FACT CHECK Fact Sheet News PHL Vote 2022

VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Three things you need to know about drug testing

No law requires aspirants to elective positions to undergo a drug test. But after President Rodrigo Duterte claimed on Nov. 18 that “a presidential candidate” has been using cocaine, some of the aspirants released drug test results to prove they were not the one the president was alluding to.

In another speech four days later, Duterte, who is running for senator in the 2022 elections, said the unnamed aspirant eluded law enforcers because “[rich men] go on a yacht, yate, or in the air” to snort drugs. The president did not name the aspirant but described the person as a “very weak leader” who “might win hands down” because of his “father’s name.”

On Nov. 23, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., said in a statement that he took a “cocaine test” a day prior, although he said he did not feel that he was the presidential aspirant Duterte was referring to.

“I really don’t feel that I am the one being alluded to. In spite of that, I believe it is my inherent duty as an aspiring public official to assure my fellow Filipinos that I am against illegal drugs.”

Sara Duterte-Carpio, the president’s daughter and Marcos Jr.’s vice-presidential running mate, likewise underwent a drug test upon the “request of [her] uniteam partner.”

To quash rumors about Duterte’s claim, other presidential hopefuls and their vice presidential bets voluntarily went to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and had themselves tested for illegal substances.

The tandems of Sens. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso and Willie Ong used multi-drug testing kits for their urine samples.

All of them tested negative for the following illegal drugs: methamphetamine (shabu), MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, and THC (marijuana).

Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao publicized his negative anti-doping test, dated September 2021 from Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), which was taken prior to his fight with Youdenis Ugas in Las Vegas.

Labor leader Leody De Guzman has expressed willingness to take drug tests. However, he said he will not “fall” for the Lacson-Sotto “gimmick” and will comply only if the Commission on Elections (Comelec) makes drug testing a requirement in joining the presidential race.

Another presidential aspirant, Vice President Leni Robredo, said in a chance interview on Nov. 24 that drug tests should be done “unannounced” to get real-time results.

Distrust in Marcos Jr.’s cocaine drug results

Some critics raised doubts on the authenticity of Marcos Jr.’s cocaine test result because of a supposed outdated telephone number and wrong address, and the format of the document.

Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, chief of staff and spokesperson of Marcos Jr., said in a statement to reporters that the results will “stand on its own” and that people who are doubting the authenticity, methodology, and process done to get the result should address their questions to the institution that conducted the test.

Some readers of VERA Files have also submitted inquiries about the drug test document to the VERA Files misinformation tip line on Viber.

St. Luke’s Medical Center – Bonifacio Global City (SLMC-BGC), in a statement released on Nov. 25, clarified that the test result presented by the camp of Marcos Jr. follows a “standard and common format” among healthcare facilities authorized by the Department of Health to conduct dangerous drug tests.

VERA Files Fact Check reached out to SLMC-BGC for the methodology, process, and type of drug test kit Marcos Jr. used, but has not received a response at the time of publication.

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said the Supreme Court (SC) struck down in 2004 the Comelec’s plan for a mandatory “drug test” on candidates.

In view of the questions raised about the drug test results made public by some of the aspirants to the country’s top posts in the 2022 elections, let’s find answers to some of these. What are the types of drug tests and how long does cocaine stay in the body? What is the most accurate test to detect these illegal substances

1. What are the types of drug tests?

Stimulant drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy typically stay in the body system depending on the user’s drug use history, genetics, health and pre-existing conditions.

Detection or window time is the length of time a drug can be detected and still produce a positive result. There are multiple sources of specimens to detect use of illegal substances: urine, blood, saliva, hair, breath, and sweat.

A urine drug test, the most common type of drug screening because it is “fast, cheap, and easy,” typically detects cocaine for one to four days after the last use. A heavy user can test positive for up to two weeks, according to the American Addiction Centers in the United States (U.S.).

Blood and saliva drug tests have the shortest window of detection of only two days from the last use.

Hair testing can trace up to 90 days (or 3 months) after the last use. For chronic users, cocaine can be traced from six months up to several years.

Lastly, sweat patches, which should be attached to the skin for days, can detect drug metabolites after perspiration collection.

