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What Drugs Are Tested for in a Urinalysis?

author image Aubri John
Aubri John has been a contributing researcher and writer to online physical and mental health oriented journals since 2005. John publishes online health and fitness articles that coincide with her licensed clinical skills in addictions, psychology and medical care. She has a master's degree in clinical social work and a Ph.D. in health psychology.
What Drugs Are Tested for in a Urinalysis?
Injected drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine are commonly tested for in a urinalysis. Photo Credit: Rolf Weschke/iStock/Getty Images

A urinalysis is a detailed examination of urine used to detect and measure compounds passing through the urine. Mayo Clinic explains that due to drug abuse posing a serious medical and social problem, drug testing aids in providing accurate information for medical care to occur. Urinalysis is also commonly used by employers to determine the eligibility of potential hires. The Medical College of Wisconsin indicates that the two forms of urine drug testing used are a screening test and a confirmatory test. The urine screening tests for presence of drugs or metabolites. The confirmatory test is necessary when a drug is suspected yet does not appear on the less discrete urine screening. The additional evaluation of urine is done by gas chromatography to identify the substance.

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Legal opioids are prescribed as pain-relieving medications for a variety of medical conditions. Urinalysis tests for opiates, which is the broader category of the narcotic that includes the synthetic form of the drug referred to as opioids. Drugs such as codeine, oxycodone and morphine are prescription opioids, whereas heroin is an illicit opioid. According to Mayo Clinic, these drugs yield positive screens in a urinalysis, however, a confirmatory test is required to distinguish the specific drug due to the similarity of the metabolites that is not clarified by a simple screening alone. Opioids are detectable by urinalysis for up to three days after cessation of use.


Cannabinoids are illegal and controlled substances, commonly known as marijuana. Urinalysis tests for cannabinoids to determine if these are present. The Medical College of Wisconsin explains that the specific ingredient tested in the urine is tetrahydrocannabinol. Screening alone does not distinguish marijuana from the synthetic and legal version of cannabinoid, known as dronabinol. MedlinePlus notes that tetrahydrocannabinol is detectable in the urine for up to 11 weeks after use, in consistent users of the drug.


Cocaine is an illicit central nervous system stimulant, commonly tested for in a drug screen. Cocaine is snorted by nose as a powder, smoked as crack or melted into a liquid for injection. No matter what form of this drug is used, it is detected by a urinalysis. According to MedlinePlus, cocaine remains in the body anywhere from two days to 22 days after cessation, depending on consistency of use.


Amphetamine screening includes the derivatives methamphetamines and ecstasy. Prescription drugs that may test positive for amphetamine include certain psychiatric medications such as dextroamphetamine or d-amphetamine. Mayo Clinic indicates a confirmatory test is required to distinguish the metabolites for specifying the amphetamine present in the urinalysis. Amphetamines generally take up to 48 hours to process out of the body after cessation of use.

Additional Drugs

The drug phencyclidine, or PCP, is included in a urinalysis due to the U.S. Department of Justice report of increased use of the drug in young adults. PCP is detectable for up to eight days after cessation of use. Urinalysis can also detect the presence of benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Both are available as legal prescriptions, however, each has a high propensity for nonlegal use.

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