What does a toxicologist test for in body fluids?Toxicology tests determine whether a person has recently taken substances, which can be medicine or illegal drugs. They provide accurate information about the amount, type, and presence of certain substances. These tests help screen possible drug abuse for employment and occupational purposes. They can also help monitor ongoing abuse problems, which may be used as evidence in legal cases. At Trinity Medical Laboratories in Marlton, NJ we provide toxicology lab services that detect the presence of drugs and other substances in various types of body fluid.
When it comes to detecting, interpreting, and quantifying drugs and other concentrations, human blood is often the specimen of choice. Obtaining blood samples may be intrusive and even expensive, but it is considered as the most accurate method compared to testing other body fluids. It is a reliable indicator of the presence of substances as well as the physiological condition of the body.
How Is Blood Useful in Toxicology Lab Services?
Toxicology reports help strengthen medical and legal records. By analyzing and measuring concentrations of drugs and substances in the blood, we can establish any recent drug intake. Forensic reports use blood toxicology for determining whether a recent drug intake has any effect on the person at the time of their death. This test can help rule out possible occurrences of overdose, poisoning, or other related events to substance use.
How Long Do Different Drugs Stay in the Blood?
The time frame of detection depends on the type, amount, and quality of the substances. Other factors such as a person’s weight, height, and body fat percentage must be considered, too. It does not matter whether the effects have worn off or not. Trace amounts of the drug can still be found and detected by toxicology lab services. Many factors can also affect the window of detection for drugs in the blood.
The following substances can be traced in the blood for up to several hours or days:
- Marijuana – up to 4 hours
- Morphine – up to 3 days
- Codeine – up to 24 hours
- Fentanyl – up to 2 days
- Heroin – up to 6 hours
- Hydrocodone – up to 24 hours
- Methadone – up to 24 hours
- Oxycodone – up to 24 hours
How Are Blood Samples Collected and Analyzed?
The most commonly used type of blood for testing is venous blood. This type of blood carries deoxygenated blood to the heart. A specialist performs venipuncture to collect blood samples for toxicology, usually from a vein in the arm. This vein is very close to the surface of the skin and is positioned far away from large nerves, so it should be relatively pain-free to collect.
When collecting blood, we recommend keeping samples at room temperature for no longer than 8 hours. After labeling, specialists take them to the laboratory for complete testing. If tests are not completed within the 8-hour time frame, the collected blood is stored at low temperatures. Freezing helps preserve their chemical makeup. Blood samples for toxicology tests are frozen at -5°F for a maximum of a week.
Urine toxicology is a popular type of screening that provides useful results. Medical laboratories test urine to monitor patients who have prescriptions for narcotics. A urine test may also be ordered by a medical professional to rule out any suspicion of substance intake or abuse.
Other reasons why medical professionals and doctors can ask for a urine test include:
- Monitoring adherence to prescribed medication
- Testing for drug interactions
- Employment and occupational screening
Different Types of Urine Toxicology
An immunoassay test delivers faster urine screening results. It can determine the presence of a specific antigen or antibody in the sample. Antigens trigger immune responses, which then causes the production of antibodies. By binding antigens and antibodies, specialists can identify and measure specific substances or traces of drugs.
Another type of urine toxicology is called chromatography. This test uses a gas or liquid carrier to separate different compounds in the urine. The carrier medium causes molecular interactions. As a result, drug metabolites separate from the urine. The specialist can then examine the separated components and identify the presence of a drug or a substance.
What Toxicology Tests Use Urine?
Urine drug screens are popular among sporting events and off-road tests. Athletes are checked for the possible use of performance-enhancing drugs. In the legal sector, a urine drug test result can be evidence against divorce, custody, or probation cases.
Urine examination can determine several kinds of recent drug intake. These drugs leave traces in the urine with a timeframe for detection which can last for up to several hours or days:
- Marijuana – up to 30 days
- Morphine – up to 3 days
- Codeine – up to 3 days
- Fentanyl – up to 3 days
- Heroin – up to 3 days
- Hydrocodone – up to 4 days
- Methadone – up to 12 days
- Oxycodone – up to 4 days
When it comes to identifying illicit substances, urine samples hold traces of drugs much longer than the human blood does. Therefore, it is often a body fluid of choice when it comes to toxicology tests related to employment and sports events. It is relatively easy to correct, although the results may not be as accurate as blood tests. One of the factors that can affect its accuracy is the manner of collection.
How Are Urine Samples Collected?
