What is a Saliva Drug Test?

You may have heard the saliva drug test referred to as a mouth swab or oral fluids test. The use of these tests is on the rise thanks to evolving technology that makes them more and more reliable. Employers, law enforcement, and even parents that want to detect whether or not someone has used drugs recently are turning to this test more than in the past.

Technology may soon provide a way to detect marijuana impairment in the exact moment. The technology isn’t there yet, but employers in the states that have legalized marijuana are glad to know that it could become a possibility.

Advantages vs disadvantages

Besides being useful for detecting recent drug use, this test is less intrusive than the urine test. It is cost-effective, extremely accurate, and over in minutes! In addition, since it doesn’t require the privacy of a restroom, they can be administered anywhere.

Also, because the test subject is never out of sight, there is no possibility of someone substituting the test specimen with another. Add to that the fact that there is no way to “fake it” and the mouth swab test looks like a sound choice for employers and others.

Furthermore, the only disadvantage for some is one of the advantages for others! The test only detects fairly recent drug use. The amount of time that a drug is detectable varies. Some drugs are only traceable for a few short hours.

Drug detection windows

The approximate detection periods are:

  • Alcohol: immediate detection; disappears in 12 hours.
  • Amphetamine: detected in five to 10 minutes, disappears in 72 hours.
  • Methamphetamine: detected in five to 10 minutes; disappears in 72 hours.
  • Cocaine: detected in five to 10 minutes; disappears in 24 hours.
  • Opiates: detected in one hour; disappear in 7-21 hours.
  • Marijuana: detected in one hour; disappears in 12 hours.

Administering the test

The test swab goes between the cheek and lower gum. The technician will instruct the subject to hold it in place until the swab becomes saturated with saliva. This usually takes about three to five minutes. However, if someone suffers from “dry mouth” due to a side effect of medication or nerves, it could take longer.

The saturated swab placed in a sterile container to transport to the lab for testing.

We should note that there are mouth swab tests available that provide results in just a few minutes. We would recommend that you choose using a laboratory setting instead. There is little to no chance of an error in the testing process. Also, DIY kits may not contain an FDA-approved collection device. As a rule, instant result tests are less sensitive than laboratory tests.

The saliva drug test is a useful tool for employers. Detecting recent drug use is one way to alleviate problems before they arise. Employees that use drugs are less productive, absent more frequently, and there is a higher risk that they will be involved in an accident.

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