Detecting coffee spiked with xanax?
January 10, 2007 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Can xanax dissolved in coffee be detected by a regular urine test? There's some background information on the question inside.

I should note that this question is mostly hypothetical. The acquaintance who posed it to me tends to unreliable narrator, at times. That said:

An acquaintance of mine says that his friend -- who used to use xanax, but detoxed off it some time ago -- called him a few days ago, saying she was feeling a bit weird and loopy. She asked if he could test her for xanax, and came up positive. She suspects spiking of the office coffee.

Here's what he asked me, and what I'm asking: would it be possible, using an ordinary urine test, to determine whether the coffee is, indeed, spiked?

My thinking is that these tests screen for *metabolites*, i.e. the resulting chemical after your body is done processing the drug, rather than the drug itself. However, I'm not sure of this; perhaps some amount of the drug goes into urine unprocessed, and the normal tests *do* detect straight xanax.

So, does anyone have more definitive information on these tests that would clarify whether testing the coffee would work?

[I told this guy that the whole story sounds unlikely to me -- but that if any of it is true, a very serious crime is being committed and authorities should be involved (and they would do proper lab tests). He made some vague reassuring noises.

Just to be clear: This guy could be bullshitting me, his friend could be bullshitting him, heck his friend could be imaginary for all I know. At this point, I'm just it story research. Any answers appreciated]
posted by cps to Science & Nature (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The basic tests do not. Dr. X is a benzodiazepine. (if you truck with Erowid.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:43 PM on January 10, 2007

And, I hate to try and tease out all the bullshit my detectors are registering in this story, but for one, Xanax is not a "weird and loopy," it's an "apathetic and snoozy." It's never made me "out of it," just "off to take a nap," or when taken as needed, "not freaking the fuck out."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:48 PM on January 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, ambrosia. The "weird and loopy" was my wording, I'm not sure how he phrased it. I think he did mention sleepy.
posted by cps at 3:54 PM on January 10, 2007

Response by poster: Ambrosia, did you link the page you meant to? I'm not seeing whether the urine test for benzos only detects metabolites...
posted by cps at 4:01 PM on January 10, 2007

When you click on the benzodiazepines link on that page, it goes to a site about those drugs, which says they're tested for by testing for immunoassays.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:15 PM on January 10, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry about that -- the links show purple on my system (default for visited), so I thought they were just anchors to the rest of the page.

...and now that I've visited the link it's blue. Hmph.
posted by cps at 4:40 PM on January 10, 2007

I need to go but the biotinylated antibodies on my immunoassay plates, but before I do....

posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:04 PM on January 10, 2007

At least some drug testing labs will have the capability to test for benzodiazepines. Yes, it's not in the NIDA 5, but the NIDA 5 is generally used specifically for forensic samples from a law enforcement agency. You can request the extra test...according to the site AV linked, not all places test for them; I can only say that the very small company I worked for for several years did.
Note that immunoassay is only used to SCREEN; all positive screens are confirmed by a more precise, quantitative method (almost always GC/MS). Which means anything that looks enough like benzodiazepam will screen positive, but they don't report that. They'll only report a positive if the confirmation test, well, confirms.
Yes, labs test for the case of the benzodiazepines, the major metabolite is benzodiazepam iteself, if I remember correctly. But they may have a way to test for the specific drugs (again, the small lab I worked at did). I know we sometimes did tests to distinguish the different benzodiazepines.
To make a long story short (too late) it's worth asking. I guarantee there's at least one place that could do it (though it's not worth mentioning the place I worked, it's not near you).
posted by solotoro at 5:12 PM on January 10, 2007

Alprazolam tastes terrible -- very bitter. You couldn't dissolve it in coffee in any kind of effective dose without the taste being notably off.
posted by acorncup at 6:27 PM on January 10, 2007

I have to second the issues with dosing. If someone dropped a Xanax or two into ONE person's coffee, AND they stirred it well to make sure it was dissolved AND then the victim drank the entire cup without missing the stuff that settled on the bottom, then maybe you would have a case for coffee being spiked.

If you're talking about someone dropping Xanax into a whole POT of coffee, which I guess is what, 8 - 16 cups of coffee? Then you'd have to seriously spike the coffee in order for someone to feel the effects. Minimum dosage is typically 0.5 mg for an adult, and noticeable effects would be at even larger dose than that. So let's say that's like 8 - 16 mg which is also like 8 - 16 pills, depending on the strength. That's a lot of freaking Xanax to be slipping into the public coffee. It doesn't sound likely. If someone out there has 8 - 16 Xanax that they are basically throwing away, please, just give them to me.
posted by idledebonair at 7:51 PM on January 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, guys. And good to know, acorncup. This whole thing sounds like nonsense to me -- or maybe this guy is trying to figure out whether he could get away with spiking coffee, who knows? -- but it's interesting information, nonetheless.
posted by cps at 7:53 PM on January 10, 2007

If the story you present is "true" - that is, this lady really has tested positive for Xanax but didn't take any, but has taken some in the past - the first thing I'd suspect is that she grabbed the wrong bottle out of the medicine cabinet when her hay fever was acting up (or whatever).

The second thing I'd suspect is that when she went to get a prescription filled someone grabbed the wrong bottle off the shelf and gave her the wrong stuff.

Then again, based on acorncup's observation, I kind of wonder if someone isn't spiking the public pot where I work. Gah!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:56 PM on January 10, 2007

if you have access and money take the suspected coffee and have it mass spec'd. you'll be able to see what's in it...exactly. any nida lab should have a mass spec or they'll know where to have it tested as they should send positive results to verify.
posted by killyb at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2007

Response by poster: Just to follow up:

My acquaintance has now revised his story.

He noticed his girlfriend was acting extra mellow and her skin felt hot. He asked what was going on, she said she didn't know but could he test her. Came out positive and the rest of the story is them "trying to figure out what happened", leading to the conclusion that the ex-husband who has for the moment moved back in to her place, and who on his first day there said "I'm going to take some Xanax to help me sleep" and left the bottle out, spiked her coffee.

Still sounds unlikely to me -- I think she started using Xanax again and when my acquaintance noticed, tried to pre-empt suspicion by asking to be tested. The part about the ex leaving out the Xanax may be true but I strongly doubt the spiking. It's possible, but.

In any case, thanks for all your answers. Not that the acquaintance wants to hear them, or hear my opinion on things...
posted by cps at 11:10 AM on January 13, 2007

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