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Opiates can be tested in a number of ways. Procedures include urine, hair follicle, and blood testing. Research shows that opiates can also be detected with newer sweat patch and saliva opiate tests. Which test is appropriate depends on the reason for the drug detection and the specific opiate substance that needs to be identified. Some tests are cost-prohibitive and significantly invasive, two factors sometimes considered when making a testing choice as well.
A urine test is by far the most commonly used and least expensive test to determine opiate usage. It is a screening test, meaning it only tests for the presence of opiates and not specific levels of drug or drug metabolites within the body. Urine opiate tests can, however, differentiate between various kinds of opioid drugs, making them ideal for detecting illicit drug use. The disadvantages that might lead to other testing methods being chosen over a urine screen include detection being only possible primarily within a week of use and the danger of false positives caused by naturally-occurring opioid substances in the environment. A urine test is also considered significantly invasive because a clinician usually needs to be present for the collection of the urine.
A hair follicle opiate test is significantly more expensive, sometimes as much as $150 US Dollars (USD) for an analysis, but the procedure has some distinct advantages. The test is twice as sensitive as a urine test, and this form of assessment is not affected by brief periods of abstinence that illicit drug users may do in order to pass a scheduled screening. Like a urine test, it can differentiate between opiates, but it only screens for opiate usage and cannot determine specific amounts of drug ingested. Hair follicle opiate tests are considered reliable because opiate metabolites lay very tight on the hair shaft and do not migrate like the metabolites of other drugs. They can also be used to determine generally when and for how long an opiate drug was used.
Blood opiate tests are the most intrusive form of testing and are usually the most expensive. This test is able to tell specific levels of the opiate substance within the bloodstream, which makes it ideal for clinicians treating an overdose or monitoring a specific drug regimen. The time an opiate substance remains in the bloodstream is short, however, and this limits its efficacy in determining illicit use.
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