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Amphetamine Screen (Blood)

Does this test have other names?

Amphetamine concentrations screen (blood), amphetamine screen (blood)

What is this test?

This test measures the amount of a drug called amphetamine in your blood. This drug is a central nervous system stimulant. This group of drugs also includes methamphetamine, or "meth." The test is most commonly used to screen for drug abuse. It's often required by the court system and some workplaces. If you show symptoms of an amphetamine overdose, such as severe agitation and psychosis, a doctor may order this test.

Amphetamine is a commonly used recreational drug that overstimulates the central nervous system and makes users feel unusually alert, energetic, and productive. Stimulants like amphetamine and methamphetamine can also cause euphoria, overwhelming agitation, delusions, and hallucinations. Feelings of aggression and paranoia can make people more prone to violence. Abusing these drugs can also cause other serious health problems, including stroke, heart disease, convulsions, and severe tooth decay.

Amphetamine also has medical uses. Doctors sometimes prescribe the drug in small doses for patients with attention-deficit disorder, or ADD, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Doctors also sometimes use the drug to treat depression and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder marked by falling into a sudden deep sleep in inappropriate places or situations.

The test can distinguish between abuse and prescription use. 

Why do I need this test?

Amphetamine can be dangerous to your health if you take too much. If you have been prescribed this drug, your doctor may use this test to make sure you are getting the correct, safe dose.

If you come to the ER with signs of a drug overdose, the ER doctor may also order a blood or urine screen for methamphetamine, which metabolizes to amphetamine. Signs of an overdose include:

  • Hyperactivity

  • High blood pressure

  • Dilated pupils

  • Hyperthermia, or dangerously high body temperature

  • Aggressiveness

  • Irrational violence

  • Psychosis

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Severe agitation

Even if you don't use amphetamines, your workplace may require you to have the test as a condition of employment. If you are a parolee or someone being treated for drug abuse, you may need to take this test to show that you are "clean." 

What other tests might I have along with this test?

You might also need a urine test to screen for amphetamine or a blood test to check for other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

If you have signs of a methamphetamine overdose, a doctor may also order a fingerstick blood sugar test, an acetaminophen test, and an ECG to rule out other medical emergencies or monitor your condition. Doctors may also order tests to check your electrolyte balance and the health of your kidneys and liver. 

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

A test showing small amphetamine concentrations in your body is not necessarily cause for alarm. On the other hand, large amounts of the drug in your system can be dangerous or even deadly. Here are the ranges typically used in these blood tests:

  • Levels of amphetamine within the range 0.02 to 0.05 milligrams/liter (mg/L) and even up to 0.2 mg/L fall under the category of therapeutic, or prescribed use.

  • A concentration greater 0.2 mg/L is likely a sign of abuse.

  • Levels greater than 2.5 mg/L can be toxic and possibly fatal.

The results of this test only show the amount of amphetamine in your system at the time of the test. Doctors diagnose amphetamine abuse only after a physical exam that includes taking your personal history and talking with you. If you have a problem with amphetamine abuse, your doctor can suggest treatment for addiction, drug abuse, or depression. 

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

The risks are very minor. The needle may feel uncomfortable or painful. You may experience bruising, soreness, or pain in your hand or arm at the puncture spot. These symptoms usually go away soon after the test is over.

What might affect my test results?

Although blood tests for amphetamines cost more than urine tests, they are the more accurate testing method. It's possible to alter a urine test if a tester is not present when the sample is taken.

How do I get ready for this test?

No preparation is needed for this test.