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What Types of Drug Tests Are There?

Drug testing is a standard laboratory procedure that is carried out for detecting or measuring the drug levels within the body.

There are various techniques of drug tests, and each of them carries its own pros and cons. In this article, we will be discussing various types of drug tests.

types of drug tests

1. Urine Testing

Urine testing is a common drug-testing technique that identifies the presence of drug metabolites or drugs within the urine. This technique is primarily used to screen whether or not an individual is using illegal drugs such as marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP), cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, or benzodiazepines.

Urine sample testing is a simple non-invasive drug-testing method. However, it has its own share of setbacks. While it can determine the presence of drugs in the urine, the lab results do not specify the levels of the drug, and further, it may not determine the drugs after a week post the use. The urine test may also provide false drug indications as it fails to differentiate between illegal drugs and legal substances with similar chemical formula. When urine tests come positive, the individual is required to take another test to confirm the usage of the drug.

In this type of test, you are taken into a private toilet bathroom where you provide your urine sample within 3 minutes under supervision. After providing the sample, if you flush the toilet, the test is considered invalid. Once the sample has been provided, the tester will make sure that it adheres to all the criteria. The testers will provide the results within 2 to 5 business days.

2. Blood Testing

Blood testing is a common form of drug test. While a blood test is invasive, unlike urine test, it provides individuals with better information with regards to the drug use. In the medical field, a blood test is considered the most commonly used test that is routinely performed to determine the presence of illegal drugs or the level of medication in the patients. A blood test is not routinely used and is restricted for legal purposes like testing the alcohol level in a driver.

During a blood test, a blood sample is taken from the body, generally from the arm through a needle — the tester than takes the blood to the laboratory to test the exposure of drugs in the body. The results are provided within 1 to 3 business days.

3. Hair Testing

The hair test is a minimally invasive drug test. This type of test is performed to determine the use of any illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCP, amphetamines, etc., in an individual. The hair follicles contain rich blood vessel sources that nourish the cells that facilitate hair growth. When a person uses a drug, it infuses with the blood and flows into the hair follicle, so drug traces can be determined in the hair.

Considering the fact that hair growth is a constant process hair drug test is useful in identifying the use of drug long after its exposure. However, the sensitivity of this test can vary depending on environmental as well as ethnicity factors that influence hair growth.

Typically, a hair test is performed on the head hair, but if you don't have head hair (that is 1.5" inches), then body hair sample is taken for the same. Typically the hair is taken from your armpit or leg. The tester will cut the hair from your body as close to the root as possible. Hair testing results generally take around 5 to 10 business days.

4. Oral Fluid Testing

The oral fluid test is also known as a mouth swab drug test or saliva test. It collects the saliva sample from the inside of an individual's mouth. This is a less expensive form of mouth swab test. Since swab can be collected on the spot, this form of test is easier to administrate. When the samples are collected on the spot, it is harder for an individual to cheat, thereby reducing the chances of tampering.

It takes time for drugs to break down and pass through the body into the urine. However, saliva tests can identify the most recent (a few minutes to 48 hours) use of drugs.

In the oral test, you are required to provide a saliva sample into a fluid collection device. Make sure that you are not chewing tobacco or gum during the test. The tester will then pack the container and take it for the test in the laboratory, and the result will be provided to you within 1 to 3 business days.

5. Breath Testing

This test is mostly used for alcohol detection. Contrary to the other tests, alcohol tests only show the existing level of intoxication or impairment and not the past use of alcohol. This kind of test is commonly used in the workplace or on-road by police. Alcohol tests administrate the drug use by the individual blowing into the breathalyzer, and the level of alcohol consumption is displayed on the screen.

Regardless of the type, drug test determines whether or not an individual is using illegal or prescription drugs. That information can be used for:

  • Employment purposes before hiring an individual
  • Sports organization to test whether or not the player is using any performance-enhancing drugs
  • In a motor vehicle accident or criminal investigation for legal or forensic purposes
  • Testing the level and exposure of prescribed drugs
  • Determining a potential dependency on the drug
  • Assisting the diagnosticians in dealing with medical cases
  • Helping parents or employers in screening children or employees