    Testing individuals in police custody is really important, as it may help to keep yourself and others in custody safe.

    3. Local Drug and Alcohol Services

    Local services will also carry out routine drug testing for those who have prescribed drugs or those who may be eligible for rehab funding. They may also test individuals under social services or those who are referred by a court order to take a drug test.

    If local drug services ask you to take a drug test, it could be for any one of the above reasons, and their objective will always be to try to keep you safe.

    4. Social Services

    Additionally, social services will also ask individuals to take a drugs test if they feel that a child or family member is a cause for concern or at risk of hurting themselves or someone else.

    5. Workplaces

    Your workplace might now include in their contract a clause for random drug testing. This is important if your work involves you working any heavy machinery, working with children or any vulnerable adults.

    6. Supported Living

    If you’re living in supported housing, they may ask you to take part in a drug test. It’s important to stay sober and on track when living in supported housing, in order to keep yourself and those around you in a stable environment.

    How to Get Help for a Drug Addiction

    It’s important to understand that if you want to get help for your addiction, then you will have to undergo detoxification [3]. However, detoxification only targets the individual’s physical dependence on the drug.

    Therefore, you will need more help and support to address and treat the psychological addiction [3].

    If you want help with your addiction, try taking the following steps [4]:

    1. Detoxification

    This is usually the first step in recovering from drug addiction and involves stopping taking drugs immediately and managing any withdrawal symptoms that occur.

    2. Counselling

    Whether you attend individual, group or family counselling, it’s important that you discuss your detoxification with a specialist.

    3. Medication

    Medication is often used to help manage the withdrawal symptoms that usually occur after abstaining from taking drugs. These can help treat any medical conditions that may occur or help with any forms of depression or anxiety.

    4. Follow-Ups

    It’s important that even after you’ve overcome your addiction, that you follow up with a professional. This will help you maintain your recovery.

    If you’re worried about taking a drug test, it’s always best to speak to a professional about your addiction and be honest with the individual asking you to take the test.


    [1] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Drugs of Abuse Home Use Test.

    [2] Quest Diagnostics. (2013). Drug Half-Life, Steady State, and Recommended Sample Collection Time.

    [3] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide.



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