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4 Types of Drug Tests

types of drug tests

Alcohol and drug misuse impact many aspects of society, including a negative impact on the workplace. Employees struggling with substance misuse are likely to have lower productivity, which would result in a decline in a company's revenue. The National Safety Council claims drug and alcohol abusers are up to five times more likely to be tardy or absent, act violently, or suffer injury.

In response to these issues, many organizations have created drug testing programs to identify the use of alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal narcotics. 

What Is Drug Testing?

A drug test is a scientific examination of your blood, hair, saliva, breath, or urine to determine if you have any illicit or prescription drugs in your system. Drug testing is frequently utilized in DOT physicals, pre-employment screenings, legal or forensic investigations, and sports screenings. During these procedures, professionals collect samples and submit them to labs for analysis.

Drug tests and their procedures can be different depending on the local, state, or federal laws and the substances under examination.

Why Do People Need Drug Testing?

According to the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, more than 74% of illegal drug users have jobs. This segment of drug-using personnel causes about 40% of all workplace fatalities in the United States. This, among other things, emphasizes the significance of drug and alcohol testing, especially at work.

Alcohol, some prescription medications, and illegal narcotics are all targets of drug testing programs. Testing can help:

  • Identify drug misuse and addiction so employers can offer early intervention and aid in accident prevention
  • Assist an employee who has a drug abuse problem to accept or acknowledge it
  • Protect others from the impacts of drug use and abuse
  • Safeguard a company's employees, security, and finances
  • Assist a patient in staying responsible during the recovery phase to avoid relapsing

Drug testing helps safeguard the well-being of a worker abusing drugs or alcohol. Because most people don't want to run the danger of losing their jobs due to a positive drug test, testing also aids in discouraging drug usage.

The Most Common Types of Drug Tests

With certain types of drug tests, it is possible to determine which drugs are present in an applicant's or employee's system and for how long. Here are a few of the most popular drug tests and their purposes.

1. Hair Testing

You'll need a strand of hair from your head, face, or armpit for a hair or follicle test. This analysis helps reveal details about an individual's cumulative substance use. It can find the following substances:

  • Opioids
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)

A hair test provides the broadest window of detection among all testing techniques. The detection window for scalp hair is three months, whereas, for body hair, it is up to 12 months. A hair test can also show the duration the person has used an illicit substance. It has several restrictions, though. For instance, hair tests might not be very good at spotting low-level or one-use cases.

2. Urine Testing

A urine drug test, sometimes referred to as urinalysis or a urine drug screen (UDS), is a straightforward procedure. It examines your urine to see whether there are any prescription pharmaceuticals or illegal substances. Some may include screening for alcohol, however, breath testing is generally considered more effective for that purpose.

Urine drug tests typically screen for:

  • Cocaine
  • Methadone
  • Opioids
  • Methamphetamines
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Marijuana
  • Barbiturates
  • PCP

An employer or physician may use a urine drug test to identify potential substance misuse issues. Once they know which substances a patient could be abusing, a treatment plan can be developed. Urine drug tests are also useful to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment plan and confirm that the individual is no longer using drugs.

3. Saliva Testing

One of the least expensive drug testing methods is oral fluid analysis, sometimes called mouth swabs or saliva tests. Experts can easily collect the samples on-site, and the test effectively detects the presence of residual drugs. Best suited to identify recent substance usage, saliva tests give accurate results even two days after drinking or drug consumption. 

Saliva testing often looks for the following illegal and regulated substances:

  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines (including methamphetamine and MDMA)
  • Marijuana/THC
  • Opiates (including codeine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone)

4. Blood Testing

Blood tests are expensive yet more effective in identifying exact alcohol content levels than urine or breath tests. They can reveal intoxication levels even a day after drinking. 

Since blood tests are intrusive, as you need to insert a needle to draw out blood, laboratories offer a selection of discreet methods to collect the blood sample.

VAMs, or volumetric absorptive microsampling, is one such method as it only requires small blood samples. Tiny needles or portable devices are used to prick the finger and draw a few drops of blood. This collects blood samples more quickly and less invasively than standard methods.

Results from blood tests can be more comprehensive than those from urine tests and provide more nuanced information than the simple presence of drugs. The results of these blood tests can reveal both the presence of drug metabolites and the actual concentration of the drug in the body.  And according to research, intoxication is detectable in even small blood samples, providing reliable information. 

Some alcohol and drug treatment facilities are now using devices to take small blood samples and get more accurate results. With this method of sample collection, there is less chance of patients changing or tampering with samples, which can happen with urinalysis.

Get the Drug Tests You Need with Countrywide

Do you need answers? Countrywide Testing can empower you to assist your friend, loved one, or employee when they are battling substance addiction or abuse. Our drug tests give you proof, enabling you to start dealing with their risk factors and provide them with the help they need.

Countrywide Testing is an online retailer offering convenient drug and pharmacogenetic testing access. We provide quick, multipanel drug tests that you can perform in the workplace or at home. Explore our range of at-home drug testing, or contact our experts now to learn more!