Drug metabolites are compounds that are produced as a result of chemical transformations of a drug within the body. Initial drug tests, such as urinalysis, often look for presence of drug metabolites, rather than the actual drug, in the system so as to determine whether employee used or abused an illicit drug.
Drug metabolites are compounds that are the result of body processes reacting with a drug. The metabolites themselves aren’t usually automatically psychoactive even though the original drug may be, but when this altered form keeps producing effects in the body the active form of the processed drug is referred to as an active metabolite. Typically, these effects tend to be similar to the effects of the parent drug but often not as strong.
Urinalysis, the most common workplace testing method, tests for the existence of the drug metabolites and not for the existence of the illicit drugs themselves because urine is a waste product and unlikely to contain any unaltered drug at that point.
Drug metabolites are powerful markers of drug activity and a useful first testing method for screening large numbers of employees quickly.