Reporting In: What a Urine Drug Test Can Really Tell You | A painless test for the often-painful truth

Posted by Sara Carpenter on Sep 15, 2020 3:40:37 PM
Sara Carpenter
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A urine drug test almost always sparks an internal dialogue. Beyond the obvious thoughts most patients have about how to properly collect the sample in a small cup, other patients have frantic conversations in their heads about the test results.

While the urine drug test is simple, painless and non-invasive, its analysis for the presence of prescription medications and certain illegal drugs can reveal misuse and expose abuse.


A Serious Public Health Problem

The prevalence of drug misuse and abuse has resulted in a serious public health problem in the United States.

Putting some numbers behind the issue, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 18 million people – more than 6% of the population ages 12 and older – misused prescription opioids, stimulants and Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants such as sedatives, tranquilizers and hypnotics at least once during 2017. That same year, a daily average of 5,480 people totaling 2 million annually misused prescription pain medication for the first time, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Compounding these startling statistics about first-time misusers are an additional 1+ million


 63% of U.S. patients taking prescription drugs have strayed from their treatment plan

 3 in 5 patients take medications not prescribed by their physician

 20-30% of prescriptions are never filled

 50% of chronic disease medications are not taken as prescribed

people misused prescription stimulants, 270,000+ misused sedatives and 1.5 million misused tranquilizers. And it’s no secret that opioid addiction has now reached epidemic proportions, killing more than 50,000 people every year.

The increase in prescription and illicit drug use has resulted in an increase in testing, including urine drug testing, which reveals the often-painful truth about the presence, misuse and abuse.

Misuse and abuse aside, there are equally important statistics about the use of prescription drugs that set the backdrop for other concerns. For example, more than 80 percent of Americans between the ages of 57 and 85 take at least one prescription drug medication each day. Half of this same population takes more than five medications or supplements daily. This raises red flags for potential drug interactions and health issues associated with age-related changes in drug metabolism and compounded adverse health consequences caused by over-the-counter medications and herbal or dietary supplements.


Urine Drug Testing Methodology in a Clinical Toxicology Laboratory

As a clinical toxicology laboratory, Diax Labs™ is patient-centered, does not require a chain of custody and provides testing services to independent physicians.

Our urine drug testing methodology offers an extensive list of prescribed and/or illicit drugs in our menus and utilizes two methods for the detection of drug use and abuse.

  1. Immunoassay is our presumptive screening for a qualitative negative/positive detection of classes of drugs using an antigen-antibody reaction via a Point of Care Testing (POCT) urine strip or an auto-analyzer.
  2. Mass spectrometry is our confirmatory or definitive screening that reports quantitatively, providing a numeric concentration for the detected drugs and distinguishing specific drugs.


A Sweeping 27-panel Test

Urine drug testing is the most common first step in determining the presence of a drug in a person’s system, even after the effects have worn off.

While many laboratories offer 10-panel drug tests that screen for frequently abused legal and illicit drugs – this typically includes five common prescription drugs and five illicit street drugs – Diax Labs™ offers a sweeping 27-panel test that includes extensive subcategories to detect opioids, illicit drugs and harder-to-detect designer drugs. This test is frequently ordered by physicians for patients who under their care for chronic pain management, who require prescription drug monitoring or who are suspicioned for illicit drug use.


The Window of Detection

Physicians and patients alike wonder about the window of time, also known as the look-back period, in which a urine drug test can detect prescription medication or illicit drugs.

There are a number of factors that impact how long a drug will remain in a patient’s system before the body rids itself of a drug’s byproducts. Among these factors are the type, frequency and quantity of the drug taken; how much fluid the patient has consumed and how much exercise the patient has had since ingesting the medication; the patient’s general health and body metabolic rate; and genetic variations that can impact the patient’s response to specific medications and drugs.  

The following table from Medical News Today provides a break down of the time specific drugs generally can be detected in the urine.



Time Detectable in Urine


3 days for a single use
5-7 days for moderate use (4 times per week)
10-15 days for daily use
30+ days for heavy use


2-4 Days


48 hours


48 hours for heroin
48 hours for codeine
48-72 hours for morphine
2-4 days for oxycodone
3 days for methadone


1 day for short acting (pentobarbital)
3 weeks for long acting (phenobarbital)


3 days for short acting (lorazepam)

1 month for long acting (diazepam)


8 days

Synthetic cannabinoids

72+ hours


Rolling Back the Results

Conducted for the purpose of measuring byproducts in a person’s body associated with the breakdown of a drug, a urine drug test can provide two potential results.

Positive indicates the presence of the drug or its byproducts in detectable amounts, suggesting recent drug use. As a precaution, a second lab test is often conducted, particularly for a person who might receive disciplinary action at work or in sports as a result of a false-positive.

Negative indicates no detectable drug presence. Of course, the test cannot determine whether a person has ever or will ever take specific drugs.


Urine Drug Testing Amid COVID-19

Diax Labs™ has continued to address logistical issues to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 amid the global pandemic.

Recently added to our comprehensive range of tests is DNA LOCKTM which allows patients to collect a urine sample at home after providing a DNA sample via a non-invasive buccal swab collected in-office by a clinician or via telemedicine with a witness. Thereafter, a physician can submit an online order to have Diax Labs™ mail the urine drug test collection kit directly to the patient, who then collects the sample and returns it to Diax Labs in postage-paid packaging. Diax Labs™ confirms a match or mismatch of the urine with the patient’s DNA and reports test results to the physician within 24 hours.


We’re Here to Help

? Are you an independent physician providing care for patients with chronic pain, who require prescription drug monitoring or who have given you cause for concern about prescription drug misuse or potential illicit drug abuse?

? Are you seeking an opportunity to provide continuity of care via telemedicine and self-administered drug urine testing to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19?

? Are you a laboratory marketing professional that sells to independent physicians?


We’re here to assist you and welcome the opportunity to talk with you about Diax Labs™ 27-panel urine drug test and revolutionary DNA LOCKTM. To learn more or to schedule a virtual presentation, please click Learn More below.


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