Urine samples are collected in a bathroom exclusively for toxicology tests. A person is provided with a specimen cup and is required to leave their belongings. This helps prevent any manner of altering or substituting the sample. In some cases, a specialist can supervise the person providing the urine sample and accompany them into the bathroom.
At least 1.52 ounces of urine is required by toxicology lab services. The temperature of the urine should be outside the range of 90°F to 100°F, or there may be a reason to believe that the specimen has been altered. The sample is then sealed, labeled, and kept at temperatures averaging 39°F for no longer than 24 hours. Bacteria can form and multiply in the sample if it is not kept in a fridge or analyzed immediately.
How Reliable Are Urine Specimens?
Toxicology laboratories rely on the accountability of the patient. However, urine specimens can be tampered by individuals to avoid a positive test result. People can dilute urine samples by substituting samples and even adding water. For this reason, it’s necessary to ensure that proper supervision is made and if possible, observe the drop.
A large number of amino acids and metabolites can be found in sweat. This makes it a reliable body fluid for forensic investigations and even in toxicology reports. Through passive distribution and transdermal migration, drugs and other substances are distributed into the sweat. Several devices and different approaches have been developed to collect, study, and test human sweat for drug testing.
The Challenge in Using Sweat for Toxicology
The lack of available analytical devices makes it challenging to use sweat for certain types of drug testing. Some drug classes cannot be measured by these analytical devices. They lack the sensitivity to properly detect levels of certain substances. Using a different body fluid or method of testing is encouraged.
Immunoassays and chromatography, methodologies used in urine toxicology, are also used for sweat analysis. The use of sweat patches is now being promoted as an alternative to urine tests for drug testing. They are also useful for probation programs and substance abuse treatments.
What Toxicology Tests Use Sweat?
Sweat can be used to reliably detect many types of drugs and substances, such as:
The use of sweat patches for testing is currently used in over 50 states and federal courts. These patches can offer an increased window of detection compared to other bodily fluids, including blood. When it comes to deterring drug use, sweat patches can be used as a form of a reward or sanction. It is a preferred method for those who would like to avoid dilution, adulteration, and undetected substitution of samples. It also allows for quick application and removal.
How Are Sweat Samples Collected
Manufactured sweat patches are now being used for collecting bodily fluids for drug testing purposes. They are placed on a person’s skin and allowed to absorb perspiration over days or even weeks. An adhesive is used to prevent tampering and for promoting a tight bond with the skin. Dried sweat is then examined at a laboratory.
Skin contamination, drug dilution through the patch membrane, and the reabsorption of drugs in sweat patches can affect results. These factors are currently limiting the use of sweat for drug testing purposes. Nevertheless, laboratories are developing effective ways wherein sweat can be collected for toxicology.
Compared to other body fluids used in drug analysis and toxicology, saliva is readily accessible and collectible. It offers a non-invasive way to collect samples and may even have advantages over other fluids such as sweat, urine, and blood. They can be used for various toxicology tests and medical examinations.
What Tests Use Saliva?
Saliva testing is useful for screening and diagnosing various health and medical conditions. Some of these diseases include:
- Cushing’s disease
When it comes to toxicology tests, illicit substances and drugs can be traced in the saliva within weeks or days. Some drugs leave traces in the saliva longer than they leave traces in the blood. The following drugs have different time frames for detection:
- Marijuana – up to 72 hours
- Morphine – up to 3 days
- Codeine – up to 4 days
- Heroin – up to 1 hour
- Hydrocodone – up to 36 hours
- Methadone – up to 10 days
- Oxycodone – up to 4 days
How Is Saliva Collected?
Saliva is collected and stored at low or room temperatures for analysis in toxicology lab services. Freezing samples are also recommended to prevent degradation and bacteria growth. Studies and toxicology reports use various methods for the collection of saliva. These include:
- Draining method
- Spitting method
- Drooling method
- Suction method
- Swab method
- Use of commercial devices
To avoid increasing variability, stimulation of the salivary glands should be avoided. This can make the swab or suction method less preferable than other collection methods. Some biomarkers also appear to decrease in value with the use of cotton swabs. Spitting tends to collect more bacteria compared to passive drooling. The latter the most promising collection method. Spitting offers minimized chances of error while allowing the collection of large volumes of saliva.
Get Safe, Reliable, and Cost-Effective Testing
The healthcare community relies on the speed, safety, and precision of toxicology lab services. As a medical laboratory, we are committed to delivering the right results for effective medication and drug abuse monitoring. Contact Trinity Medical Laboratories in Marlton, NJ today to discuss your toxicology needs. We look forward to offering you the highest level of service and proper care.