Monday, June 23, 2014

How long is a drug detectable in the urine?

I get asked all the time about how long drug X is detectable in the urine of a person who consumed said drug (i.e. toxicology results interpretation is part of the day job).

                                                      Chemical structures of THC-carboxylic acid metabolite and PCP

Drug detection windows in urine are variable and approximate and ultimately depend on a myriad of factors including the nature of the drug consumed, the route of administration of drug, the individual's metabolism, the dosage of drug consumed, the dosage form of the drug consumed, and the hydration state of the individual.

So, here's a handy list for some routine drugs:

AnalyteTime Range
6-acetylmorphine12 - 24 hours
7-aminoclonazepam1 - 10 days
Acetaminophen1 - 2 days
Alprazolam and alphahydroxyalprazolam1 - 4 days
Amobarbital1 - 5 days
Amphetamine1 - 5 days
Benzoylecgonine1 - 4 days
Buprenorpine and norbuprenorphine1 - 10 days
Butabarbital1 - 5 days
Butalbital1 - 5 days
Carisoprodol1 - 2 days
Codeine1 - 4 days
Ethanol1 - 24 hours
Ethyl Glucuronide1 - 3 days
Fentanyl and norfentanyl1 - 4 days
Gabapentin1 - 4 days
Hydrocodone1 - 4 days
Hydromorphone1 - 4 days
Lorazepam1 - 4 days
MDMA1 - 5 days
Meprobamate1 - 4 days
Methadone and EDDP 1 - 10 days
Methamphetamine1 - 5 days
Morphine1 - 4 days
Nordiazepam1 - 10 days
Oxazepam1 - 10 days
Oxycodone1 - 4 days
Oxymorphone1 - 4 days
PCP1 - 8 days
Pentobarbital1 - 3 days
Phenobarbital1  - 30 days
Phentermine1 - 4 days
Pregabalin1 - 4 days
Propoxyphene and norpropoxyphene1 - 5 days
Secobarbital1 - 3 days
Tapentadol1 - 2 days
Temazepam1 - 10 days
THC-COOH (frequent user)1- 30 days
THC-COOH (occasional user)1 - 4 days
Tramadol and nortramadol1 - 4 days

It is important to remember that the urine matrix is a waste/excretory product. Drugs or drug metabolites detected in the urine are not exerting a pharmacological effect on the body. Also, there is no correlation between an ingested dose and the resulting urine concentration of drug/metabolite. If these are a concern, then blood analysis should be undertaken, but it should be noted that detection of drug or metabolite in the blood matrix is typically considerably shorter than the urine window of detection.




  1. Diphenhydramine 30+ days, by LC/MS of course. LC/MS a blessing and a curse.

    I think I'm the only one in the lab that supplies blank urine because I don't take anything.

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