6 Different Types of Drug Tests
Drug testing methods have been around for decades. According to historians, the first official record of drug testing in the U.S. began in the early 1930s in New York. After that, employers began drug testing shortly after the Vietnam War. Now, decades later, thanks to science and technology, we have the different types of drug tests we know and rely on today.
There are six types of drug tests regularly used to test for various illegal and controlled substances, ranging from alcohol and marijuana to PCP and heroin. Drug tests are so popular because they can quickly and accurately identify the evidence of past or current drug use. Testing is most frequently used by sports organizations, legal or forensic purposes, and everyday employers.
Below, we highlight the common types of drug tests available for use in the current market.
Up first on our list of different types of drug tests are urine screenings. According to a study by Analytical Toxicology, they are the most common tests you will find on the market and the most likely to detect substance use than any other test available. This testing method, which is also called urinalysis, is one of the least invasive options and the only one to be approved for federally mandated testing. When a 10-panel drug test is conducted, it checks for 10 illicit substances, including:
These tests show the presence or absence of drug metabolites, aka drug residue that leaves traces in your urine. An estimated 90 percent of employers conduct pre-employment drug screenings, which often use urinalysis to uncover drug use. Employers can also request the test randomly or post-accident in certain occupations. Some rehab facilities also test urine to determine if a patient is staying clean.
We are all familiar with the idea of hair testing; we have seen it in our favorite movies and tv shows. Like urine testing, hair testing is non-invasive, and a sample is easy to obtain. It is based on the idea that drug metabolites enter the blood vessels in our scalp. Our hair then filters it out, keeping a permanent record of our adventures.
The downside of using the hair testing method is that it doesn’t indicate recent drug use but rather details a history of repeated drug use up to 90 days: when the individual used illegal substances, for how long, and when the user stopped. Another downside is that it requires 1.5 inches of hair to run the test efficiently, and it can also be a costly and lengthy process to conduct. Though many employers don’t rely on this type of drug test, hair analysis is still a viable testing method. The types of drugs tested for include:
Oral Fluid Testing
If urine testing is the most popular among drug tests, then oral fluid testing is a close second. This testing method works by swabbing an individual’s inner cheek to collect saliva or having them spit into a cup. The sample then gets sent to a lab, where it is screened and processed. What makes oral fluid testing an ideal method for employers is that it provides quick results and can detect drug use as recently as a few minutes to 48 hours prior. It is also cost-effective and easy to administer. Because of its simplicity, many companies opt to do testing on-site, which allows them to monitor testing and remove the possibility of tampering. Oral fluid testing can identify:
- Marijuana (detectable 4 to 10 hours ahead of time)
Of all the types of drug tests on this list, blood testing is by far the most accurate. Unfortunately, it also one of the most expensive and invasive methods. A trained phlebotomist usually performs blood testing, and the samples get analyzed in a lab. This testing method can detect drug usage as recently as minutes before the time of testing, using the metabolites that form in your blood.
- Alcohol (traceable within 24 hours of last usage)
One of the newer types of drug tests on the rise is perspiration or sweat testing. Individuals apply a sweat patch to their skin for 14 days. Throughout this determined period, the patch collects sweat excreted through the skin and gets analyzed for the presence of drugs. This type of drug test is most commonly used to monitor individuals on probation or recovering from prolonged drug use. Like other types of drug tests, the panels test for standard substances, plus a few others:
Unlike the other types of drug tests, breathalyzer testing is reserved specifically for alcohol use. Users take the test by blowing into a sterile tube attached to a detection device and receive their results in mere seconds. Technology such as smartphone apps has even contributed to the rise in home-testing. Although breathalyzers are ideal for on-the-spot DUI testing, they are limited to detecting current impairment levels and cannot detect past use.
The Bottom Line: Countrywide Testing
There are several types of drug tests available for employers and authorities to detect and monitor substance use. If you need drug testing equipment or have more questions about the different types of drug tests available on the market, consider Countrywide Testing your go-to resource for all your testing needs.
We are an online realtor of drug and alcohol testing and lab services. Our products include pregnancy tests, medical supplies, multi-panel drug tests, and more. We also work with a SAMHSA, ISO, CLIA, and CAP licensed laboratory, which means you can rest easy knowing your samples get processed by a government-trusted facility.
If you’re interested in learning more about our services, contact us today to learn more!