Specimen Matrices

Most drug testing activities are based on urine although alternate specimen matrices—hair, oral fluid, sweat, and meconium—are gaining in popularity in specific testing situations. Urine as a drug testing specimen has many distinct advantages, but also possesses some disadvantages (1,2). The advantages of using urine specimens are the ease of collection and the relatively high drug concentrations making detection and quantitation possible with relatively inexpensive instrumentation. Therefore, the cost of testing is relatively low. Moreover, there is vast field experience gained from many years of urine drug testing to draw on for analytical methodologies and the interpretation of results. The disadvantages of urine testing are that urine drug concentrations are not related to drug effects and that the windows of detection of drugs/metabolites of 1-7 days reflect recent use. Furthermore, urine specimens can be easily adulterated or tampered with, and the vigorous collection protocols designed to deter adulteration and tampering are intrusive and raise the issue of invasion of privacy.

The current urine cutoffs mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are listed in Table 1.

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