Drug of Abuse Testing in the Laboratory


The 12-panel urine Drug of Abuse Testing offers a comprehensive screening for substance abuse using a urine sample. Compared to the 9-panel test, this expanded version includes a broader range of prescription drugs commonly abused, in addition to popular illicit substances. Illicit drugs, often referred to as street or illegal drugs, are never used for medical purposes.

Substances detected by this panel are indicated below with their detection windows

Drug Detection Window Container for sample – Urine Drug test





6-Acetyl Morphine (6-AM) 1-2 days
Amphetamines : 1-2 days (varies by type)
Barbiturates Short-acting – 2 days;Long-acting – 1-3 weeks
Benzodiazepines Short-acting – 2 days; Intermediate-acting – 5 days; 

Long-acting – 10 days

Cocaine (benzoylecgonine metabolite) 4 days
Marijuana (THC) Single use – up to 7 days; Chronic use – 10-30 days
MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) 1-3 days
Methadone 7 days
Methaqualone (Quaaludes):  2-4 days
Opiates:  1-4 days
Phencyclidine (PCP) 8 days
Propoxyphene 6 hours to 2 days

Overview of Drug Testing.

When drugs are consumed, the body breaks them down, producing metabolites that are excreted through urine. This process is predictable, as individuals metabolize drugs at a similar rate. Therefore, the presence of drug metabolites reliably indicates recent drug use.

Urine testing offers several advantages over other methods. Compared to blood tests, urine tests are non-invasive, painless, and have a longer detection window for drug metabolites. Although hair tests have a longer detection period, they are also significantly more expensive.

 Drug Detection Windows

Each drug has a specific detection period, influenced by factors such as dosage, sample types, and individual metabolism. To account for the limited detectability of drugs, tests are often conducted randomly.

More about the 12 Drugs Tested in this Panel

  1. 6-Acetyl Morphine (6-AM): An intermediate metabolite between heroin and morphine, its presence in urine indicates heroin use.
  2. Amphetamines: Potent stimulants that affect the central nervous system, often prescribed for Parkinson’s Disease, ADHD, and narcolepsy.
  3. Barbiturates: Central nervous system depressants with sedative properties, detected for varying durations based on short-acting or long-acting types.
  4. Benzodiazepines: Psychoactive drugs, known as tranquilizers, are often prescribed for anxiety. Detection time varies based on dosage and chronic use.
  5. Cocaine: Highly addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant, detectable in urine for a few days after use.
  6. Marijuana (THC): Most commonly used drug containing THC, the main psychoactive compound. Detection time varies based on frequency of use.
  7. MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): Stimulant and psychedelic drug often distributed in tablet form, affecting serotonin levels in the brain.
  8. Methadone: Prescription opioid used for addiction treatment, helping manage withdrawal symptoms without producing a high.
  9. Methaqualone: Synthetic sedative similar to barbiturates, commonly known as quaaludes, detectable for up to 72 hours.
  10. Opiates: Derived from the poppy plant, used recreationally and medicinally. Includes legal opiates like codeine and morphine, as well as illegal substances like heroin.
  11. Phencyclidine (PCP): Dissociative drug causing hallucinations and detachment, commonly known as “Angel dust.”
  12. Propoxyphene: Narcotic pain reliever with a short detection window, associated with the risk of overdose.

Preparing for the Test and What to Expect

To ensure accurate results, avoid excessive fluid intake before providing a urine sample. Drinking excessive water in an attempt to manipulate the test can invalidate the results. Bring a valid ID card to the selected lab.

At the lab, the technician will provide instructions for the simple process. You will be asked to use the restroom and provide a urine sample in a container.

Understanding the Results

Results for urine drugs test typically become available within 1-2 business days. If a drug tests positive, confirmation may require an additional 2-4 days. The test provides either a positive, negative, or inconclusive/invalid result.

  • Positive result: Indicates the presence of one or more drugs at detectable concentrations.
  • Negative result: Indicates that drugs were either not found in sufficient concentrations for a positive result or were not detected at all.
  • Inconclusive or invalid result: Indicates an unsuccessful test for drug presence.

Cost of Urine Drug Test in Kenya

Drug testing in many instances may not be covered by insurance, so its out of pocket expense. The cost varies with the lab and location. The Government Chemist may  charge lower than most private laboratories. Costs range from KES 20,000 to as high as 45,000 or higher.


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