What is a Toxicology Exam?

A toxicology test checks blood, urine, or saliva for the presence of drugs or other chemicals. In very rare cases, stomach contents or sweat may be checked.

Drugs can be accidentally or deliberately swallowed, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through a skin surface or mucous membrane.  These substances can include prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines (over the counter aspirin or acetaminophen), vitamins, nutritional supplements alcohol, or illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.

A toxicology test may check for one specific drug or could easily go up to 30 different drugs at once. Testing is frequently done on urine or saliva than blood because these tests are easier to do.  Many of the drugs show up in saliva or urine. Furthermore, there may be traces of urine that show up longer in urine than in blood.

  • Urine test can detect drug use within the last 5 daysblood-test1
  • Saliva tests can detect drug use within the past day

A toxicology test is usually done for:

  • Identifying the cause of life-threatening symptoms such as unconsciousness. A toxicology test can be done within 96 hours (4 days) after a drug was possibly taken. A toxicology test can help identify whether there was a drug overdose. In these cases, a urine and blood sample may be tested.
  • Employers in the workplace especially for occupations in public safety such as bus drivers or child care workers. Usually toxicology tests are the norm for companies as part of their hiring process. The test may be urine or blood sample.
  • Middle school and high school students that are involved in extracurricular activities especially sports.
  • Athletes to check if they use drugs to enhance their athletic ability. This type of test can be urine or saliva.
  • Suspicion of date rape drugs. To test for these drugs, it is usually done on a urine sample.

This is not intended for medical advice. If you have any questions, please consult a medical professional.


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