What Is TCA on a Drug Test? (And How to Pass the Screening)

A doctor checking a blood sample if TCA is present

TCA testing is utilized to discern if an individual has used tricyclic antidepressants. This type of testing is often requested by companies, healthcare providers, and other organizations.

If you’re taking a TCA drug test for work, you may wonder how to beat it. I’ve spent years researching the best way to pass a TCA drug test and finally found the answer. But before we get into that, let’s answer the question: “what is TCA on a drug test?”

Quick Summary

  • Dosing TCA can be tricky – you have to find the perfect amount that will still be effective but not pose any danger.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were among the first drugs used to treat depression and other mental health problems.
  • Most medical doctors prescribe TCAs for their patients with mental health conditions, but they must undergo TCA testing.

What Is TCA On A Drug Test?

A close up image of a doctor holding a blood sampleTCA on a drug test is tricyclic antidepressants. This test measures tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) in a patient’s blood or urine sample. TCAs are one type of antidepressant, a medicine used to treat depression. 

Depression is a severe illness that can change how you think, feel, and act. There are various antidepressants, all with slightly different effects on patients.

TCAs have to be carefully dosed. Finding an effective dose without being dangerous can be challenging. TCAs cause many prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States [1].

Besides patients prescribed TCAs for legitimate diagnoses, drug abusers who use cocaine and other illegal drugs sometimes use tricyclic antidepressants to calm down and sleep.

What Is A Tricyclic Antidepressant? 

A tricyclic antidepressant is a type of antidepressant medication that can be used to treat depression and other mental illnesses. Tricyclic antidepressants help regulate the chemicals in the brain which affect mood [2].

They increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, and norepinephrine, a hormone involved in energy regulation. Commonly prescribed TCAs include Doxepin, Nortriptyline, and Amitriptyline.

“Tricyclic antidepressants work by preventing the reabsorption of neurotransmitters called serotonin and norepinephrine.”
Daniel B. Block, Board-Certified Psychiatrist

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Detection Time for TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants)

A drug test usually takes 1-5 days to show signs of TCAs. Because TCAs have similar impacts and chemical structures, many can be detected by a single-strip test.

TCAs are used in place of PCP on many 12-panel drug tests because they’re less likely to produce false positives for other drugs. 

With the TCA strip, doctors can more easily identify if a false positive result is due to an error. TCAs are known to be used as downers by cocaine users, so if someone fails a test for both drugs, it’s additional evidence that they have an active cocaine addiction.

What Happens During a TCA Screen?

An image of a doctor getting blood sample for TCA screenDuring a TCA screen, a healthcare provider will insert a small needle into a vein in your arm to collect a blood sample. Once the needle is inserted, they will collect enough blood to fill a test tube or vial, which usually takes less than five minutes.

Some people report feeling a sting when the needle goes in and out, but this sensation is only temporary.

If it is a urine test, you will need to fill a sterile cup to provide a urine sample for the TCA test. Your provider will give more information on how to collect your sample.

What Do The TCA Test Results Mean?

The TCA test results mean that the tricyclic antidepressants detected in your sample are either higher or lower than what’s considered normal. In a positive result, it will show a higher level of TCAs. You may then need a follow-up screening to determine if further action is necessary.

Depending on your levels of TCA and which TCA you are taking, your blood test results will show how well the medication is working. Your provider may adjust your dosage based on these tests.

There are two types of TCA urine tests. One type will show whether TCA was found but not how much. The other type shows the actual level of TCA in the body.

If blood or urine drug tests come back with high levels of TCA, you will be treated immediately. If the test comes back with a negative result, no TCA drugs are present.

Anything Else To Know About a TCA Urine Test?

An image of a doctor writing down a prescription after a TCA test

The most common type of mental healthcare provider that prescribes TCAs is a medical doctor. However, other types of mental healthcare providers work with providers who have the power to write prescriptions for mental health disorders.

Other types usually include:

  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed professional counselor (LPC.)
  • Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)


What Are the Side Effects Of TCA?

The side effects of TCA include anxiety, apathy, blurred vision, changes in appetite, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, hallucinations, hives, and hypersensitivity.

What Other Tests Might I Have Along With A TCA Test?

The other tests you might have, along with a TCA test, are other blood tests. A few of the tests that will be performed are a complete blood count (CBC), creatinine, electrolytes, and blood sugar. Your provider will also check for other substances commonly taken with a TCA overdose.

How Long Do TCAs Stay In Urine?

TCAs can stay in urine for up to 10 days. This depends on the individual’s body, drug dose, and frequency.

Prepare Yourself For a TCA Screen

If you are prepared to take the TCA screen, you can use several methods. You can use synthetic urine to pass the screening, though this method is not foolproof and risky. You can also drink a lot of fluids to detox before the test to increase your chances of passing it.

The Clear Choice Rescue Cleanse is an excellent product for everyone trying to detox. It has a blend of natural ingredients, and it tastes great too!

The main benefit of the Clear Choice Rescue Cleanse is that it helps disguise drug use through dilution to pass urine tests.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/deaths/index.html 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557791/

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