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Drug and alcohol information

In addition to information on drug awareness training and drug test kits, one of Drug-Aware's key supporting services is the provision of detailed technical drug information for both medical professionals and employers such as the effects of drugs, symptoms of use, how long do drugs like heroin, cannabis (THC), cocaine or amphetamines last in the body - retention times, etc. We operate a technical helpline to answer any questions that may not be covered by these info web pages and actively encourage customers to contact us if they are unsure of anything.

Drug testing and drug awareness are both very specialised fields and are continuously evolving, so please feel free to browse the info pages below to help answer your questions, or failing that, please contact us for further information.

Info on Heroin, Cannabis THC and Alcohol Drug Information

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Information on Drugs and Alcohol - use the drug information jump menu to go straight to the info you need:

To follow are descriptions of the nature, street names and effects of the more common controlled substances. This list is intended to be in no way exhaustive, but it will give you broad background information. Please feel free to use the quick link menu below to move directly to the drug you would like to read about.

Alcohol Information - e.g. Beer, wine, spirits, etc and the UK legal Drink Drive Limit

Although alcohol is a legal substance used by many, there is clear and undisputed evidence that it impairs the user. Accordingly, there is a legal drink-driving limit of 80 mg/dl or 0.08% BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) enforced by law in the UK and USA.  For information on drink drive limits in your country visit our Drink Driving Limits for DUI / DWI page.

Alcohol is broken down by the liver at the rate of approximately one unit per hour (a pint of normal strength beer being two units). Consequently, it is possible to still be under the influence the following morning if you have drunk excessively the night before. In fact, every year in Britain over 25,000 people lose their driving licences the morning after a night's drinking.

To exercise caution, the following calculation can be used to estimate your level of risk after having drunk the night before.


1 Unit of alcohol = ½ Pint ordinary strength beer



1 standard glass of table wine



1 standard glass of sherry



1 single measure of spirits.


It is advised that you allow a minimum of 1 hour per 1 unit of alcohol before driving or operating heavy machinery or electrical equipment in order to ensure that you are not under the influence of alcohol.

This simple formula will help:

Number of units drunk - Number of hours since last drink = Alcohol content

For example: A person drinks 6 pints of an ordinary strength beer (12 units) finishing drinking at 11pm. They start work at 8am the following day. (9 Hours later).

12 Units - 9 hours = 3. In this scenario, the person could still have 3 units of alcohol left in their body whilst driving to work the following day - risking both Police prosecution and the safety of others. 3-4 Units will bring most people to the UK / USA legal driving limit. Please exercise caution.

For test kits to screen for alcohol, please visit our alcohol test kit page.

Controlled substances Overview - Illegal drug information

Controlled substances come in a variety of forms, (each carrying different lengths of prison sentence for possession if not under prescription from a qualified medical professional). They all induce different effects and are classified by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The main classes of controlled drugs you may come across are:

Amphetamines / Amphetamine Information- e.g. Speed, Whiz, Uppers, Dexies:

Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that give the user increased energy, reduced appetite and an overall feeling of wellbeing. Found in the form of white pills or powder, Amphetamines may be inhaled, injected, or swallowed. Street names include uppers, wake ups, bennies, dexies, jollies, speed and whiz. Short-term effects include an increase in talkativeness, aggressiveness, breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure, reduced appetite, dilated pupils, visual and auditory hallucinations, sweating and compulsive, repetitive actions. Amphetamines are detectable in urine using the Drug-Aware™ Amphetamines drug test kit (AMP) for 2 to 6 days at a cut-off level of 1000 ng/ml. <<

Barbiturates / Barbiturate Information - e.g. Barbs, Block-Busters:

Barbiturates are prescription sedatives. Commonly abused Barbiturates include amobarbital (Amytal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), and secobarbital (Seconal). Typically in the form of multicoloured tablets and capsules, this class of drug has numerous street names including barbs, red devils, goof balls, yellow jackets, block-busters, pinks, reds and blues. When abused, Barbiturates mimic alcohol inebriation causing mild euphoria, reduction of inhibitions, relief of anxiety and sleepiness. Higher doses cause impairment of memory, judgement and co-ordination, irritability, and paranoia.

