Oral Fluid testing is a hot topic in drug testing today. What should you know about it? Should you be using it? How does it compare to urine drug screens and Hair testing? Find out now…
Welcome to the National Drug Screening video blog series. My name is Tom Fulmer. I am the vice president of business development and I will be hosting this series. You can find out more information on our website and by visiting our blog at: www.nationaldrugscreening.com . It is where we help employers and individuals better understand drug testing, drug testing policy, and trends. Plus what is necessary to have a drug-free workplace. Today’s guest is Mr. Joe Reilly. He is the president of National Drug Screening. He is also the former chair of DATIA (DATIA merged with NDASA in 2023). The national Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association and a current board member. Mr. Reilly has been consulting in the industry since 1993.
Tom: Today’s topic on the National Drug Screening video blog series involves a hot topic in drug testing today. It is oral fluid testing. So, could you tell us what exactly is oral fluid testing?
Joe: Well, Tom you hit the nail on the head. It is a hot topic in the drug testing industry. Oral fluid testing is sometimes called saliva testing. So, traditionally we test for drugs in the workplace drug testing with urine. In the last 5 to 10 years oral fluid testing has become popular. Basically, we are collecting an oral fluid sample with what I call a “sponge on a stick” that is inserted into the donor’s mouth for a couple of minutes. The saliva specimen which is on that “sponge on a stick” is put into a bag, sealed up and shipped off to the laboratory. They do initial screening on that oral fluid. They do a confirmation test on that oral fluid if it was positive. Then the test result is reviewed and verified by a medical review officer or a MRO.
Tom: So, if using oral fluid versus some of the other options out there what things can oral fluid testing be used to detect?
Joe: Oral fluid testing can certainly be used for the traditional five-panel drug test that has been used in workplace drug testing now for 20+ years. Testing for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCP and amphetamines. Oral fluid testing can also add on the expanded opiates testing which will pick up your pain medication drugs, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone and those type of pain medications. There are some labs today that have even expanded the oral fluid testing even further to pick up more prescription-type drugs like barbiturates, benzodiazepine and propoxyphene. The lab-based oral fluid drug testing can also determine ethyl alcohol from the oral fluid.
Tom: It sounds like it can test for quite a few things. So, how does oral fluid compare to urine drug screening or a hair test as far as detection times, versatility and use?
Joe: Well, I get questions a lot of times about urine drug testing, oral fluid drug testing and hair drug testing. Which is best? It is not really the case that one is better than the other. It is really about what you are trying to accomplish. Now, you mentioned oral fluid detection times and that is really what we’re talking about here. The difference between oral, urine, and hair is all about detection times and the window of detection. With oral fluid we have the shortest window of detection. We can detect drugs from a couple of hours after ingestion up to about two days or maybe three days. With urine we are detecting drugs about a day after ingestion and perhaps up to about four, five or six days. With hair we are detecting drugs after about seven days from ingestion up to approximately 90 days. So, oral fluid is to test with the shortest window of detection.
Tom: Are there times that a company maybe should use oral fluid testing only or Should it always be used in conjunction with something else or does it depend on the case?
Joe: Well, my best recommendation for company is to use oral fluid drug testing for reasonable suspicion drug testing. That is because you’re trying to determine if the person is currently impaired. The oral fluid drug test will not tell you that they are impaired but it will tell you that they used to drugs recently. I will also recommend oral fluid drug testing for post-accident drug testing. You’re trying to determine if the use of drugs may have caused the accident. So, the oral fluid drug test will tell you if positive that the person used drugs a short time ago. But, I will have to caution that if it is a DOT drug test program currently oral fluid testing is not allowed. For the DOT drug testing program, currently the specimen is urine for drug testing. So, we just need to be careful about that but look for it in the future and probably in the next year or so that DOT will allow oral fluid drug testing.
Tom: Excellent. Well, I thank you for joining us and sharing information about oral fluid testing today. Make sure you find out more on our blog at www.nationaldrugscreening.com. You can choose the blog. We also have a great search function so you can type in oral fluid testing and find some great information about that as well as other drug testing options and trends in the industry. Make sure you join us next time for our next video blog show with some great topics coming your way.