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Length of time drugs can be detected in the urine

April 9, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Personal injury lawyers can use this chart when investigating defendants in car accident cases
This chart is something every personal injury lawyer should have. It lists the length of time certain drugs can be detected in the urine. With an estimated 100,000 truckers alone thought to be using illegal drugs or under the influence of alcohol (and I believe the number is at least twice this number), every lawyer should be getting the toxicology results for every serious injury truck accident, and certainly every fatal crash.

There is a near epidemic of drivers under the influence on our roads, and every lawyer needs to carefully consider this in each of their cases.

Auto accidents are often not really “accidents” at all. And a car accident or truck accident that is caused by substance abuse is never an accident. It is more akin to an intentional act, and a willful disregard for the likely harm that could predictably come as a result.

The takeaway is that when you do an accident investigation, and especially when you start looking at the defendant in any serious auto accident case, one of the first things you should do is look into whether drugs and/or alcohol played a role in causing the crash.

Also consider that when truck drivers cause horrific truck crashes, they will often flee the scene (or even the state or country) until they think the drugs they’ve been abusing have exited their bodies. I was interviewed on this subject by Fox News Chicago. It is a common problem that I see as a lawyer where defendants, knowing the drug testing will come back positive, prefer to pay the fine and come up with excuses for why the driver was never tested.

This list will give you an idea of how long drugs and alcohol remain in the body:


  • 7 to 12 hours detection time


  • 48 hours detection time


  • 48 hours detection time


  • Short-acting, 24 hours detection time
  • Long-acting, 3 weeks detection time


  • Short-acting, 3 days detection time
  • Long-acting, 30 days detection time

Cocaine metabolites

  • 2 to 4 days detection time


  • Single use, 3 days detection time
  • Moderate use (4x/week), 5 to 7 days detection time
  • Daily use, 10 to 15 days detection time
  • Long-term heavy smoker, >30 days detection time


  • Codeine, 48 hours detection time
  • Heroin (morphine), 2 to 4 days detection time
  • Hydromorphone, 2 to 4 days detection time
  • Methadone, 3 days detection time
  • Morphine, 48 to 72 hours detection time
  • Oxycodone, 2 to 4 days detection time
  • Propoxyphene, 6 to 48 hours detection time
  • Phencyclidine, 8 days detection time

– Source: University of Illinios at Chicago College of Pharmacy: What drugs are likely to interfere with urine drug screens?

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