A drug test is a technical analysis performed to determine the presence of one or more prescription or illegal drugs in your system: blood, hair, saliva, sweat, or urine. Drug tests are typically used in pre-employment screening, DOT physicals, legal or forensic investigations, and sports screening.
There are different methods for drug testing: oral, urine, blood, hair, and sweat tests. In these procedures, specimens are usually taken and sent to laboratories for analysis.
To get a better insight, let’s take a look at each of the different types of drug tests and their uses:
A urine test is one of the most established drug testing methods that have a detection window of up to 30 days. In this test, your urine sample is checked for metabolites, which are a byproduct of when your body breaks down a drug substance.
A urine test also analyzes antigen-antibody complexes, which form when your immune system releases antibodies in the event a drug substance enters your system. The substances commonly tested in a urine sample are as follows:
Although urine is the most commonly used specimen for point-of-care testing, there have been concerns about the slight likelihood that urine samples may be tampered with or substituted. To reduce this risk, an observer may directly watch the sample being collected.
A blood test is usually performed during emergencies but can also be used to detect drug compounds for pre-employment tests. Blood tests are usually an integral part of annual physicals.
Compared to other testing methods, collecting the specimen is more invasive, since it requires drawing a small amount of blood from the vein. It is also limited to recent substance use—within 2 to 12 hours prior to the test.
A hair or follicle test needs a strand of your hair from your face, head, or armpit. It’s useful in providing information on a person’s cumulative substance use. It can detect the following:
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
- 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
Of all testing methods, a hair test offers the longest window of detection. Hair from your scalp has a detection window of three months, while body hair has a window of up to 12 months. This long detection window is attributable to the tendency of drug metabolites to remain in the hair from one week after drug use up until the hair grows. As such, a hair test can offer a timeline into how long a person has been using an illicit substance.
However, it is not without limitations. A hair test may not be highly capable of detecting low-level or single-use cases.
Oral Fluid Test
During an oral fluid test, your mouth is swabbed to collect saliva, which is then analyzed to detect the concentration of orally consumed substances. In some cases, it can catch same-day use or residual drugs in the mouth.
However, a saliva test is not without disadvantages. Saliva production may be limited due to drug use. It also has a short window of detection of approximately 24 to 48 hours after last use.
During this test, you may be required to have either an absorbent pad placed on your skin for less than 24 hours or wear a sweat patch for seven to 14 days. Like a hair test, a sweat test gives an insight into a person’s cumulative substance use. Compared to urine samples, sweat specimens are difficult to tamper with and possibly more affordable.
Drug Testing in North Richland Hills, TX
A drug test may be presumptive or definitive, the former having a shorter turnaround time but lower specificity and sensitivity. Depending on the initial findings, your clinician may order a confirmatory test to ensure the test results’ accuracy.
If you would like to schedule a drug test for your employees, visit EMC Express Care today. Our very own Dr. Greg Gardener performs efficient drug tests to ensure your employees are in the best condition they can be.