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Various drugs that can stay in your system

How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System

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Last year’s drug positivity results have brought to light the prevalence of drug abuse in the workplace. According to the latest analysis by Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), drug positivity rates in the combined U.S. workforce nearly had a five percent increase in urine drug tests from a 4.2% drug positivity rate in 2017 to 4.4% in 2018. This number is also 25% higher than the record thirty-year low of 3.5% recorded between 2010 and 2012.

The rate of marijuana positivity has also gone up in most workforce categories, having an almost 8% increase in urine testing from 2.6% in 2017 to 2.8% in 2018. In California, in particular, 10.51% of the population admitted to marijuana use in the past month while 12.7% of drug treatment admissions were due to marijuana abuse. This trend can be due to California being one of the most tolerant states in terms of marijuana use, having legalized cannabis for medical and recreational purposes.

This data reveals how the workforce interacts with drugs on a daily basis and how California drug laws are implemented in the community. But this may not show the full story. These figures may have also been influenced by the varying durations drugs stay in a person’s body.

How Long Drugs Stay in a Person’s Body & Drug Half-Lives

Different drugs stay at varying durations in a person’s body. Several factors such as the person’s metabolism and tolerance, the dosage and potency of the drug, and the type of test administered to detect the said drug all affect how long drugs stay in one’s system. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these are the average times that drugs will continue to be detected in a urine drug test:

  • Heroin: 1 to 3 days
  • Cocaine: 2 to 3 days
  • Marijuana or THC: 1 to 7 days
  • Methamphetamine: 2 to 3 days
  • MDMA: 2 to 4 days

Note that these figures are simply guides since there is no way to accurately predict how long a drug will stay and be completely out of your body.

A drug’s half-life, on the other hand, is the amount of time it takes before the concentration of a drug inside the body decreases by 50%. Determining the half-life of a drug is essential in knowing how long it will last in one’s body. Each drug has a unique half-life and distinct drug test detection times. Below are some examples of illicit drugs and their respective half-lives:

  • Heroin: 2 to 6 minutes
  • Cocaine: About 1 hour
  • Marijuana or THC: 4 to 6 days
  • Methamphetamine: About 11 hours
  • MDMA: Around 8 hours upon intake

Changing how one would intake a drug, such as injecting rather than ingesting it, can either quicken or slow down the onset or effect of the drug, but will not change its half-life.

Where Else in My Body Can Drugs be Detected?

man smoking marijuana which can be seen in drug tests

Below are the types of drug tests that are administered to address the different parts of the body where drugs can be detected:

Blood Drug Test – A blood test is a well-established method for detecting various substances in the body. It does, however, have a smaller window for detecting substances. They are also invasive as it requires a blood sample from the patient. But they are still the preferred method for recently used drugs.

Sweat Drug Test – Sweat tests are easy to administer and can detect recent drug use, particularly those consumed within 24 hours. While they are difficult to fake or fabricate, only one sweat swipe or patch is available at a time for testing, making additional subsequent sweat testing impossible.

Saliva Drug Test – Saliva drug tests are non-invasive, easy to collect, and can detect drugs consumed on the same day. However, the drug detection window for saliva tests are too short and the person undergoing the test must be supervised 10 to 30 minutes before submitting his or her sample.

Urine Drug Test – Urine drug testing is one of the most common drug tests administered for employment purposes. This type of test can provide a larger specimen sample as opposed to blood, saliva, or sweat tests. However, urine testing is easier to alter or fake, while some people might be unable to produce a urine sample on the spot for immediate testing.

Hair Drug Test – Hair tests have the longest detection window for drugs among the other types of drug tests mentioned. This type of testing is non-invasive and easy to do, while the samples needed can be stored and transported conveniently. The results, however, may be difficult to interpret while low-level drug use might not be detected all the time.

The Different California Drug Testing Laws

Different drugs that can be detected in various drug tests

Pre-Employment Testing

California pre-employment drug testing laws allow a companies or employers to administer a “suspicionless” drug test as one of their conditions of employment. Pre-employment drug screening must be done after the job offer has been given, but before the employee starts working.

Routine or Random Drug Testing

Employees are not required to submit to routine or random drug testing from their employers except for narrow and specific circumstances.

Reasonable Suspicion Testing

Courts generally approve of this type of drug testing. Reasonable suspicion drug testing is only done based on facts, rational inferences, and specific incidents that may indicate substance abuse. This type of testing is often done after a serious incident involving one or more employees.

Legal Claims Related to Drug Testing

Below are some claims related to the various California drug testing laws employees are entitled to:

Invasion of Privacy

In California, unlawful drug testing can invade an employee’s right to privacy. This right to privacy can still be violated even if the employer has a valid reason for conducting the drug test. One example of this violation of an employee’s right to privacy is forcing him or her to supply a urine sample in front of other employees.

Discrimination Claims

An employer or company can be held liable for discrimination claims if they single out particular individuals for drug testing based on protected characteristics like race, age, or gender and other characteristics under anti-discrimination laws.

Disability Discrimination

An applicant or employee taking prescribed medication for his or her medical condition or disability is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since he or she might show up positive in particular drug tests. Opiates, for example, are illegal in some states but can be legally prescribed as medication. If an applicant or employee is denied employment for a positive drug test despite having a legal prescription for his or her medical condition or disability, the employer or company may be held liable for damages.


An employer or company can be sued for defamation if the positive drug test results of an employee become public, especially if the employee believes that the drug test results might be inaccurate.

Hire Competent California Drug Testing Law Attorneys

California drug testing laws, while mostly accepted, still protect employees’ right to privacy and the like. If you think your employer has violated your employee rights when he or she subjected you to undergo a drug test, consider employing a California drug testing laws attorney to support your claims. These drug testing cases and claims require extensive knowledge of employment and drug testing laws, making them difficult to handle alone.

Seek legal counsel from drug testing law attorneys in Los Angeles who are well-versed in California employment laws to know what you are dealing with. Mesriani Law Group has a roster of experienced and talented employment law attorneys who have won over 100 million dollars in damages and are adept in handling drug testing claim cases for their clients.

About the Author
Picture of Rodney Mesriani
Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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