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When you hear about urinalysis at a job interview, you might think, “I’m good. There is no way I won’t pass. I don’t do drugs.” While this might be true and you might be feeling pretty confident in passing your screening, some employers and insurance companies test for nicotine, too. This situation can make things a bit more interesting.
There are many different reasons why someone has to get a nicotine test. It can be for a job interview, insurance coverage, an upcoming surgery, child custody cases, etc.
Many times, people do not think of nicotine as something to watch out for when it comes to screenings, but it can impact you negatively. So what can you do to prevent a positive nicotine detection?
Do your research. As technology advances, urinalysis and screenings have also become more efficient and precise. They can detect trace amounts of many different types of drugs, chemicals, etc. even if it has been a while since you used them.
If you have an interest in securing a successful urinalysis, then you want to make sure you are keeping up with the “latest and greatest” screening advancements.
How Long is Nicotine in Your System?
Generally, nicotine will be undetectable in the bloodstream one to three days after stopping the use of tobacco. However, if you use are being asked to do a urine screening, nicotine should be undetectable between three to four days after stopping tobacco use.
Now all of this also varies on your use of tobacco. The more tobacco ingested, the more it can skew your nicotine levels, and of course, screenings can check for that too. Depending on the trace levels of nicotine in your system, insurance companies and employers can decipher if you are a heavy, moderate, or light smoker.
Types of Nicotine Screening
There are two types of nicotine tests:
- Those collected in a lab, where the person being tested urinates into a cup with a tamper-evident seal and gives the sample to the lab personnel, or doctor
- On-site urine screens using an inexpensive kit.
While a lab-style test is more accurate and private, an on-site analysis gives those being tested less notice and is less expensive. On-site testing provides quick results and can be legally binding if backed up later by a lab report.
In a urinalysis, some companies not only screen for nicotine, but they might also screen for nicotine’s byproduct, cotinine. Cotinine is looked for a lot of time in nicotine testings because it is more stable and lasts longer in the body.
People sometimes ask how much urine is needed for a drug test, and the answer is not much at all. But even with a small amount of urine, a lab technician can find tell-tale signs of nicotine use.
Methods of Screening
There are three main procedures for screening urine: immunoassay, gas chromatography, and gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry.
Immunoassay uses interactions between antigens and antibodies to detect substances. Specific antibodies bind to specific components of nicotine, and immunoassay screens for those types of antibodies instead of the metabolites themselves.
This method is rather accurate, although it can sometimes not differentiate between types of drugs. False negatives are more common than false positives.
Gas chromatography uses techniques that separate particles in the urine. An inert gas pushes the urine through chromatographic columns, which separates aspects of the urine by affinity for different parts of the device.
Various compounds are identified by the time it takes them to separate; this is called retention time. Each nicotine metabolite has a unique retention time.
Gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is a two-step process. First, the urine sample is separated using the gas chromatography method outlined above. Then, mass spectrometry identifies the exact molecular structure of compounds of interest.
When a sample enters the spectrometry machine, electrons surround the sample; this causes the compound to separate even further, “fragmenting” in a way that compounds can be conclusively identified.
GC-MS is the most accurate method of screening and is considered the definitive test in a court of law.
Abstinence (not using a substance) and substitution (using another person’s urine or synthetic urine) are the only ways to circumvent a GC-MS screening.
Common rumors for circumvention (drinking water, drinking vinegar, herbal supplements) are unreliable, and most labs actively look for the intentional alteration of urine composition.
How can a urine screening adversely affect me?
There are a couple of ways that a positive nicotine screening can affect you. One of the most obvious ways is that it can cause you to either lose a job or not get hired for a job.
However, there are other adverse outcomes to a positive nicotine screening depending on your situation. If you are trying to get insurance or change your policy, positive screenings can affect how much you end up paying for health insurance.
Nicotine is unhealthy for the body. Now, the more of a health risk you are, the higher your insurance payments and deductibles might be as well. Your health insurance costs might be hinging on the passing of your nicotine urinalysis.
Also, if you find yourself in a situation where you are in court for child custody, then having a positive nicotine screening might deem you “unfit” to care for the child due to the environment.
While this does not necessarily prove you not to be able to care for someone, it can, unfortunately, give someone leverage to say that the child runs the risk of secondhand smoke or easy access to tobacco.
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If this upcoming nicotine screening has got, you all worked up, contact us at (866) 420-4574 today and speak with a representative that can answer all of your questions. We can walk you through the whole process and how it works.