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Are At-Home Drug Tests More Accurate Than Lab-Based Tests?

Most people will have to take a drug test in their life, whether they’re trying to get hired, part of a sports organization, or for legal or forensic purposes. But the struggle to schedule time to take a drug test or the fear of failure leads many to seek out at-home drug tests.

 Of course, the top question people want to know is whether at-home drug tests are accurate. And if so, are at-home drug tests more accurate than a lab-based test? The short answer is that it varies. But to discover why we must first break down at-home drug tests. So read on before you shell out your hard-earned money on an at-home drug test.


What Are At-Home Drug Tests?

At-home drug tests are just that, tests that you can take at home that can be drug use indicators. We’ve all come in contact with an at-home drug test or know someone who has used or considered using them. What makes these tests so popular is that they can detect the possible presence of illegal substances within minutes, hence, why they’re also referred to as instant drug tests.

They can be purchased at your local drug store and are come in saliva, urine, and sometimes hair tests. Each package includes a collection cup and the test itself (strip, card, or cassette). At-home drug tests can check for the most common illegal or controlled substances. They are: 

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Methamphetamines
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ecstasy
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Oxycodone
  • PCP

Something else to keep in mind, though, is just because you pass a drug test at home, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the same results from a lab-based test. You can use at-home drug tests as a baseline indicator of drug use, but not as a surefire informant of whether your upcoming drug test will show positive or negative.


How Much Do At-Home Drug Tests Cost?

If you’re weighing the costs of an at-home drug test to determine the best option, the answer is it depends on where you purchase your test, how many panels it has, and what you’re testing for. Some tests are available at drug stores for a few dollars, whereas others can run you as much as $175. At Countrywide Testing, we sell several options for individual and multi-panel, at-home drug tests. Our tests are affordable and offer a mail-in option for those who want a more in-depth report on potential drug use.


Are At-Home Drug Tests Accurate?

Contrary to popular belief, at-home drug tests are not more accurate than lab-based tests. Several factors play into this. A notable difference between the two is the turnaround time. An at-home test has a turnaround time of a few minutes, whereas lab-based tests are more rigorous, resulting in a longer wait time to get results (on average 2-3 days).

Another reason at-home tests are less accurate is that they can easily get messed up, and external factors can impact their accuracy. Those factors include taking medication that can affect your readings, contamination, wrong urine temperature, or an expired at-home test. At-home options also conduct only one stage of testing. The best way to boost your test’s accuracy is to do lab-based testing or mail in your at-home test for further evaluation if your results are positive.

The lab version will test the sample, and if metabolites are present, they can do advanced testing to identify false positives caused by accidental metabolites. Think poppy seeds making someone test positive for opiates. Yes, this is something that can actually happen! However, most labs have cut-off thresholds to ensure that things like secondhand marijuana smoke don’t register as use.

This is why lab-submitted tests are more beneficial for drug tests. Unlike at-home tests, lab tests don’t have limits to what they can test. That is why we say these tests are more rigorous. If an employer wants to test for something specific like fentanyl, a lab can isolate those metabolites in your saliva or urine sample. An at-home test is limited to the 10 drugs highlighted in the previous section. Lastly, if a drug test is used for legal or forensic reasons, a lab-based test is often more admissible in court than an at-home test because it reduces the possibility of evidence tampering.


Note: The National Institute of Drug Abuse shares that drug testing should never be used as a standalone response to a drug problem. That means, for those using at-home drug tests to monitor the drug use of a loved one or someone seeking help, opt for additional resources to help them along their journey.



The Verdict: Choose Countrywide Testing

Although at-home drug tests are more convenient than lab-based tests, they can’t beat a tried-and-true lab test’s accuracy. As we’ve touched on throughout this blog, at-home options are a great way to monitor drug use on a base level, but they should never replace traditional testing methods. Whether you are an individual looking for mail-in drug test kits or a business or federal employer, Countrywide Testing is your go-to resource for all of 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!