When it comes to drug testing, there are a few ways to go about it. Most people are familiar with urine testing, which has been conducted since the 1980s and is the standard that most people know. Another more recent form of testing is hair follicle testing, that uses about 1.5” of hair, or more, to detect the use of drugs.
However, there’s another very recent form of drug testing known as oral fluid drug testing that’s come on the scene. If you’re not familiar with this technique, we’re about to explain some of the basics behind this method of testing.
What Is It?
As you may have already guessed from the name, oral fluid testing is essentially a “spit test.” As with urine and hair testing, oral fluid testing is looking for the presence of “metabolites,” which are the remnant molecules leftover after a substance has been processed by the body. Every substance has a unique metabolite signature that lingers in the body for some time, and scientific testing has learned to identify the metabolites of marijuana, for example, versus the metabolites of alcohol.
Oral fluid testing is done by inserting a sponge-like device on a stick into the mouth of the donor. The sponge remains in the mouth for a few minutes, absorbing saliva. Once enough time has passed, the sample is put in a bag and sent to a lab. If there’s a positive result, indicating the presence of drugs, a second confirmation test is run, and if that is also positive, the results are verified by a Medical Review Officer.
When Is It Used?
The type of drug test recommended depends largely on your “detection window,” as the different tests are capable of detecting metabolites from different points of use, for different periods. Hair testing, for example, is good if you want to know whether drugs have been used in the last 90 days, or within seven days of giving the test. The traditional urine test, on the other hand, is good if you’d like to test for substance usage within the last 4-6 days, and it’s been about a day since you suspected the substance was used.
Oral fluid, however, has the shortest testing period. If you think someone has used drugs or consumed alcohol within the last 2-3 hours, and only need confirmation of drug usage within the last 2-3 days, you can get faster results with this method. Ultimately, your time frame will determine which test works best for you.