How do you prove abstinence from drugs?

Gail Evans, Alphabiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 15/03/2023

Whether you are struggling with substance misuse or have been asked to take a drug test for other reasons, there are many circumstances in which you might be asked to prove that you are not taking or misusing drugs. 

Here, we take a closer look at drug abstinence, what it is, and how you can prove abstinence from drugs.

Table of contents
  • What is drug abstinence?
  • Who might need to prove abstinence from drugs?
  • What are the different ways you can prove abstinence from drugs?
  • Where can I get a drug test for abstinence?

What is drug abstinence?

Abstinence, or the act of abstaining from something, involves avoiding or not engaging in certain behaviours.

Therefore, drug abstinence or being abstinent from drugs, means avoiding using drugs entirely.

Drug abstinence is a term that is most often used in the treatment of drug addiction, where a person has become dependent on certain substances and finds it very difficult to stop using them.

In these circumstances, they might be required to prove abstinence from drugs as part of their recovery.

The term is also used during legal matters, where an individual might be required by the court to prove drug abstinence, usually via routine drug testing. 

Who might need to prove abstinence from drugs?

There are many circumstances where you might be asked to prove that you are abstinent from drugs, including:

For legal reasons e.g. child welfare or custody disputes

If you are the parent or caregiver of a child and have a history of substance misuse, or have been suspected of substance misuse, you might be required to prove abstinence from drugs where the safety and welfare of the child is a concern.

This is common in family courts, where the custody of a child is in dispute.

Proof of abstinence from drugs may also be requested during pre-proceedings, where local authorities need to make important decisions about a child’s welfare.

In these circumstances, the court may order, or social services might request that you undertake routine drug tests over a defined period to demonstrate abstinence or a reduction in drug use over time.

For people who are struggling with substance misuse, this can not only aid recovery, but can also provide an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to long-term abstinence.

Personal reasons – proving abstinence to loved ones

If you have been accused or suspected of misusing drugs in your personal life, by a partner, friend or loved one, you might want to prove abstinence from drugs without the need for third-party involvement from the courts or other authorities.

In these circumstances, a home drug test for peace of mind can prove useful.

The results of these tests cannot be used in court or for legal reasons but can help if you need a negative drug test result for personal reasons (provided you have been abstaining from drugs).

AlphaBiolabs offers two peace of mind drug tests, for home use:

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (£18) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from £99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing

Employees being drug tested for work

If you are a contractor, freelancer, consultant, or new employee joining a business, you may be asked to take a drug test before you start work.

This is more common in safety critical industries, where the health and safety of colleagues and members of the public could be at risk if a person uses drugs on the job.

Industries that routinely test for drug misuse include manufacturing, engineering, rail, aviation, construction, and fleet.

Many businesses operating in other industries have also introduced substance misuse policies for full- or part-time employees, which can involve random drug testing, for cause drug testing – where there is reasonable suspicion of drug misuse, including post-accident or incident – and/or return-to-work drug testing for employees who have previously tested positive for drug use.

Individuals undergoing treatment for substance misuse

If you are in treatment for substance misuse, your support worker might recommend that you abstain from drugs completely, especially in circumstances where continued drug use could be life-threatening.

However, some rehabilitation centres believe a slow withdrawal from drugs to be safer for some people.

In most circumstances though, your care provider will make a recommendation based on what is most likely to aid your recovery and reduce the chances of relapse in the future.

People with previous drug-driving convictions

If you have previously had your driving licence revoked or refused due to drug misuse or dependence, you may be required to prove abstinence from drugs before your licence can be reinstated.

This will usually involve an independent medical assessment and a urine drug test arranged by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

What are the different ways you can prove abstinence from drugs?

Ways that you can prove abstinence from drugs, include:

Drug testing

When a person uses drugs, a proportion of the drug and its metabolites are released into the bloodstream, with a small amount being excreted by the body in different ways.

This makes it possible for drug use to be detected – or abstinence to be proven – using a drug test.

Drug tests work by analysing a variety of samples for the presence of drugs and their metabolites, including urine, saliva (oral fluid), hair and nails, with each drug testing method offering a different insight into a person’s drug use.

For example, oral fluid drug tests can detect drugs for up to 48 hours after consumption, while urine drug tests can detect drugs and their metabolites up to four days after drugs were consumed.

These tests are known as ‘narrow window’ forms of testing, as they only provide an insight into drug use that has occurred within the past few days.

Hair drug testing and nail drug testing are forms of drug testing that provide a ‘wide window’ of detection for historic drug use (up to 12 months).

This is due to the way in which substances are retained in the hair and nails once they have been consumed, with drugs and their metabolites becoming trapped in the innermost layer of the hair shaft, and in the keratin fibres of the nails.

Rehabilitation centres

A drug rehabilitation or ‘rehab’ centre is a place where drug treatment programmes are provided in a residential setting, to help people recover from substance misuse or dependency issues.

Rehab centres can provide insight into how a person is doing during their treatment, particularly in cases where the person is involved with legal matters for which they need to demonstrate drug abstinence.

For example, Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) will use a range of methods to assess an individual’s abstinence from drugs, and whether they are able to maintain custody of children in their care.

These assessments may include clinical judgment and feedback provided by recovery centres, alongside drug tests.

In the case of rehabilitation and treatment centres, courts can liaise with these support services for insight into how a person’s recovery is progressing, and whether they have been able to abstain from drugs.

Where can I get a drug test for abstinence?

If you or someone you know is looking to prove abstinence from drugs, AlphaBiolabs can help.

We have been providing accredited drug testing services for members of the public, the legal sector, and the workplace sector for over 15 years.

Our laboratory can analyse a variety of samples for the presence of drugs and their metabolites, including oral fluid (saliva), urine, hair, and nails.

We offer drug testing services to suit a range of needs, including:

If you require a drug test to prove abstinence and would like advice on which test might be best for you, call our friendly, discreet Customers Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

Drug Testing Services

Explore our accredited drug testing services.

Gail Evans, AlphaBiolabs

Gail Evans

Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs

A professionally-trained forensic scientist, Gail joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and holds the role of Technical Trainer.

Her day-to-day responsibilities include delivering in-depth training sessions both internally and externally, covering DNA, drug, and alcohol testing.

Throughout her career at AlphaBiolabs, Gail has held a variety of roles, including within the Legal and Workplace sectors of the business.

Before joining the company, Gail was a practicing forensic scientist with 25 years’ experience working for the Forensic Science Service, attending scenes of crime, and analysing physical and biological material with potential evidential value.

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