Drug Testing Terminology

Note:  Definitions are expressed in terms applicable to the subjects of drug testing and pharmacology. Some terms may possess inherently different meanings when applied to other fields of study.

  • Accuracy: 
    The ability of a test device to produce a reading that matches the known value for the sample.
  • ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): 
    A disorder characterized by short attention span, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity, diagnosed typically in children.
  • Amnestic: 
    An agent used for the treatment of impaired memory function.
  • Analgesic: 
    An agent that reduces pain without affecting consciousness or other sensory perceptions, also known as a painkiller.
  • Anesthetic: 
    An agent that causes loss of sensations, including but not limited to, the sensation of pain.
  • Anorectic: 
    An agent that reduces the appetite.
  • Anorexic: 
    An agent that reduces the appetite.
  • Anticonvulsant: 
    An agent used to control convulsions and seizures, primarily in the treatment of epilepsy; also known as an antiepileptic agent or an antiseizure agent.
  • Antiemetic: 
    An agent that reduces vomiting.
  • Antihyperbilirubinemic: 
    An agent used for the treatment of antihyperbilirubinemia (jaundice): a common disorder in newborns wherein the chemical, bilirubin, accumulates in the infant's blood and causes a yellow hue.
  • Antitussive: 
    An agent that suppresses coughing.
  • Anxiolytic: 
    An agent that reduces anxiety, also known as an antianxiety agent.
  • Cannabinoid: 
    Any of the active principles of Cannabis Sativa (marijuana), including, but not limited to, THC.
  • Central Nervous System (CNS): 
    The body system comprised of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressant: 
    An agent that diminishes brain and/or spinal cord function or activity, typically resulting in decreased energy, altertness, and anxiety.
  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulant: 
    An agent that amplifies brain and/or spinal cord function or activity, typically resulting in increased energy and altertness.
  • Cross-react: 
    When a substance other than the target drug/metabolite causes a positive test result. Most cross-reactions are desired due to the substance being very similar to the target drug/metabolite; though some cross-reactions are undesired.
  • Cross-reactivity: 
    The degree in which substances other than the target drug/metabolite are shown to generate positive test results.
  • Cutoff Level (Cutoff Concentration): 
    The concentration of a substance, in urine, required to yield a positive test result, typically reported in nanograms (1 billionth of 1 gram) of the substance per milliliter of urine (ng/ml). Samples with a drug/metabolite concentration equal to or greater than the cutoff concentration are reported positive. Samples with a drug/metabolite concentration below the cutoff concentration are reported negative. A lower cutoff level indicates greater sensitivity to, thus greater ability to detect, the substance.
  • Depressant: 
    An agent that diminishes a body function or activity.
  • False Negative Test Result: 
    A test result indicating that no targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is present in the sample; or a targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is present in the sample in a concentration less than its cutoff concentration; when, in fact, a targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is present in a concentration equal to or greater than its cutoff concentration.
  • False Positive Test Result: 
    A test result indicating that a targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is present in a concentration equal to or greater than its cutoff concentration; when, in fact, a targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is not present in a concentration equal to or greater than its cutoff concentration.
  • General Anesthetic: 
    An agent that produces unconsciousness and loss of sensation, including but not limited to, the sensation of pain. Since general anesthesia occurs at brain level, the entire body is affected.
  • Hallucinogen: 
    An agent that distorts sensory perceptions, sometimes resulting in sensory illusions, which can be mild or extreme.
  • Hypnotic: 
    An agent that induces sleep.
  • Interference: 
    The effect that a substance has on the accuracy of test measurements.
  • Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS): 
    A rare form of childhood-onset epilepsy that usually appears between ages 2 and 6, characterized by frequent seizures, multiple seizure types, behaviour issues, mental retardation, regression, and a resistance to medications or therapies.
  • Local Anesthetic: 
    An agent that causes loss of sensations, including but not limited to, the sensation of pain, at the specific region of the body where it is applied.
  • Metabolite: 
    A modified form or byproduct of a drug manufactured by the body as a result of ingesting the drug. Some metabolites are excreted in the urine. When the concentration of a metabolite excreted in urine is known to exceed the concentration of the orginal unchanged drug excreted in urine, the metabolite, instead of the original drug, typically will be used as the target for a urine screen. Such is the case with marijuana testing and cocaine testing. A standard marijuana urine test targets the metabolite, 11-nor-D9-THC-9, rather than marijuana's active ingredient, THC. Likewise, a standard cocaine urine test targets the metabolite, benzoylecgonine, rather than cocaine's active ingredient, Cocaine HCl.
  • Narcolepsy: 
    A sleep disorder characterized by symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness, uncontrollable sleep attacks, and cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control).
  • Narcotic (Narcotic-Analgesic): 
    An agent that reduces pain through depression of the central nervous system.
  • Negative Test Result: 
    A test result indicating that no targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is present; or a targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is present in a concentration less than its cutoff concentration.
  • Non Cross-Reacting Compound: 
    In cross-reactivity testing, a substance that shows no cross-reactivity with (is not detected positive by) the test device in question.
  • Positive Test Result: 
    A test result indicating that a targeted drug/metabolite (or substance listed in the Specificity table) is present in a concentration equal to or greater than its cutoff concentration.
  • Preanesthetic: 
    An agent administered prior to administering an anesthetic, typically before surgery. A preanesthetic might be used as a sedative to reduce anxiety experienced by the patient, as an analgesic to reduce pain experienced by the patient, to increase the effectiveness of the anesthetic, or to counteract specific effects of the anesthetic.
  • Precision: 
    The ability of a test device to produce the same value during repeated measurements.
  • Prodrug: 
    A drug that is inactive in its original form, converting to its active form after being metabolized in the body.
  • Quantitative Test Result: 
    A test result expressed in numerical terms in order to determine the specific quantity of drug/metabolite present in the sample.
  • Qualitative Test Result: 
    A test result expressed in non-numerical terms in order to determine the presence or absence of drug/metabolite in the sample.
  • Reproducibility: 
    The ability of a test device to produce the same value during repeated measurements in various laboratories that are participating in a collaborative study.
  • Sedative: 
    An agent that produces relaxation, typically resulting in decreased alertness and lack of coordination.
  • Sedative-Hypnotic: 
    dd>An agent that produces relaxation in lower doses, typically resulting in decreased alertness and lack of coordination; while inducing sleep in higher doses.
  • Sensitivity: 
    For quantitative test devices: The smallest concentration of drug/metabolite that produces a response distinguishable from the background or blank value. For qualitative test devices: The minimum concentration of drug/metabolite that is capable of generating a positive test result. In qualitative test devices, this amount is generally the same as the cutoff concentration.
  • Spasticity: 
    A condition in which muscles contract, become stiff, or spasm involuntarily.
  • Specificity: 
    The degree in which a test device detects only the drug and/or metabolites that are intended to be detected, without detecting substances that are not intended to be detected.
  • Status Epilepticus: 
    A state of having continuous seizures, without relief, requiring emergency medical attention.
  • Stimulant: 
    An agent that amplifies a body function or activity.
  • Target Drug/Metabolite: 
    The specific drug or metabolite that the test device is designed to detect. This substance, along with its cutoff level, is typically set to an industry standard. For example, a standard amphetamine urine test will target d-amphetamine at a cutoff level of 1,000 ng/ml.
  • Tranquilizer: 
    An agent that reduces anxiety, also known as an anxiolytic or an antianxiety agent.