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How does color code drug testing work in alabama?

Drug testing is commonly used by employers, schools, and government agencies in Alabama to detect the presence of illegal or prescription drugs. One type of drug test that is frequently used is the color code or color panel test.

What is a color code drug test?

A color code drug test, also known as a multiple panel or color panel test, is a screening test that can detect several types of drugs at once. The test uses specially designed test strips that turn a certain color when they come into contact with the metabolites of specific drugs.

Each panel on the test strip tests for a different class of drugs and will display a different color based on whether the drug metabolites are present in the urine sample. For example:

  • Red: Opiates like heroin, morphine, and codeine
  • Green: Marijuana
  • Blue: Cocaine
  • Purple: Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Orange: Methadone
  • Brown: Barbiturates
  • Yellow: Benzodiazepines

The more colors that appear, the more types of drugs that have been detected in the sample. The color panels can test for anywhere between 3 to 12 drugs at one time.

How accurate are color code drug tests?

Color code drug tests are fairly accurate at detecting drug use within the previous few days. However, they are screening tests rather than confirmatory tests. This means that a positive result will need to be confirmed by a lab using more accurate methods like gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS).

According to studies, color code drug tests correctly identify drug use around 90-95% of the time when testing for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCP, and amphetamines. However, they tend to be less accurate for certain prescription drugs.

False positives can occasionally occur with color code drug tests. Common causes include:

  • Cross-reactivity – Legal substances like certain medications can produce similar metabolites.
  • Poppy seeds – Eating poppy seeds can cause a positive for opiates.
  • Dehydration – Concentrated urine can falsely elevate drug metabolite levels.

False negatives are rare but can happen if drug levels are very low or highly diluted urine is used.

Who uses color code drug tests in Alabama?

There are several situations where color code drug tests are commonly used in Alabama:

Employment drug screening

Many employers in Alabama utilize color code tests for pre-employment screening and random employee drug testing. A 10-panel test is often used to check for a wide range of commonly abused drugs.

Probation and parole

Individuals on probation or parole in Alabama may be required to undergo routine color code urine drug screening as a condition of their supervision. This helps probation officers monitor compliance with court orders to remain drug-free.

Drug courts

Participants in Alabama drug court programs that provide supervision and treatment as an alternative to incarceration are typically tested frequently with color code drug tests.

Child custody

Color code urine tests may be used in child custody cases in Alabama when there are allegations of parental drug use that could impact custody arrangements.

School drug testing

Some schools in Alabama implement random color code drug testing of students participating in extracurricular activities or athletics as a deterrent to teen drug use.

What drugs can be detected by color code testing in Alabama?

Color code drug tests used in Alabama can check for a wide range of illegal, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs including:

Drug Type Examples
Amphetamines Methamphetamine, Adderall, Evekeo
Barbiturates Phenobarbital, Seconal
Benzodiazepines Alprazolam, Diazepam, Lorazepam
Cocaine Cocaine, Crack
Fentanyl Duragesic, Actiq, Fentora
Marijuana Marijuana, Hashish
Methadone Dolophine, Methadose
Methaqualone Quaaludes
Opiates Heroin, Morphine, Oxycodone
Phencyclidine PCP, Angel Dust
Propoxyphene Darvocet, Darvon

The most comprehensive tests used can detect up to 12 different drug groups with just a few drops of urine.

How long can drugs be detected by color code testing?

The detection window for drugs tested for by color code drug tests depends on several factors:

  • Drug type
  • Dose taken
  • Individual metabolism
  • Frequency of use
  • Body mass
  • Hydration levels

On average, the detection window for the most common drugs is:

Drug Detection Window
Marijuana 3 days to 4 weeks
Cocaine 2-4 days
Opiates 1-3 days
Phencyclidine 4-6 days
Amphetamines 1-2 days
Methamphetamine 2-5 days
Benzodiazepines 3 days to 6 weeks
Barbiturates 1-2 weeks
Methadone 2-4 days

As shown, marijuana tends to have the longest detection window due to storage in body fat cells. Heavy chronic users may test positive for a month or longer after stopping.

How are color code drug test results interpreted?

Interpreting the results of a color code drug test involves examining the color panels for any visible color lines. Each line indicates a preliminary positive result for that particular drug type.

Even faint lines are considered a positive screening result. The shade or intensity of the line does not necessarily indicate the level of drug present – just that it surpassed the established cutoff level.

In addition to the individual drug color lines, color code test panels will display a control line to show that the test performed properly. Some tests may also have a cutoff line that must be equaled or surpassed to be considered positive.

Any positive screening results will need to be confirmed by a lab using a more accurate method like GC/MS. This looks directly for drug molecules rather than metabolites and can provide quantitative levels.

What happens when color code tests show positive results?

What happens next when a color code drug test shows positive results depends on why the individual was tested in the first place.

Employment testing

For pre-employment testing, a positive drug test will likely result in the applicant not being hired for the position. For random employee testing, a positive may lead to disciplinary action including termination.

Employees who dispute positive color code test results can request a confirmatory lab test at their own expense. However, they may be suspended without pay in the interim.

Probation and parole

Individuals on probation or parole who test positive on color code urine tests may face revocation of their conditional release and additional jail time. Repeated failures may result in revocation without the option to re-test.

Drug court programs

Participants in drug court programs who produce positive screening results may face sanctions such as increased program requirements or short jail stays. They may also be required to undergo counseling or intensified treatment.

Child custody

Parents who test positive on court-ordered color code urine tests in child custody cases may have visitation restricted or suspended, at least until confirmatory tests are completed.

School drug testing

Students involved in activities/athletics who have initial positive screens will likely be disqualified from participation pending lab confirmation.Confirmed positive tests will result in activity suspension and may include other disciplinary measures.

Can color code drug test results be challenged?

Since color code drug screens are less accurate than lab confirmation tests, it is possible to challenge preliminary positive results in some situations:

  • Request split specimen testing – Part of the original sample is retested.
  • Retest withHair follicle testing – Looks for drug metabolites in the hair shaft.
  • Request GC/MS confirmation – Confirmatory lab testing.

However, the window to challenge the results is often quite short. And rescreening is usually at the individual’s own expense.

In employment screening, most workers are considered “at will” and can be terminated for a positive drug test alone regardless of later appeals.

For those under state supervision or in school programs, a timely negative confirmatory result may reinstate privileges or release from sanctions.

How can color code drug test results be beaten or cheated?

While no testing method is completely foolproof, there are several ways that people try to cheat on color code urine drug screens or beat the results:

  • Substitution – Using urine that is drug-free, either from someone else or synthetic.
  • Dilution – Drinking excess fluids to lower metabolite levels.
  • Adulteration – Adding something to the urine sample to interfere with test results.
  • Detoxifiers – Taking special products that claim to clean out drug metabolites.

Many collection procedures and lab analyses now check for tampering such as checking urine temperature and creatinine levels. Those caught trying to cheat may face the same consequences as a confirmed positive result.


Color code drug testing is a common screening technique used by Alabama employers, courts, schools, and supervision programs to check for drug use. It provides quick, inexpensive results covering numerous drug classes simultaneously. However, positive screening results require lab confirmation before serious consequences are imposed. Those who dispute color code test positives in Alabama do have options for additional retesting but the timelines are short.