Drugs of Abuse Information

Drugs of Abuse Information


Drug of Abuse Testing




Amphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance available by prescription (Dexedrine®) and is also available on the illicit market. Amphetamines are a class of potent sympathomimetic agents with therapeutic applications. They are chemically related to the human body’s natural catecholamines: epinephrine and norepinephrine. Acute higher doses lead to enhanced stimulation of the central nervous system and induce euphoria, alertness, reduced appetite, and a sense of increased energy and power. Cardiovascular responses to Amphetamines include increased blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias. More acute responses produce anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and psychotic behavior. The effects of Amphetamines generally last 2-4 hours following use, and the drug has a half-life of 4-24 hours in the body. About 30% of Amphetamines are excreted in the urine in unchanged form, with the remainder as hydroxylated and deaminated derivatives.


Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants. They are used therapeutically as sedatives, hypnotics, and anticonvulsants. Barbiturates are almost always taken orally as capsules or tablets. The effects resemble those of intoxication with alcohol. Chronic use of barbiturates leads to tolerance and physical dependence. Short acting Barbiturates taken at 400 mg/day for 2-3 months can produce a clinically significant degree of physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms experienced during periods of drug abstinence can be severe enough to cause death. Only a small amount(less than 5%) of most Barbiturates are excreted unaltered in the urine. The approximate detection time limits for Barbiturates are: Short acting (e.g. Secobarbital) 100mg PO (oral) 4.5 days Long acting (e.g. Phenobarbital) 400mg PO (oral) 7 days.


Benzodiazepines are medications that are frequently prescribed for the symptomatic treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders. They produce their effects via specific receptors involving a neurochemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). Because they are safer and more effective, Benzodiazepines have replaced barbiturates in the treatment of both anxiety and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are also used as sedatives before some surgical and medical procedures, and for the treatment of seizure disorders and alcohol withdrawal. Risk of physical dependence increases if Benzodiazepines are taken regularly (e.g., daily) for more than a few months, especially at higher than normal doses. Stopping abruptly can bring on such symptoms as trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal upset, feeling unwell, loss of appetite, sweating, trembling, weakness, anxiety and changes in perception. Only trace amounts (less than 1%) of most Benzodiazepines are excreted unaltered in the urine; most of the concentration in urine is conjugated drug. The detection period for the Benzodiazepines in the urine is 3-7 days.


Buprenorphine is a semisynthetic opioid analgesic derived from the bain, a component of opium. It has a longer duration of action than morphine when indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe pain, peri-operative analgesia, and opioid dependence. Low doses buprenorphine produces sufficient agonist effect to enable opioid-addicted individuals to discontinue the misuse of opioids without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine carries a lower risk of abuse, addiction, and side effects compared to full opioid agonists because of the “ceiling effect”, which means no longer continue to increase with further increases in dose when reaching a plateau at moderate doses. However, it has also been shown that Buprenorphine has abuse potential and may itself cause dependency. Subutex®, and a Buprenorphine/Naloxone combination product, Suboxone®, are the only two forms of Buprenorphine that have been approved by FDA in 2002 for use in opioid addiction treatment. Buprenorphine was rescheduled from Schedule V to Schedule III drug just before FDA approval of Suboxone and Subutex.


Cocaine is a potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and a local anesthetic. Initially, it brings about extreme energy and restlessness while gradually resulting in tremors, over-sensitivity and spasms. In large amounts, cocaine causes fever, unresponsiveness, difficulty in breathing and unconsciousness. Cocaine is often self-administered by nasal inhalation, intravenous injection and free-base smoking. It is excreted in the urine in a short time primarily as Benzoylecgonine.1.2 Benzoylecgonine, a major metabolite of cocaine, has a longer biological half-life (5-8 hours) than cocaine(0.5-1.5 hours),and can generally be detected for 24-48 hours after cocaine exposure.


THC (9–tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary active ingredient in cannabinoids (marijuana). When smoked or orally administered, it produces euphoric effects. Users have impaired short term memory and slowed learning. They may also experience transient episodes of confusion and anxiety. Long term relatively heavy use may be associated with behavioral disorders. The peak effect of smoking marijuana occurs in 20-30 minutes and the duration is 90-120 minutes after one cigarette. Elevated levels of urinary metabolites are found within hours of exposure and remain detectable for 3-10 days after smoking. The main metabolite excreted in the urine is 11-nor- 9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (9-THC-COOH).


Methadone is a narcotic analgesic prescribed for the management of moderate to severe pain and for the treatment of opiate dependence (heroin, Vicodin, Percocet, and Morphine). The pharmacology of Oral Methadone is very different from IV Methadone. Oral Methadone is partially stored in the liver for later use. IV Methadone acts more like heroin. In most states you must go to a pain clinic or a Methadone maintenance clinic to be prescribed Methadone. Methadone is a long acting pain reliever producing effects that last from twelve to forty-eight hours. Ideally, Methadone frees the client from the pressures of obtaining illegal heroin, from the dangers of injection, and from the emotional roller coaster that most opiates produce. Methadone, if taken for long periods and at large doses, can lead to a very long withdrawal period. The withdrawals from Methadone are more prolonged and troublesome than those provoked by heroin cessation, yet the substitution and phased removal of methadone is an acceptable method of detoxification for patients and therapists.


Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. Methamphetamine is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of Methamphetamine are greater. Methamphetamine is made in illegal laboratories and has a high potential for abuse and dependence. The drug can be taken orally, injected, or inhaled. Acute higher doses lead to enhanced stimulation of the central nervous system and induce euphoria, alertness, reduced appetite, and a sense of increased energy and power. Cardiovascular responses to Methamphetamine include increased blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias. More acute responses produce anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, and eventually, depression and exhaustion. The effects of Methamphetamine generally last 2-4 hours and the drug has a half-life of 9-24hoursin the body. Methamphetamine is excreted in the urine as amphetamine and oxidized and delaminated derivatives. However, 10-20% of Methamphetamine is excreted unchanged. Thus, the presence of the parent compound in the urine indicates Methamphetamine use.


Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) is a designer drug first synthesized in 1914 by a German drug company for the treatment of obesity.8 Those who take the drug frequently report adverse effects, such as increased muscle tension and sweating. MDMA is not clearly a stimulant, although it has, in common with amphetamine drugs, a capacity to increase blood pressure and heart rate. MDMA does produce some perceptual changes in the form of increased sensitivity to light, difficulty in focusing, and blurred vision in some users. Its mechanism of action is thought to be via release of the neurotransmitter serotonin. MDMA may also release dopamine, although the general opinion is that this is a secondary effect of the drug (Nichols and Oberlender, 1990). The most pervasive effect of MDMA, occurring in virtually all people who took a reasonable dose of the drug, was to produce a clenching of the jaws.


Opiate refers to any drug that is derived from the opium poppy, including the natural products, morphine and codeine, and the semi-synthetic drugs such as heroin. Opioid is more general, referring to any drug that acts on the opioid receptor. Opioid analgesics comprise a large group of substances which control pain by depressing the central nervous system. Large doses of morphine can produce higher tolerance levels, physiological dependency in users, and may lead to substance abuse. Morphine is excreted un-metabolized, and is also the major metabolic product of codeine and heroin. Morphine is detectable in the urine for several days after an opiate dose.


Oxycodone, [4,5-epoxy-14-hydroxy-3-methoxy-17-methyl-morphinan-6-one,dihydrohydroxycodein one] is a semi-synthetic opioid agonist derived from the baine, a constituent of opium. Oxycodone is a Schedule II narcotic analgesic and is widely used in clinical medicine. The pharmacology of oxycodone is similar to that of morphine, in all respects, including its abuse and dependence liabilities. Pharmacological effects include analgesia, euphoria, feelings of relaxation, respiratory depression, constipation, papillary constriction, and cough suppression. Oxycodone is prescribed for the relief of moderate to high pain under pharmaceutical trade names as OxyContin® (controlled release), OxyIR®, OxyFast®(immediate release formulations), or Percodan® (aspirin) and Percocet® (acetaminophen) that are in combination with other nonnarcotic analgesics. Oxycodone’s behavioral effects can last up to 5 hours. The controlled-release product, OxyContin®, has a longer duration of action (8-12 hours).


Propoxyphene (PPX) is a mild narcotic analgesic found in various pharmaceutical preparations, usually as the hydrochloride or napsylate salt. These preparations typically also contain large amounts of acetaminophen, aspirin, or caffeine. Peak plasma concentrations of propoxyphene are achieved from 1 to 2 hours post dose. In the case of overdose, propoxyphene blood concentrations can reach significantly higher levels. In human, propoxyphene is metabolized by N-demethylation to yield norpropoxyphene. Norpropoxyphene has a longer half-life (30 to 36 hours) than parent propoxyphene (6to 12hours).The accumulation of norpropoxyphene seen with repeated doses may be largely responsible for result and toxicity.


Phencyclidine, also known as PCP or Angel Dust, is a hallucinogen that was first marketed as a surgical anesthetic in the 1950’s. It was removed from the market because patients receiving it became delirious and experienced hallucinations. Phencyclidine is used in powder, capsule, and tablet form. The powder is either snorted or smoked after mixing it with marijuana or vegetable matter. Phencyclidine is most commonly administered by inhalation but can be used intravenously, intra-nasally, and orally. After low doses, the user thinks and acts swiftly and experiences mood swings from euphoria to depression. Self-injurious behavior is one of the devastating effects of Phencyclidine. PCP can be found in urine within 4to6hoursafter use and will remain in urine for 7 to 14 days, depending on factors such as metabolic rate, user’s age, weight, activity, and diet.5 Phencyclidine is excreted in the urine as an unchanged drug (4% to 19%) and conjugated metabolites (25%to30%).


TCA (Tricyclic Antidepressants) are commonly used for the treatment of depressive disorders. TCA overdoses can result in profound central nervous system depression, cardiotoxicity and anticholinergic effects. TCA overdose is the most common cause of death from prescription drugs. TCA’s are taken orally or sometimes by injection. TCA’s are metabolized in the liver. Both TCA’s and their metabolites are excreted in urine mostly in the form of metabolites for up to ten days.