Saliva drug testing works by collecting and testing an individual’s saliva, and involves the use of a swab to collect the specimen from the donor’s mouth. Saliva is collected by actively swabbing the cheek, gums, and under the tongue for approximately 3 minutes. The swab is then plunged, screwed, or dropped into a container which activates the testing strips, and rapid results are typically available to read within 10 minutes and up to 1 hour after conducting the test.
Our most popular instant saliva drug test is a lateral flow chromatographic immunoassay for the qualitative detection of drugs and their metabolites in oral fluids at the following cut-off concentrations: Amphetamine (50 ng/mL), Methamphetamine (50 ng/mL), Cocaine (20 ng/mL), Opiates (40 ng/mL), Marijuana (12/75 ng/mL), Phencyclidine (10 ng/mL), Benzodiazepines (50 ng/mL), Oxycodone (50 ng/mL), Methadone (75 ng/mL), Barbiturates (300 ng/mL).
As with any type of rapid diagnostic test, there are both advantages and disadvantages, and the following article is intended to focus solely on the benefits of saliva drug testing. For all types of diagnostic tests, it is recommended that presumptive positive results be confirmed by a certified laboratory in accordance with state and federal laws.
Drug Testing & Staffing Industry
Regardless of the method used (saliva/urine/blood/hair), the simple fact that your company does any type of drug testing (and advertises as such) in and of itself acts as a powerful deterrent for predatory applicants, and has proven benefits in reducing on-the-job accidents/injuries, healthcare expenses, and various workers comp-related costs.
A study from 2015 reports that only less than half (approximately 45%) of staffing companies use drug testing across the board to screen their applicants, and 26% of all staffing firms say they rarely test or do not test their applicants at all. In addition, recent preliminary surveys show the number of companies who do not test (or have discontinued testing during/post pandemic) has significantly increased since 2020. Thus, staffing companies that continue testing most or all of their applicants should consider their practices to be best in class.
There are several ways in which a saliva drug test is easier to take when compared to alternative urine tests, blood draws, or hair follicle collections. Blood draws and hair follicle collections are more invasive and can cause unnecessary pain – even a skilled healthcare worker may have trouble finding a vein to draw blood, and hair follicle collection can be costly, intrusive, and time-consuming. Urine testing presents its own challenges, as donors may have trouble producing a urine sample on demand (even after drinking excess water), and those with paruresis (shy bladder syndrome) may have an even more difficult time. In addition, both blood and urine can be classified as hazardous fluids and require special handling.
On the other hand, saliva testing can be conducted at any time, without the risk of physical pain and added anxiety. A saliva drug test does not require a restroom or dedicated facility, and the entire procedure can be administered in the presence of both the administrator and donor. With urine tests, the specimen is collected by the donor themselves in privacy, significantly increasing the risk of adulteration/dilution of the urine specimen.
Adulteration & Dilution
There are four common methods a donor will typically use to cheat/beat a urine drug test: 1) substituting their urine with synthetic urine or clean/drug-free urine purchased from an outside source; 2) drinking a commercial product to help flush out specific drugs from the system; 3) adding an adulterant chemical/substance in vitro to the specimen after collection to mask the drugs; 4) using tap/toilet water to dilute or substitute the specimen. These products/methods are readily available on the internet and can be easily obtained. While some instant urine tests do include additional strips/tests for adulteration which may catch in vitro additives, it is worth noting that synthetic urine and dilution tactics have been proven to successfully cheat/outsmart urine adulteration strips.
As highlighted in the previous section, saliva drug testing can be performed in the presence of the administrator, so there is little to no risk of adulteration or substitution. While there are countless products on the market for adulterating and cheating a urine drug test, there are no known saliva adulterants for beating a saliva test. In addition, donors are encouraged to wait 10-15 minutes before providing a sample to help reduce the risk of anything in the mouth affecting the test.
Minimum Detection / Impairment
The minimum detection window/period is the amount of time it takes for a drug to show up in a person’s system after using the drug. A urine test detects the major metabolite of a drug, while a saliva test will detect the parent compound of the drug (the same compound found in blood). Saliva testing has a better minimum detection window since it takes about 4 hours for a drug to become detectable in urine – while drugs can be detected almost immediately in saliva (as soon as the individual begins to feel the effects of the drug). For example, the Journal of Analytical Toxicology states, “…urine testing may be unable to identify that someone has smoked cannabis in the previous four hours—precisely the time frame which is most relevant for identifying likely impairment.”
Saliva drug testing has been on the market and widely accepted for over a decade now. The cost of saliva devices has dropped significantly in recent years due to increased supply and options. Compared to a standard laboratory urine/blood test or hair follicle test, saliva testing is much more cost-effective. Urine testing can be slightly cheaper than saliva testing, but mouth swabs are becoming more comparable in price as one of the most efficient ways to test on the market.
Here is a bulleted overview of the comprehensive benefits of saliva drug testing:
- Non-invasive and comfortable: Saliva drug testing is less intrusive compared to blood, urine, or hair tests, providing a more comfortable experience for donors. This can lead to greater cooperation and acceptance among employees, potentially improving the overall screening process.
- Fast results: Saliva drug tests can produce results quickly, often within minutes. This allows for timely decision-making and can help reduce downtime for both employees and employers during the screening process.
- Applicable to a wide range of substances: Saliva drug tests can detect a broad range of substances, including prescription medications, illegal drugs, and even some over-the-counter medications. This versatility makes saliva drug testing a valuable tool for staffing agencies and employers looking to maintain a drug-free workplace.
- Storage and transportation: Saliva samples are relatively easy to store and transport, as they do not require refrigeration or special handling. This can simplify the logistics of sample collection and transportation to a certified laboratory for confirmation testing, if necessary.
- Legal compliance: Saliva drug testing can be a useful tool for employers to comply with various federal and state regulations, such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations and other industry-specific requirements.
- Improved workplace safety and productivity: Implementing saliva drug testing as part of a comprehensive drug-free workplace program can contribute to a safer and more productive work environment. Reduced drug-related accidents and absenteeism can lead to improved employee morale, lower insurance premiums, and increased overall efficiency.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is intended for informational purposes only. RiskProducts.com is not a law firm, and no attorneys were employed or consulted in the compilation of the information contained herein. It is highly recommended that users consult with an attorney or a drug testing expert before making any policy decisions based, in part or in whole, on the information contained in this article. All forms of diagnostic and employment testing must be conducted in compliance with applicable state and federal laws. Ensuring compliance is the sole responsibility of the user of this information and the entity they represent.