Detection time can be affected by many variables. Everything that enters the body goes through the natural biological process of metabolism until it becomes completely consumed by the system. Metabolism is a set of biochemical reactions, transformations, and processes that take place within the cells. During the digestion of food, the substances are transported between different cells, transforming said substances into energy to sustain the body while subsequently eliminating waste materials.
Detection Time and Cutoff Level
Drugs undergo these same processes when they are ingested into the body. Most drugs are in some part detectable in urine, blood, saliva, and hair through drug testing. The drug testing would need to take place within a specific window of time from ingestion in order to be indicated on the test results. Eventually, all traces of the drugs will be flushed out of the system in time. However, the window of time used to determine drug levels before the chemicals have completely left the body is referred to as the drug detection time.
Detection period – the amount of time after a person consumes a drug that a drug test can still show a positive result. For example, after a person consumes marijuana, a marijuana urine drug test can detect the drug for approximately up to a week afterward and possibly longer – up to a month.
Cutoff level – the minimum amount of a drug that has to be present in a specimen in order for it to be considered positive. For example, the cutoff level for marijuana in a urine specimen for an instant testing kit is 50 ng/mL. If marijuana is present in a sample, but the level is below 50 ng/mL, the test would give a negative drug test result. If marijuana is present and the level is above 50 ng/mL, the test would show a positive drug test result.
Factors That Affect Drug Detection Time
Age – The body’s metabolism slows down with age so older drug users tend to retain substances longer in their system.
Body fat – Some drug metabolites like PCP and THC get stored in fat cells, and a person’s metabolic rate tends to go slower the more body fat a person has. It is, therefore, harder to flush out drugs from the system of a user with plenty of body fat.
Ingestion/administration method – The manner by which drugs are ingested has a bearing on their detection times. For example, the body takes longer to flush out orally ingested marijuana, compared to when it is smoked.
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