Oral Fluid Drug Testing Development Part – 2


Last updated on October 6th, 2020 at 01:32 pm

Oral Fluid Drug Testing Development Part – 2

Click Here for Oral Fluid Drug Testing Development Part – 1

The use of oral fluid as a specimen source for substance abuse testing moved ahead at the same pace from April 1997 to January 2006 as testing with the use of the other specimens, i.e., hair, sweat patch and on-site testing devices.  After the rejection of the proposed Mandatory Guidelines in 2006, it became apparent that much more work would be needed to make the use of alternative specimens viable and forensically defensible, especially for Federal regulated workplace drug testing.

In a November 25, 2008 update to the Mandatory Guidelines was this statement: “With regard to the use of alternative specimens including hair, oral fluid, and sweat patch specimens in Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, significant issues have been raised by Federal agencies during the review process which require further examination, and may require additional study and analysis.”  What that statement meant was that more information and data had to be collected to meet the goal of allowing these alternative specimens to be used in Federal regulated workplaces and to be forensically defensible.  In the meantime, the drug testing industry was going down the path of using alternative specimens for non-Federal regulated workplaces.

The data gathering for oral fluid did not progress much until August 2008.  Data was presented to DTAB giving the results of 5 years of test results with oral fluid as the specimen source.  The data was extracted from 650,000 analyzed specimens collected from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2007.  It is interesting to note over half of these specimens were collected in 2007.  Out of the data collected for 650,000 specimens, 648,372 specimens were analyzed with a positive rate 4.3%.  The MRO verification rate was almost 96% with most of the reversals due to prescribed use of opiates and amphetamines. 

The following drugs were identified in this dataset and reported by the MRO service as verified positives:

Drug/Drug class

Percent Positive Rate













It is interesting to note that this dataset showed the reversal rate for amphetamines was very similar for urine based drug testing.

Further analysis of the data showed over 8,000 were rejected for testing as shown in the table shown below:

Rejection Reason

Number of specimens Rejected

Insufficient specimen volume

Over 4,000 specimens

Specimen seal broken or tampered                                              

Approximately 2,700 specimens

Mismatched numbers on the specimen and CCF

448 specimens

There were 614 specimens with a report of being invalid.  483 specimens of these 614 specimens were identified as not having detectable amounts of IgG.  72 specimens exhibited interference with the GC/MS analysis.  There were some specimens that were identified as QNS (Quantity Not Sufficient) and as a consequence, confirmatory analysis could not be performed.

A comparison to urine based drug testing was performed with the positive rates were found to be comparable to non-regulated urine based drug testing.

On September 28, 2008, there was a closed (not open to the public) meeting with the following oral fluid items being discussed:

  1. Oral Fluid Issues; and
  2. Oral Fluid Laboratory, Instrumented Initial Test Facility, Point of Collection Tests.

All of these efforts were combined to facilitate a viable discussion for the use of oral fluid in workplace drug testing.

The next article will focus more on the development of oral fluid for testing of drugs of abuse.

About Bob Schoening 

Robert Schoening is well renowned for his knowledge and influence in the drug-testing arena. As the Drug and Alcohol Program Manager for the US Coast Guard (December 2001-March 2013) he developed and managed a successful drug testing program for the marine industry nationwide and internationally.  During this time he developed and implemented a new compliance audit checklist as well as the writing and publishing a new Marine Employers Guidebook for Drug Testing.  He is also the author of the federal regulation commonly known as the two-hour alcohol testing for maritime incidents.

Robert is active participant in community service.  He recently served on the Policy Board for the Alcohol Safety Action Program in Fairfax, VA (January 1989-December 2012).  Since moving to Whidbey Island in Washington, he has been named to serve on the Substance Abuse Committee and recently been named to serve on the Ferry Advisory Committee both of these committees are located in Island County, WA.

Bob Schoening is currently a consultant for Workplace Drug Testing and Drug Abuse Prevention Programs.