Barbiturates are detectable in urine using the Drug-Aware™ Barbiturates drug test kit (BAR) for 3 to 8 days at a cut-off level of 200 ng/ml. <<

Benzodiazepine / Benzodiazepines (tranquillisers) Information - e.g. Benzos, Tranx:

Benzodiazepines (otherwise known as tranx or benzos) are a group of structurally related drugs widely prescribed for depression and sleeping disorders. They have sedative-hypnotic, muscle-relaxant, anti-anxiety & anticonvulsant effects and are usually administered orally in tablet or capsule form. The family of drugs include oxazepam, temazepam, diazepam (valium), chlorazepam, prazepam, halazepam and chlordiazepoxide.

Please note that even when correctly prescribed by a Doctor, Benzodiazepines may interfere with the ability of some users to perform certain physical, intellectual and perceptual functions. For this reason, people who are prescribed benzodiazepines should consult with their Doctor before they operate a motor vehicle (or heavy machinery) or engage in tasks requiring concentration and good co-ordination. Such activities may become more dangerous if Benzodiazepines are used together with alcohol or antihistamines (found in many cold, cough and allergy remedies).

Benzodiazepines are detectable in urine using the Drug-Aware™ Benzodiazepines drug test kits (BZD) for 2 to 14 days (depending on the drug) at a cut-off level of 300 ng/ml. <<

Buprenorphine (Subutex, Buprenex, Temgesic and Suboxone):

Buprenorphine is a potent analgesic often used in the treatment of opioid addiction. The drug is sold under the trade names Subutex™, Buprenex™, Temgesic™ and Suboxone™, which contain Buprenorphine HCl alone or in combination with Naloxone HCl. Therapeutically, Buprenorphine is used as a substitution treatment for opioid addicts. Substitution treatment is a form of medical care offered to opiate addicts (primarily heroin addicts) based on a similar or identical substance to the drug normally used. In substitution therapy, Buprenorphine is as effective as Methadone but demonstrates a lower level of physical dependence. Concentrations of free Buprenorphine and Norbuprenorphine in urine may be less than 1 ng/ml after therapeutic administration, but can range up to 20 ng/ml in abuse situations. The plasma half-life of Buprenorphine is 2-4 hours. While complete elimination of a single-dose of the drug can take as long as 6 days, the typical detection window for the parent drug in urine using a Drug-Aware Buprenorphine drug test kit is approximately 3 days at a cut-off of 10 ng/ml. <<

Cannabis / Cannabinoids / THC / Marijuana Information - e.g. Weed, Pot, Grass, Hash:

Cannabis is the most commonly abused illegal drug. It is a derivative of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) and can take several physical forms including dried plant material (a green or grey mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves), blocks of resin and small containers of Cannabis oil. Slang terms include weed, pot, grass, ganja, hash, hashish, herb, skunk, draw and gangster. Most users roll loose Cannabis into a cigarette called a "joint". It can be smoked in a water pipe, called a "bong", or mixed into food or brewed as tea. If someone is intoxicated by Cannabis, he or she may have balance problems and have trouble walking. Their eyes may appear red and bloodshot and he or she may exhibit memory difficulties. When the early effects fade, over a few hours, the user can become hungry and later sleepy.

The active ingredient of cannabis (THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol) is detectable using the Drug-Aware™ Cannabis test kit (THC) for typically 14 to 28 days for frequent use of the drug, or around 5 days for a one-off use, at a cut-off level of 50 ng/ml. The reason for this long retention time is that THC binds with the body's fat reserves - and leaches out over a number of days. You will also undoubtedly have patients who claim that they are positive due to passive smoking. Let us assure you that this is not the case. The cut-off level of the test is set at a level much too high for passive smoking to affect the test results.

For more information on Cannabis / Marijuana, please visit our Cannabis Information - Class, Signs, Symptoms and Effects page.  <<

Cocaine Information - e.g. Coke, Crack, Charlie:

Cocaine, otherwise known as coke, charlie, snow, blow, big C, white, nose candy, crack, rock, and freebase is derived from coca leaves whose properties include increased energy and an overall feeling of euphoria. It is a potent stimulant and one of the most powerfully addictive drugs. It comes both in the form of a white powder that is snorted and white crystals (freebase or crack) that are smoked. Visible signs of cocaine use include dilated pupils, increased temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, feelings of restlessness and anxiety. Cocaine's effects are relatively short lived, and once the drug leaves the brain, the user experiences a "coke crash" that includes depression, irritability, and fatigue. Cocaine is detectable in urine using the Drug-Aware™ Cocaine drug test kit (COC) for 2 to 5 days at a cut-off level of 300 ng/ml.

