The length of time drugs and alcohol can be detected in your system for depends on a range of factors, including the type of test used, how much has been consumed, the strength of the substance, and the frequency of use.
There are a range of samples that can be tested for drug and alcohol misuse, and each of these tests have a different detection period, showing from as a little as 24 hours to up to a year.
The most common types of tests used to detect alcohol and drugs are:
Testing urine for drug and alcohol use is a quick, non-invasive procedure, that can often provide instant results. Alcohol can be detected in urine within less than 60 minutes after consumption, and its maximum concentration is reached after 5.5 hours. Depending on the amount of alcohol, the detection period when using urine is from 24-80 hours after consumption. The detection period for drugs ranges depending on the type of drug ingested, for example, cocaine can be detected up to 3 days after use, heroin up to 5 days, and ecstasy up to 4 days.
Depending on the type of blood test used, the detection periods for alcohol can range from only a few hours to up to 30 days. Testing for PEth is the most accurate blood test to determine alcohol abuse, and the accepted period of detection is up to three weeks, however, the greater the exposure, the longer the period of detection. Similar to urine, drug detection periods vary depending on the type of drug ingested, please get in touch for a breakdown of each detection period.
A breathalyser test measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) in your breathe, and is the easiest on-the-spot method to detect recent alcohol use. The detection period depends on how much alcohol you have consumed and how your body metabolises or processes alcohol. It is estimated that the average person will breakdown alcohol at a rate of 0.0015 BAC per hour, therefore, if your BAC is 0.030, it would take two hours for all traces of alcohol to leave your system.
Testing a hair sample can provide the longest detection period for both alcohol and drugs. A hair sample allows us to trace alcohol usage for up to 3 or 6 months, and can detect drug over a period of up to one year. The detection period will be determined by the length of hair, on average hair grows at 1cm per month, therefore 6cm of hair can be tested for alcohol or drugs covering a 6-month history.
A lesser known method of alcohol and drug testing is fingernail testing. A fingernail test provides a 3-6-month history of drug or alcohol abuse. This type of test is often used when a participant has limited or no hair, or if they have bleached or chemically treated their hair, which can have an impact on hair test results.
DNA Legal and Drug and Alcohol Testing
DNA Legal provide fully accredited drug and alcohol testing, offering blood, hair, and fingernail testing, for the UK Police, Regulatory Organisations and Local Authorities for over 2,500 drugs, including specialist drugs, prescription drugs, and new psychoactive substances. Please get in touch for more information or read our pages on drug and alcohol testing.