What Are the Differences Between the 5 Types of Drug Tests?

Written by Darbtx in Facts

Drug testing is relatively commonplace, especially in the United States. Employers, law enforcement, and medical professionals routinely test people for drugs. There are five main types of drug tests that each work a little differently. Please keep reading to learn about the differences between them. Also, be sure to visit our blog post on How to Clean Your Body From Any Trace of Marijuana and Can You Get A Contact High From Cannabis?

Here are the Difference between the 5 most common types of drug test:

#1 – Urine Drug Tests

Urine tests can detect a wide range of commonly used illegal drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, and PCP. Some urine tests can also detect other substances, such as ecstasy and methadone. 

Urine tests are the most commonly administered type of drug test. This type of test involves collecting a sample of urine in a cup. Most of the time, if you’re in the process of applying for a new job, the employer will ask you to do a urine test before you get hired. 

Urine tests can detect use within the last 7 to 10 days for most substances. If someone uses a particular drug heavily, it may continue to show up in their urine for a more extended period – sometimes up to a month. 

Urine tests are generally accurate. However, of all the testing methods described in this article, they’re the most vulnerable to tampering. Some people drink a lot of water to dilute their urine before taking a urine test (although some tests will detect this). Some people will even smuggle a sample of someone else’s urine into the testing room. A urine test also won’t come back positive if the person stops using drugs for a while before taking the test.

#2 – Blood Drug Tests

Blood tests are the most accurate method of drug testing currently available. However, blood drug tests are rarely performed because they are expensive and invasive. Law enforcement most often conducts blood tests to determine whether someone was under the influence when a crime or accident occurred. 

A blood test involves drawing a sample of blood from the test subject. Unlike urine tests, which provide results right away, blood tests are sent to a lab for analysis. It usually takes at least a few days to get the results back.

Blood tests are very accurate since they measure how much of a substance was active in the person’s bloodstream at the time of testing. It’s virtually impossible to fool this kind of test. Blood tests are often used to detect the presence of alcohol and other drugs, both legal and illegal.

#3 – Hair Tests

Hair tests, like urine tests, are often administered to new employees during the hiring process. However, hair tests are considerably more expensive than urine tests, so they are less common. Jobs that require employees to work with heavy machinery, such as factory jobs, often require hair tests.

A hair test involves cutting a small sample of hair, about 50 strands, from the back of the head. The hair must be at least an inch and a half long. If a person doesn’t have long enough hair on their head for the test, a sample of body hair may also be used.

Hair tests work by detecting drug metabolites trapped in the strands. These tests can detect drug use three to four months later, depending on how fast the person’s hair grows. This type of test also provides a good overview of when a person started using drugs and when they stopped. Cocaine is one exception to this rule, though – its metabolites can travel along hair strands, making it very difficult to tell when use started and whether it stopped.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to beat a hair test. Some hair products claim to be able to scrub away drug metabolites, but there’s no evidence that they work.

#4 – Saliva Tests

Saliva drug tests involve collecting a sample of saliva from a person’s mouth with a cotton swab. These tests are gaining popularity because they’re quick, simple, and non-invasive. They’re also relatively inexpensive compared to hair and blood tests, although they still cost more than urine tests.

Saliva tests can detect drugs in a person’s system immediately after use, and they remain accurate for up to four days afterward. Some drugs are easier to detect with a saliva test than others. Cannabis, for instance, can only be detected in a person’s saliva for a few hours after use. If administered within their short window of accuracy, saliva tests – like blood tests – are very difficult to fool.

#5 – Patch Tests

Patch drug tests, or sweat tests, are still relatively uncommon. For this type of test to work, the person being tested must wear a patch on their skin for at least a week. This patch collects their perspiration. Once the testing period is up, the patch is removed and sent to a lab to be analyzed for traces of drugs.

The benefit of patch testing is that it is thorough. This type of test can detect even a single episode of drug use (which other testing methods might not catch) during the testing period. However, patch tests are more prone to giving false positives than other testing methods. They’re also more difficult and invasive to carry out than other testing methods because the person being tested must keep the patch on their skin for days at a time. Thus, patch tests are the least commonly used type of drug test. 

The Drug Test Takeaway

What Are the Differences Between the 5 Types of Drug Tests?

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