The Different Types of Drug Tests Explained

Rohan Mathew

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In This Article, We Are Going To Know The Different Types of Drug Tests Explained

Just as it’s affected every other area of life, COVID-19 has workplace drug and alcohol testing procedures in uncharted territory.

Before the pandemic, drug testing was a regular procedure that nobody thought much about. Employers and others looked for “drug testing clinics near me” and ordered the tests, employees provided samples, and the results came back. Convenience and reduced contact weren’t priorities and nobody needed to come up with creative testing solutions.

Now, you need to know different types of drug tests whether you’re an employer or employee for safety’s sake. Learning about types of drug testing helps you approach company drug policies and other drug test situations from an informed perspective.

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Breathalyzer Drug Testing

Alcohol might not be what you think of when someone says “drugs,” but as a substance that has an effect on the body, it is one. There’s no better way to test for the presence of alcohol than a breathalyzer.

It’s hard for test subjects to cheat a breathalyzer, and it gives immediate answers. If an employer suspects drinking on the job, this is the tool to use. It can’t test for alcohol consumed days or more ago, though.

Simple Saliva Swabbing

Drug testing in TV and movies carries a certain stigma. They’re dreaded and joked about, and almost always involve peeing in a cup. That is one common type of drug test that you’ll read more about shortly.

But when someone uses drugs, the substance shows up in every bodily fluid at some point. Saliva is easy to collect and minimizes contact. Mouth swab drug tests only take a second and are pain-free.

A technician uses a sanitary sponge swab to collect the test subject’s spit. This only takes a second and so long as the technician wears a mask, it is low-risk for viral transmission.

A potential downside of saliva testing is that the detection window is small. Some substances are only present for a few hours. The upper end of the range is only a couple of days.

Employers can use the short window to their advantage when they suspect drug use during the workday. Mouth swab drug tests are great for quick results and on-the-spot testing.

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Drug Testing Using Hair

Hair drug tests are even less invasive than saliva tests. Plucking a few strands of hair is all the procedure takes.

They’re used less often because it takes a long time to get results. Testing on-site isn’t possible. Instead, the hair is mailed to a lab, and results don’t come back for at least a week in most cases.

All of those factors make hair drug testing inconvenient.

Aside from eliminating contact, the biggest reason to use hair testing is accuracy. Drug testing a strand of hair shows substances used more than a month ago. Using drugs even 90 days before the test could be enough to fail.

If an employer, coach, or other official is concerned about what someone does once in a while, this is a good option. If the only policy is avoiding drug use on the job, another test is more appropriate.

One convenience of hair testing is that parents and others have the option to test for drugs at home. To avoid cheating in business or legal applications, a technician should be present to pluck the hairs or to supervise.

Urine Sample Testing 

Finally, the stereotypical drug test: urine sample testing.

“Peeing in a cup,” in common parlance, is a stereotype for a reason. It is one of the most popular types of drug tests, though it’s falling out of favor.

This kind of drug testing isn’t physically invasive because the subject collects its own sample. Yet, the embarrassment and stigma of urine drug tests carry is evidence that it’s an invasion of personal privacy.

The reason that urine sample testing is so common is that it is inexpensive and usually accurate.

The exception is when subjects use cleanses, synthetic pee, and other methods of cheating the test. These tricks are hard to prevent because nobody watches the subject urinate. While that measure of privacy is a good thing for sure, the ability to cheat is still one of the biggest downsides of urine sample drug testing.

Blood Draws for Drug Testing

The most invasive kind of drug testing is a blood test. Test subjects may or may not need to fast before the test. A phlebotomist takes a few vials of blood from the arm.

A good technician makes the test quick and easy, although it still hurts some. A big downside is that if you have a fear of blood or needles, there’s not much anyone can do to make the test less miserable.

Lucky for those people, blood drug tests are not too common. They have a limited scope of accuracy and are unlikely to detect drugs used more than a few days ago. An upside of the procedure is that it’s impossible for test subjects to cheat.

Prime Yourself for Success in the Business World

With this information about common types of drug tests, you can test or be tested with peace of mind. This is a great foundation for responsible and efficient business practices. You’re on the road to improvement and business success, so why turn off now?

Take a look around the site for more informative business articles to keep you on top of your game. If you need a break from work, we have health and lifestyle articles for you, too. There’s a lot of great information to learn, so get reading straight away!