Please also see our Cocaine information - Facts, Signs and Symptoms page for more information. <<

Heroin (a member of the opiate family) Information - e.g. H, Smack, Dope, Junk:

With such street names as H, dope, junk, skag, brown and smack; Heroin is an addictive narcotic drug derived from the opium poppy. It comes in the form of a light brown or white powder that can be heated and injected or smoked in a rolled joint or cigarette. Heroin interferes with the brain's ability to perceive pain and activates the brain's pleasure system.

When injected or smoked, users report a surge of pleasurable sensation or "rush." Often, the rush is accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the limbs. Nausea and vomiting may also ensue. Use of Heroin is detectable in urine using the Drug-Aware™ Opiates / Morphine drug test kit (MOR) for 2 to 5 days at a cut-off level of 300 ng/ml. Other opiates (such as codeine in some pain medication and cough syrups) can also be detected, regardless of the detection method, so please determine any recently taken medications prior to conducting the test.

If you would like more information, please visit our heroin overdose, withdrawal and addiction page. <<

Inhalants (or solvents) Information:

Inhalants are ordinary household or industrial products that are inhaled or sniffed by solvent abusers to achieve intoxication. There are hundreds of household products on the market today that can be misused as inhalants, including glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, hair spray, petrol, the propellant in aerosol cans and correction fluid. When inhaled via the nose or mouth into the lungs in sufficient concentrations, inhalants can cause intoxicating effects that can last a few minutes or several hours if inhalants are taken repeatedly.

For more information, visit our solvent abuse information page. <<

Ketamine Information - e.g. Ketaject, Special K, Vitamin K:

Ketamine hydrochloride is a central nervous system depressant and a fast-acting general anaesthetic with sedative-hypnotic, analgesic, and hallucinogenic properties. Used as a general anaesthetic in both human and veterinary medical practice, Ketamine is normally found in injectable form. However, it can be converted into a white powder (for snorting or smoking) and re-packaged in small sealed bags or capsules. Street names include Special K, Vitamin K, new Ecstasy, psychedelic heroin, Ketaject, and Super-K. Ketamine is not detectable using Drug-AwareTM diagnostic tests. <<

LSD Information- e.g. Acid, Trips:

LSD is the most common hallucinogen and is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. It is often in the form of printed blotting paper that is placed on the tongue. Other forms include coloured tablets, clear liquid, and thin squares of gelatine. Slang terms include Acid, tabs, doses, trips, hits, or sugar cubes. The effects of LSD are unpredictable. They depend on the amount taken, the user's personality, mood, and expectations and the surroundings in which the drug is used. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors. However, sensations and feelings change much more dramatically than the physical signs. The user may feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. LSD is found in the body in concentrations too low to be detected by a visually read diagnostic test kit. Consequently, laboratory tests are needed to screen for LSD.

For more information, visit our LSD information page. <<

Magic Mushrooms Information - e.g. Shrooms, Caps:

Certain types of naturally occurring mushrooms contain hallucinogenic chemicals that can be released when eaten. The mushrooms produce a syndrome similar to alcohol intoxication (sometimes accompanied by hallucinations). Once ingested, magic mushrooms generally cause feelings of nausea and other physical symptoms before the desired mental effects appear. The intoxication from using mushrooms is mild and consists of distorted perceptions. Effects may include different perceptions of stimuli like touch, sight, sound and taste. The onset of symptoms is usually rapid and the effects generally subside within 2 hours. Physical effects can include sweating, a feeling of nervousness and paranoia. Common nick-names include shrooms, caps and magic mushrooms. Magic mushrooms are not detectable using Drug-Aware™ diagnostic tests. <<

MDMA, or Ecstacy Information - e.g. E, XTC, X:

MDMA or Ecstasy (3-4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic drug with amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. Known as E, Adam, ecstasy, XTC, and X, MDMA often comes in tablet form that is branded, e.g. Playboy bunnies, Nike logo, Mitsubishi logo, etc. This is commonly considered to be a dance or 'rave' drug used by younger people. External physical symptoms of use include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness and chills or sweating.