2. What are the effects of cocaine?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse under the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the effect of cocaine on the body appears “almost immediately” and disappears within a few minutes to an hour. “Short-term physiological effects of cocaine use include constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure,” it added.

Repeated intake of cocaine may lead to “increased irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, paranoia and even a full-blown psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations,” if the user takes it in high doses.

Over time, snorting cocaine may cause “nosebleed, impaired sense of smell, trouble swallowing.” Smoking cracked cocaine “damages the lungs and can worsen asthma.”

3. Which is the most accurate drug test for a cocaine user?

It depends.

For frequent users, cocaine can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days. Not every user can show up positive within that time frame compared to heavy users, U.S.-based Peaks Recovery Centers noted in its website. Drug screening using the hair usually requires one and a half inch of samples because hair grows approximately half an inch per month, based on a peer-reviewed journal published in the U.S. NIH.

The hair sample is cut from the back of the head, cutting close to the scalp, to estimate most recent drug use. It added that for patients who are bald or who have shaved their head, hair may be taken from the armpit, face, or other unshaven part of the body.

Bleaching and melanin content of hair should also be considered because high concentrations of certain drugs may be potentially higher in dark hair compared to blond or red hair.

Urine tests can detect cocaine metabolites for recent use.

Some people have found ways to cheat on this type of testing, according to an article in the American Association for Clinical Chemistry publication. To keep people from cheating, the University of Rochester Medical Center said in a fact sheet that some testers will watch the individual urinate in a cup. And for the urine samples provided by the person, testers may test them right away. The result may be available in minutes.


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RTVMalacanang YouTube, Joint NTF-RTF ELCAC IV-B Meeting in Oriental Mindoro, Nov. 18, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Joint national Task Force-Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict Mimaropa meeting in Oriental Mindoro, Nov. 18, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the inspection of airport and seaport development projects in General Santos City, Nov. 22, 2021

RTVMalacanang YouTube, Inspection of the General Santos Airport Development Projects, Nov. 22, 2021

Bongbong Marcos Jr. official website, Statement of Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. on the blind item that a presidential aspirant is a cocaine user:, Nov. 23, 2021 (archive)

Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte-Carpio official Facebook, Today, I took a drug test that yielded negative of any illegal substances, Nov. 24, 2021 (archive)

Vicente “Tito” Sotto official Facebook, ICYMI: Nagpunta sina SP Vicente Tito Sotto at Sen. Ping Lacson sa Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency ngayong araw at boluntaryong nagpadrug test., Nov. 21, 2021 (archive)

Isko Moreno Domagoso official Facebook, Tested NEGATIVE for illegal drugs! Doc Willie Ong, Nov. 24, 2021 (archive)

U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, What is methamphetamine?, July 16, 2019

U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA (Ecstacy/Molly) DrugFacts, July 15, 2020

U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Cocaine DrugFacts, April 8, 2021

U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Marijuana DrugFacts, Dec. 24, 2019, Pacquiao releases recent negative drug test results, Nov. 23, 2021

ABS-CBN News Online, Pacquiao camp says he’s been cleared of drug use, Nov. 23, 2021

GMA News Online, Pacquiao bares negative drug test results taken before Ugas fight, Nov. 23, 2021

ABS-CBN News Online, Bong Go, Leody De Guzman say willing to take drug test, Nov. 22, 2021

One News PH Facebook, #BilangPilipino2022 | Presidential aspirant and labor leader Ka Leody De Guzman weighs in on the voluntary drug testing of Partido Reporma standard bearer Sen. Ping Lacson and his running mate Senate Pres. Tito Sotto, Nov. 22, 2021, Bets rush to take drug tests in wake of Duterte’s cocaine comments, Nov. 24, 2021

GMA Public Affairs, Unang Hirit: VP Leni: Mas mainam na ‘unannounced’ ang drug test, Nov. 25, 2021

On distrust in Marcos Jr. ’s drug test results

On types of drug tests

  • Peaks Recovery Centers, How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your System?, Retrieved on Nov. 24, 2021
  • Hadland, S. E., & Levy, S. (2016). Objective Testing: Urine and Other Drug Tests. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America, 25(3), 549–565. Retrieved on Nov. 24, 2021

On effects of cocaine

On accurate cocaine drug test


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)