Does meth show up on drug tests?

Yes, meth shows up on most urine-based test 2-3 days after use (longer for chronic or high dose users). More on types of meth testing and its detection window here.

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Meth drug testing is a technical analysis of biological specimen done to detect the presence of methamphetamine metabolites in the person’s body using the following samples:

  • blood
  • hair follicle
  • oral fluid (saliva)
  • urine

Meth shows up on most urine-based test 2-3 days after use. However, when a person exhibits positive drug test results, it means that a person have recently used methamphetamine or some other drugs. More here on the detection window and methods for testing for meth, as well as how long meth lasts, with a section at the end for your questions.

Why order a drug test for meth?

Drug testing has different goals in different contexts. For example, parole and probation officers use drug testing to monitor compliance with the conditions of parole and probation; employers use them to make hiring decisions; and alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs use tests to assess whether a person is complying with the treatment plan, or not. In fact, testing is often the first step in helping a meth addict get help.

Anyone can perform a quick, inexpensive test for meth residue to help in making personal decisions. However, keep in mind that home based tests that are not positive are still considered inconclusive. The same is true for professional testing. This means that the testing found no meth, but that is no guarantee that there is no meth present.

Meth detection: What is it?

A detection period is the time-frame during which any drug can be detected in a biological sample. Generally, a detection period depends on the drug class, amount and frequency of use, age, and overall health. For methamphetamine, the drug detection windows are

  • blood and oral fluid = detection period is within 12 hours of use
  • urine drug test = detection period is 3 to 5 days
  • hair follicle test = detection period is up to 90 days

Types of meth drug tests and screens

A variety of specimens can be assayed for drugs, including urine, blood, sweat, saliva, and hair, among others. Each specimen is unique, and each offers different patterns of information about drug use over time illustrates the general relationship between drug effects and the detection periods. Further, each specimen has strengths and weaknesses about the level of information that can be gained about drug use. The most common types of drug screens for methamphetamine include:

  1. Blood tests for meth – This type of testing can link drug concentrations to behavioral impairment but is usually limited to recent consumption and does not provide an accurate picture for past drug use.
  2. Hair tests for meth – This type of testing can show evidence of past, historical use. However, its detection window is limited to the amount of hair collected; hair only grows at a rate of about one-half inch per month, so an average specimen can only show 90 days of past meth use.
  3. Saliva testing for meth – Saliva drug tests is very useful for home use especially when parents suspect their kids to have abused meth. Saliva tests are accurate, easy to use, private and take only 5 minutes. Detection times for drugs in oral fluids are roughly similar to that in blood, approximately 1-24 hours. Oral fluids normally contain traces of meth itself rather than its metabolites (which are present in urine.) Collection of oral fluid is generally considered less invasive than either blood or urine and might be able to connect recent drug use with behavioral impairment.
  4. Urine testing for meth – The drug testing methodology for urinalysis is well established.   Meth and it metabolites are detectable in urine for several days after the drug has been used. While this detection window can overlap with intoxication, impairment, and being “under the influence,” it cannot usually be used to prove intoxication in a legal sense.

When considering administration of a meth drug test, choose the option that is right for your situation. If you test, test carefully and as thoroughly as possible. If you hire a professional, be sure they have the proper credentials and experience. You can also test yourself, or your children for meth that has been ingested from contact with contaminated surfaces.

Meth cutoff levels

  1. Hair meth cut off level – The drug cut-off level for methamphetamine using the hair follicle test is 300 ng/ml.
  2. Saliva meth cutoff level – The drug testing cut-off level for meth using saliva test is 50 ng/ml.
  3. Urine meth cutoff level – The cut-off level for the urine initial test is 500 ng/ml while confirmatory test, which is done through gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, is 250 ng/ml.

Positive drug testing for meth

Most drug testing for meth is urine based. Positive results in a urinalysis drug test generally indicate use within 1-4 days but could be up to a week following heavy chronic use. Rate of excretion into the urine is heavily influenced by urinary pH. Between 30-54% of an oral dose is excreted in urine as unchanged methamphetamine and 10-23% as unchanged amphetamine. Following an intravenous dose, 45% is excreted as unchanged parent drug and 7% amphetamine.

Have you or a loved one of yours come up positive on a drug test for meth? Are you worried that addiction might also be in the picture? Don’t panic…help is available. Learn more about methamphetamine addiction treatment process and programs to learn what you can do to help yourself or someone you care about TODAY.

Meth testing discussion

Still have questions about drug testing for meth or the effects of meth on the body?  We invite your comments or questions in the section at the bottom of the page. We try our best to answer each legitimate concern personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: FDA: Drugs of abuse home use test
NHTSA: Methamphetamine
Child Welfare: Protecting Children in Families Affected by Substance Use Disorders
TestCountry: All You Need to Know About Methamphetamine & Methamphetamine Testing
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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