Last updated: June 5, 2023
Crystal meth is merely a crystallized form of methamphetamine. Manufactured in clandestine, often portable, labs across the country, the ingredients include common household items and over-the-counter-cold medications. Known as “Poor Man’s Cocaine,” manufacturing this illicit drug is hazardous to those making it and to residents in the neighborhood where it’s being made as well. Hazardous gases can release into the atmosphere during the process. Methamphetamine users experience a high that can last up to 12 hours, but how long does it actually stay in the system?
The answer varies depending on the type of drug test used.
Methamphetamine actually has medical use. Physicians occasionally prescribe it to treat adult ADHD or obesity. Even then, they only prescribe it for short term use. Prescriptions aren’t refillable. Crystal meth is an illicit form of the drug. Due to the drugs “popularity,” employers want it included in employee drug tests.
Employees not regulated by the DOT have several testing options available.
Urine drug test
The majority of employers that drug test employees use the urine test. Urine tests are cost-effective. Moreover, continued advances in the technology make it increasingly difficult to falsify the test. Employees know the drill when it comes to a urine test and, frankly, it’s the test they expect when learning the company conducts employee testing.
To date, the DOT drug test requires using the urine test. However, that’s scheduled to change soon. A request to switch to the hair follicle drug test is making its way through the chain-of-command and isn’t expected to meet with resistance anywhere along the way.
Crystal meth is detected in urine about two hours after using the drug. It remains in the system for up to five days after the last use.
It takes a few days for employers to receive urine drug test results.
Hair follicle drug test
This drug test is becoming more widely used and is extremely easy to administer. The test administrator merely uses scissors and snips a small cluster (about the thickness of a #2 pencil) of hair as close to the scalp as possible.
It’s more expensive than the urine test, however, it affords employers a ninety-day detection period regardless of the type of drug used. That’s because the drug metabolites stored in the hair follicle grow out into the hair itself leaving a permanent record of any and all drug use.
Courts, probation officers, and others sometimes request a longer detection period. It doesn’t happen often, but laboratories are happy to accommodate the request. It just requires increasing the length of the hair for testing. Human hair grows approximately one-half inch each month. The normal testing length is one and one-half inches, therefore, increasing the test length by half an inch yields another 30 days of analysis.
It takes about a week to receive test results.
Mouth swab drug test
This test is also known as the saliva or oral fluids drug test. It’s also very noninvasive and requires no privacy. The test subject merely holds an absorbent mouth swab placed between their cheek and lower gum in place for a few minutes. It usually takes no more than 5 minutes, however, if someone suffers from dry mouth due to medications or nerves, for example, the process could take longer.
Mouth swab testing technology has advanced in recent years making them more and more attractive to employers and law enforcement alike. Most drugs are detected immediately or within minutes of ingesting them. Depending on the drug, detection is possible for up to 72 hours. Mouth swab tests detect crystal meth about 10 minutes after using the drug. Heavy users will test positive up to and possibly over 72 hours after they last used the drug.
Employers receive test results in a few days.
The cost, the invasive nature, and the necessity for administration in a proper medical setting are all reasons employers rarely use blood tests. They are usually reserved for post-accident situations. In such cases determining current impairment is likely to help resolve the issue of determining who or what is responsible for the accident.
Crystal meth detection varies in the blood depending on the method of ingestion. When injected, blood tests pick it up almost immediately. It takes a couple of minutes for blood tests to detect crystal meth after smoking the drug. And, lastly, if you ingest it orally, it takes two to four hours for it to hit the bloodstream.
Blood tests detect the parent drug rather than drug metabolites created during the metabolization process. Compared to mere hours for other drugs, blood tests detect crystal meth for an extended period of time! Up to three days, in fact, depending on the frequency of use.
What causes varied detection times?
In all of the drug tests, with exception of the hair follicle test, of course, the length of time crystal meth is detected had an “up to” description. There are several factors that play a part in the amount of time it takes for our body to clear itself of what we put into it.
You can chalk a lot of it up to our DNA.
- Mode of intake
- Frequency of use/dosage
- Age and overall health
- Height and weight
- Individual metabolism
The user’s experience
Crystal meth users are going for the intense, euphoric high. It comes in a burst. Their heart races and the dopamine flows freely to the brain. They feel invincible! Their energy level is off the charts and they feel they can accomplish amazing tasks or feats due to their heightened sense of focus. The rush only lasts about 30 minutes but the high lasts up to 12 hours.
Sadly, in reality, though, the rest of us often see someone sporadically flitting about, fidgeting, and randomly vocalizing—however, words may not be involved. And, then, there’s the “tweaking” stage to consider. Lack of sleep, frustration, paranoia, and coming back to reality can trigger a bad reaction in people. Taking large doses of the drug can trigger the same.
We also must mention the fact that meth users rapidly lose weight and it’s not long before addicts are literally skin and bones. Their teeth begin to rot. Moreover, their overall health deteriorates pretty rapidly.
- Change in sleep patterns
- Severe mood swings
- Unpredictable behavior
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate/irregular rhythm
- Persistent psychotic symptoms
- Depression, anxiety, isolation
- Body sores
- Breathing problems
- Irreversible damage to blood vessels in the heart, brain, and entire body
- High risk of stroke or comatose state
This stuff is classed as a Schedule 2 by the DEA due to its high potential for addiction. The drug causes severe psychological and physical dependence.
Reasons employers drug test
Employee drug testing is a critical component of a successful drug-free program. Methamphetamine, in any form, is highly abused and has a devastating impact on the lives of both the user and their family.
Crystal meth and other forms of the drug are part of the amphetamine family. That means drug tests detect methamphetamines within that category. We include the amphetamine category on all our test panels no matter which testing method you choose.
Depending on your specific drug testing policy, employee drug testing scenarios may include:
- Reasonable suspicion
- Return to duty
Employers don’t drug test to attack employees. We do it to fight the good fight against the war on drugs. The popularity of the campaign may have waned, but the intent must never be put aside.
Moreover, determining that an employee has a problem with crystal meth or any drug is a fork in the road for them. Losing your job due to your drug use is a pretty big eye-opener.
The way you handle a positive drug test result can put them on the path to recovery.