MDMA, or Ecstasy is detectable in urine using the Drug-Aware™ Methamphetamine drug test kit (MET) for 2 to 6 days at a cut-off level of 1000 ng/ml. Please also be aware that higher doses of Ranitidine (a medication used to control stomach acid) has been known to give a positive result on numerous brands of Methamphetamine test kits. Please determine any recently taken medications prior to conducting the test. A genuine Methamphetamine or MDMA positive sample will frequently prove positive on the Amphetamine (AMP) test as well because Amphetamine is one of the breakdown products of those drugs. <<

Methadone Information:

Methadone is prescribed to people who take heroin (or other opiates) to help reduce the risks of their illicit drug use. Methadone is usually prescribed as a green liquid for oral consumption but it also comes in injectable and tablet forms. When taken, methadone creates a sense of well-being and absence of stress which is much less intense but much longer acting than that produced by heroin. Other side effects include constipation, small pupils, sweating and itchy skin. Please note: if used by someone who is not opiate dependent this drug can prove fatal. Methadone is detectable in urine using Drug-Aware™ Methadone drug test kits (MTD) for 2 to 8 days at a cut-off level of 300 ng/ml. <<

Phencyclidine / PCP Information - e.g. Angel Dust:

Phencyclidine or PCP is a white crystalline powder with a distinctive bitter chemical taste. It is a drug only occasionally found in Britain and is much more common in America. It is illegally manufactured and sold on the street with such names as angel dust, ozone, wack, peace pill, elephant tranquilizer, dust and rocket fuel. At high doses, there is a drop in blood pressure, pulse rate and respiration. Nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, drooling, loss of balance and dizziness may accompany this. Psychological effects at high doses include illusions, hallucinations and inability to feel physical pain. <<

PCP is detectable using the Drug-Aware™ PCP drug test kit (PCP) for 2 to 6 days at a cut-off level of 25 ng/ml.

Employee substance misuse / abuse in the workplace drugs alcohol information

Information on Test Cut-off levels / Drug Retention Times:

The cut-off level is the level at which a diagnostic test determines whether a sample is positive or negative. The level at which a sample becomes positive varies from drug to drug but is based upon the research and guidance of SAMHSA in the USA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). You may have heard of NIDA cut-off levels, which are essentially the same, but were established by the predecessor of SAMHSA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse).

The principle behind the cut-off level is for all laboratories and rapid tests to test at the same level, so that wherever a test is conducted, the patient will be assessed by the same criteria and that results from one region are comparable with those of another.

More importantly, the cut-off levels are set at a point that is high enough to rule out passive smoking and low enough to ensure that a patient must have abstained from the drug to test negative.

Alcohol (Breath / Saliva)

1 hour per unit consumed


2 - 6 days


3 - 8 days


2 - 14 days

Cannabis (THC)

Typically 14 - 28 days, but a one-off use may be undetectable in 5 days.


2 - 5 days


2 - 7 days


2 - 6 days


2 - 5 days


2 - 6 days

Please note: Many factors such as age, height, weight, sex, purity of drug, dose and frequency of use can influence the above drug retention times, so please use these purely as a guide.  Urine testing detects drugs for days, hair testing detects for months and Saliva Drug Tests (Oral Fluid Drug Testing) detect drug use for hours.

Drug Test Kit Cross reactivity data

Cross reactivity is the term used to describe an instance where several drugs can give a positive result on a drugs test.

Cross-Reacting Opiates Information:

There are a number of legally available over-the-counter and prescription medications that contain opiate-based drugs. Opiates are a class of related drugs that are all derived from the Poppy. When an Opiate is taken into the body, it is broken down to be detected in the urine as Morphine. Laboratory screening techniques and rapid drug tests are designed specifically to detect Morphine, so when you get an Opiate positive result, it is not possible to tell which Opiate was originally taken without further tests.

Any of the following opiate-based drugs may create a positive result on an Opiate drug test:

Codeine Dihydrocodeine Heroin Morphine Opium

There are many over-the-counter and prescription-only medicines that may contain these compounds or derivatives of them. They vary from pain killers, to cough mixtures, to diarrhoea preparations. When collecting a urine sample to carry out a drug test, it is advisable to list on the patient's consent form which medications they have used in the last 7-14 days.

If you are not sure whether certain medications contain any of the above Opiates, please call Drug-Aware.com on 0845 900 2755 for completely free advice. We hold comprehensive pharmaceutical listings and are happy to help at any time.

“Does this medication contain Opiates?” or "How long does this drug test positive?"
Call Drug-Aware.com on 0845 900 2755 for FREE advice.


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