Detection time of drugs of abuse in urine

Acta Clin Belg. 2000 Nov-Dec;55(6):323-33. doi: 10.1080/17843286.2000.11754319.


Estimating the detection time of a drug in urine is complex because of many different influencing factors and the lack of experimental data. Detection times vary depending on dose and route of administration, metabolism and characteristics of the screening and confirmation assays. Using a cut-off value of 1000 ng/mL, urinary samples can be positive for amphetamine for up to 5 days after intake of the drug. At the lower 300 ng/mL cut-off, amphetamine will be detectable one day longer. Very few data are available for designer amphetamines. After smoking one marijuana cigarette, THCCOOH (9-carboxy-delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is detectable (using a screening cut-off of 50 ng/mL) for 2-4 days. More frequent use will be detectable for almost 1 month, exceptionally 3 months. Immunoassays to detect cocaine are targeted against the metabolite benzoylecgonine and use a cut-off of 300 ng/mL. An intravenous dose of 20 mg cocaine can be detected for 1.5 days. Street doses (administered via different routes) are detectable up to 1 week, and extremely high doses up to 3 weeks. Heroin rapidly metabolizes to 6-acetylmorphine and morphine. Immunoassays for heroin are calibrated with morphine but important cross-reactivity occurs and positive results must be confirmed by GC-MS. Experimental data for total morphine using a cut-off of 300 ng/mL suggest a detection time of 1 to 1.5 days for relatively low doses of heroin (3-12 mg) administered via i.v., IN or i.m. route.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamines / urine
  • Cannabinoids / urine
  • Cocaine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cocaine / urine
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / pharmacokinetics
  • Illicit Drugs / urine*
  • Immunoassay
  • Methamphetamine / urine
  • Morphine / urine
  • Morphine Derivatives / urine
  • Substance Abuse Detection*
  • Time Factors


  • Amphetamines
  • Cannabinoids
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Morphine Derivatives
  • Methamphetamine
  • benzoylecgonine
  • Morphine
  • Cocaine
  • 6-O-monoacetylmorphine