Everything you need to know about laboratory accreditation and need to ask

Three key questions to assure yourself that your test result will be accurate

It can be difficult to find your way through the maze of different accreditations that laboratories loudly proclaim will assure you of a quality service when providing drug testing services.

We hope that the points below will clarify some of the points to look out for and help you to choose the best service for you.

What accreditation?


The first question is: “what accreditation should laboratories have for drug testing?”
  • ISO/IEC 17025 specifically addresses factors relevant to a laboratory’s ability to produce precise, accurate and reliable results.
  • ISO/IEC 17025 is the international standard that contains the general requirements to be met by laboratories wishing to demonstrate that they maintain an adequate quality assurance system for the specific characteristics and volume of work they do.
  • In the UK, the United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) is the official organisation that provides accreditation of the methods used by testing laboratories with the ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation.

ISO/IEC 17025 is therefore the standard which you should expect any laboratory you use to be accredited to.

How does ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation work?


The second question is: “does a laboratory’s accreditation cover all its activities?”
  • The answer to this is ‘sometimes but not always’.
  • Accreditation is test specific, and laboratories may opt to get accreditation for only one or two specific drug groups, rather than for all their activities and all the tests they carry out.
  • This will entitle them to claim that they are ISO/IEC 17025 accredited, even though they are only actually accredited for a few of the tests they conduct.

In contrast, other laboratories are accredited for most of their tests they provide.

So how do I find out?


The third question is: “how can  I find out whether a particular laboratory I am considering using is accredited for the tests I want it to carry out for me?”
  • The details of any laboratory accreditation can be viewed in the UKAS website, click here, enter the laboratory name to check if a laboratory is accredited and which drug groups it is accredited for.
  • If they are it will state what they are accredited for in their “schedule of accreditation“, i.e., the list of drug groups and analytes in each drug group that the laboratory is accredited for.
  • The schedule is important because accreditation is test specific, for example, “Cocaine test” should include the parent drug, that is “Cocaine” itself, and at least one metabolite (analyte) that is detected when people use Cocaine.
  • For example, below is the schedule for Cansford (or click here), showing the 37 drugs and analytes in hair, covering 11 drug groups, that are accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 at Cansford Laboratories:

Cocaine groupBenzoylecgonine, Cocaine, Cocaethylene, Norcocaine
Opiates group: 6-Acetylmorphine, Codeine, Dihydrocodeine, Morphine, Heroin
Methadone group: Methadone, EDDP
Tramadol group: Tramadol, Desmethyl Tramadol
Amphetamine group: Amphetamine
Benzodiazepines group: Diazepam, Nordiazepam, Lorazepam, Nitrazepam, Oxazepam, Temazepam
Cannabinoids group: THC, Cannabinol, Cannabidiol, THC-Carboxylic Acid (THC-COOH)
Mephedrone group: Mephedrone
Methamphetamine group: Methamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, MDEA, MBDB
Ketamine group: Ketamine, Nor-Ketamine
Alcohol markers: ETG, FAEE (Ethyl Myristate, Ethyl Oleate, Ethyl Stearate, Ethyl Palmitate)

You should be aware that only the accredited tests are thoroughly examined by the United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) annually to ensure continued compliance and maintenance of standards of technical expertise.

competenceTo view Cansford Laboratories full schedule of accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025, listed above, click here.

This means that all the analytical work performed by Cansford Laboratories has its methods ensured by the ISO/IEC 17025 standards. Some labs can only provide the same level quality standards for 2 or 3 analytes, or even less.

Our advice is not to take a laboratory’s claim that it is accredited at face value but always to check the schedule of accreditation. In this way you can assure yourself that the laboratory is regularly examined by UKAS, and so be as sure as possible that you are getting an accurate and precise result for your test.

Finally, why does Cansford Laboratories go to the trouble to get such an extensive scope of accreditation? Although it is more costly to get more tests and analytes accredited to the highest standards, Cansford Laboratories believes that by doing this it provides a more reliable service to you, for decisions that really matter.