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What is Forensic Drug Testing?

If you’re someone who loves true crime or crime shows, chances are you’re familiar with the term forensic drug testing. It’s the process of using simple chemistry to identify illegal substances. What makes them so important is that their results get used in legal proceedings. That’s right; a positive drug test can make or break a court case! However, forensic drug testing is vastly different in real life than what you see on TV. There is much to know about forensic drug testing, especially if your company or branch of the criminal justice system is ever in need of testing.

Let’s get into it!


Is Forensic Drug Testing Anything Like What I See on TV?

First off, forensic drug testing in real life is an entirely different process than what you see on television. It’s not like that courtroom drama you were binging watching last night, where the police officer rubs a white, powdery substance between their fingers and declares, “it’s cocaine.” Also, a police officer can’t look at you and know which drug you’ve been using. Uncovering the mystery of your drug usage is strictly up to a qualified professional like an analyst. In fact, it is mandatory by law that only such professionals perform an official forensic drug test to determine usage.

Furthermore, it is impossible to determine a drug is by appearance, smell, or even taste. On the topic of taste, when you’re watching television, you might see a police officer taste a substance and say something like, “that’s heroin.” Not only is this tampering with evidence, but the officer would also be putting themselves in danger and at risk of poisoning themselves.

Additionally, crime room dramas can make forensic drug testing appear to be a quick and easy process. In reality, it’s a lengthy process to determine what alleged substance was even at the crime scene. While sometimes police officers can test a drug at the scene using portable laser devices, the results of these tests cannot provide a complete chemical analysis, and they cannot be used as evidence in a court of law.

When conducting forensic testing, a special analyst is responsible for testing and relaying information to the authorities. In court, these analysts are required to present the evidence, share the quality control methods used in the lab, and prove that the instruments used for the drug test are clean and up to par. The chemical analysts who perform this test must also prove that they are qualified to perform forensic drug testing. Essentially, forensic drug testing is only valid when performed by skilled analysts and should be left to those who specialize in this field.


What’s the Difference Between Forensic and Clinical Drug Testing?

When it comes to which drug testing method to use for a court-ordered test, the best choice is always forensic drug testing. Although clinical drug testing is much more straightforward than its forensic counterpart, forensic testing is often more thorough. Clinical testing is also less expensive and is often used by physicians and addiction treatment centers to treat patients best.

On the other hand, forensic drug testing is only necessary when evidence is needed for legal proceedings. This means that the person getting tested must consent to the drug test, and it must be requested by a government official, such as a judge. Additionally, because its results can significantly impact a court case, the chemical analysts performing the test must provide quality assurance to prove that their results are accurate.


How Long Does It Take for the Results to Come Back?

Because of the time-sensitivity often associated with a forensic drug testing panel, you can typically expect to have your results back in about one to two days. That is if the testing is done at a laboratory. Every so often, a test may report a false positive. In this event, the sample will need to undergo additional testing to confirm their findings further, which can take an extra two to three days.


What Type of Screening Can I Expect with Forensic Drug Testing?

Blood and saliva testing are uncommon with court-ordered drug testing. It is often too expensive to test a person’s blood, and saliva test results are too easy for people to tamper with. The most common type of test used in forensic drug testing is either a hair follicle or urine test. The reason for this is that options like hair follicle testing are harder to trick.

Hair follicle samples are taken from the back of your head, and if you’re bald, you can expect body hair to be taken from your legs or arms. By testing hair follicles, clinicians can find drugs in your system from the past 90 days. However, authorities may also request a urine sample for drug testing to confirm the hair follicle results.


What Kind of Results Can I Expect?

When you get your forensic drug test results back, you should expect the report to have information about drugs present in your system. If your test results come back negative, it means that anything that might have been in your system is below the cutoff level for detection. If your drug test results return positive, it means the substances in your body were above the cutoff level. Again, false positives occasionally happen, so if your results come back positive, the laboratory will test the sample a second time, using a much more rigorous method to confirm that you’re truly taking an illegal substance.



Leave It to the Professionals: Countrywide Testing

When you use Countrywide Testing, you never have to worry about the accuracy of your forensic drug test results. Our goal is to help both employers and authorities obtain valid results regarding the detection of substance and alcohol use. We offer several options to ensure accurate forensic drug testing.

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!