Drug tests are taken today for many reasons, including employment, athlete screening, background checks, DUI testing, court-ordered testing, insurance policies, and disease control. While some may take at-home tests, most drug tests are done professionally. Below are the most common drug tests used today and what they are testing for.
There were approximately 55 million drug tests performed in 2015, and 90 percent of them were urine tests. Rather than detecting the actual drug, which becomes metabolized once it’s been consumed, the urinalysis detects drug metabolites rather than the parent drug. Unfortunately, although urine tests can be somewhat accurate, they’re also the test that’s the easiest to beat if an individual knows the right methods.
Blood tests, unlike a urinalysis, will detect the actual parent drug. While it’s the most accurate drug test, it’s also the most invasive. Due to their high cost, they are only used for legal purposes or in important cases. A blood test can detect marijuana, alcohol, and nicotine to name a few. The downside is that most drugs don’t stay in the bloodstream more than a couple days, so it may not be accurate if too much time has lapsed.
Like a blood test, the saliva test is used to detect parent drugs in an individual’s system. It’s less expensive and less invasive than the urinalysis, which has made it increasingly popular in recent years. However, it must be done correctly for it to be accurate. Additionally, the saliva swab must be administered within days, if not hours, of use to detect most drugs.
Hair follicle testing can be used for many purposes, but it’s most common purpose is for research. It may be used for other purposes, such as paternity cases. Hair follicle testing can be very accurate when testing for illegal drug use. It will not only detect if the individual has been using drugs, but also the frequency in which the individual uses drugs. The downside of this test is that hair can be easily contaminated from environmental things like dust or oil, which can give an inaccurate result. This is more often found with dark-haired individuals.
Of all the drug tests available, the urinalysis is the test most commonly used. Once the test is performed, it is sent to a laboratory for analysis. In most cases, the results are confirmed within a day or two.