Despite being used interchangeably, drug testing and drug screening are two very different terms. A drug test is often more reliable and provides an accurate analysis of an individual’s substance use. Major corporations typically prefer testing over screening.
On the other hand, drug screening is a more cost-effective approach, as it is relatively cheaper than a drug test. Also, drug screenings receive results faster than drug tests. Sometimes, drug screenings may result in false-positive results for certain drugs.
Whether an employer requires drug testing or screening, they are looking into a prospective employee’s results for signs of drug use. Drug use may indicate certain behaviors that can affect if the company will hire the individual. Illegal drugs are often associated with low productivity, frequent absences, potential harm to colleagues, and constant changing of jobs. Aside from being an essential requirement for employment, companies also often require their employees to undergo regular drug tests to ensure current employees are not taking specified drugs.
Different Types of Drug Tests
There are a variety of drug tests that employers can request. Some of the most popular ones include.
Urine Drug Test
The urine drug test examines a person’s urine to check for the presence of drugs in the system. Some of the most common types of drugs tested include marijuana, cocaine, opioids, and amphetamines.
The hair drug test serves as an indicator for repeated drug use. Unlike other tests, the hair test may determine drug use from as far back as three months. Just like the urine test, the hair test is used to detect marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and more.
Oral Fluid Test
Also known as the mouth swab drug test, saliva is obtained from an individual for testing. The sample is then screened and processed in the lab to detect drug use from as recent as a few minutes up to about 48 hours.
What to do Before a Drug Test
Here are a few things you should do when you need to take a drug test:
- Inform your healthcare provider beforehand of any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicine, or supplements you may be taking.
- Before undergoing a urine test, expect to be given instructions on how to obtain a “clean-catch” sample. Avoid drinking a lot of water just before the exam – this can result in diluted urine.
- False positives may occur. If this happens to you, wait to undergo further testing to verify your results.
- Should your results come back positive for a legal and prescribed drug, talk to your employer about the use so that you don’t get penalized.
Types of urine drug tests
There are two types of urine drug screens. The first, called the immunoassay, is cost-effective and gives results fairly quickly. However, it has drawbacks. For example, it doesn’t pick up on all opioids. Also, it sometimes gives false positives. A false positive occurs when the test results come back positive for drugs, but there has been no drug use.
If your first test comes back positive, a follow-up test known as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is done for confirmation. This type of test uses the same procedure for getting a urine specimen as the immunoassay. GC/MS results are more expensive and take longer to give results, but they rarely produce false positives.
Both types of tests can create a false negative, which is when the test reports a negative result even if there is drug use. Both tests can also fail to capture same-day drug use.
How to take the test
You will likely take the urine drug test in a bathroom specifically prepared for drug testing. The test procedure includes the following steps:
- You will receive a specimen cup from the person administering the test.
- You’ll need to leave your purse, briefcase, or other belongings in another room while you take the test. You’ll also need to empty your pockets.
- In rare cases, a same-gendered nurse or technician will accompany you into the bathroom to make sure you follow all testing procedures. They should explain the reason for this type of supervised testing.
- Clean your genital area with a moist cloth that the technician provides.
- Urinate into the cup. You need to produce at least 45 milliliters for the sample.
- When you finish urinating, put a lid on the cup and bring it to the technician.
- The temperature of your sample will be measured to ensure that it’s in the expected range.
- Both you and the collector must keep visual contact with the urine specimen at all times until it’s been sealed and packaged for testing.
Purpose of the urine drug test
There are several scenarios where a urine drug test might be necessary.
For example, your primary care doctor may order this test if they suspect you have a problem with drugs or alcohol. An emergency room doctor may also request this test if you’re confused or your behavior seems strange or dangerous.
Many employers require potential employees to take a urine drug test before they can be hired. One benefit of the urine drug screen is that it can keep people with drug problems out of jobs that require the ability to be alert and focused. For instance, an air traffic controller or truck driver who uses drugs could put the safety of many people at risk. Testing may also lower the risk of on-the-job accidents.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers test residents on a regular basis. This helps ensure that people receiving treatment for drug or alcohol abuse stay sober. If you’re on probation or parole for a drug- or alcohol-related offense, the officer in charge of your case may request random drug tests to verify your sobriety.
Finally, the tests can be used in home settings. For instance, a family member may want a loved one to take this test to prove that they’re not using drugs or alcohol. If you plan to use an at-home test, it’s a good idea to consult with your family doctor or another health professional beforehand. They can advise you on how to follow up if the test is positive.