The Drug Class Blog

Apr 08

Drug Testing

Below is a guest blooger article from Lena Butler, although Lena is addressing the workplace home testing is also a good idea for many of the same reasons.

3 Kinds of Drug Testing Done in the Workplace

Although workplace drug testing is relatively uncommon in Canada, it has been commonplace in the United States for a few decades now and it continues to be adopted by small and large companies alike.

We will look at the three main types of drug tests used for workplace drug testing and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Organizations will generally use one or more of the following types of tests to conduct pre-employment, random, post-accident and reasonable suspicion testing: urine tests, saliva tests, and hair tests.

Urine Tests

Undoubtedly the most common type of drug test used in a workplace setting, urine testing can be done instantly right at the workplace or it can be done in a laboratory. Instant Instant urine tests come in a variety of formats, including dip cards, where a testing strip is dipped into a specimen; cassettes, where a portion of the specimen is transferred into a plastic cartridge for testing, and all-in-one cups, where a donor provides a specimen directly into a cup that contains the drug tests inside of it. In these all-in-one cups, a mechanism is performed (like pushing a button or turning a key) and the tests are all performed within the cup while the results are readable on the outside of the cup, meaning the tester never has to interact directly with the specimen.

Tests are available for a single drug up to more than a dozen drugs that include both illicit and prescription drugs. Instant tests use a reagent that will cause a chemical reaction if the presence of drug metabolites is detected. This reaction usually shows up in the form a line either appearing or not appearing on the test (tests differ as to how they show whether it’s negative or positive). As long as a workplace has some kind of private facility to do collections and it can provide same-gender collectors who are trained in the testing process, instant urine tests can be performed in the workplace. Any positive tests will have to be confirmed in a laboratory.


Laboratory urine drug testing obviously takes place in a lab, but the collections don’t necessarily have to be done at the lab. The specimens can be collected at the job site or at a designated collection site and shipped to the lab for testing. Some labs that specialize in workplace drug testing may have their own collection facilities on site. Specimens, regardless of where they are collected, will be subject to an instant test at the laboratory to see if they are negative or positive.

These initial instant tests are done to help alleviate costs. Tests that give a positive result will then be subject to gas chromatography–mass spectrometry testing for confirmation, which is much more expensive than instant testing. A positive instant drug test that has been collected elsewhere and shipped to the lab will be tested via gas chromatography–mass spectrometry without having to undergo another instant test. Advantages and Disadvantages Urine drug testing is relatively affordable, especially if a business opts for instant testing with laboratory confirmation of positive tests rather than having all their testing done at a lab.

Urine tests can detect drugs about one hour after they’ve been ingested and will detect drug metabolites in a person’s system for a few days up to one week depending on the drug. However, the collection procedure is invasive and businesses must have proper facilities to conduct collections, plus they must also be able to accommodate same-gender collections. And, although it’s not particularly easy to do and usually won’t be successful, there are ways for people to cheat on a urine drug test. Urine drug tests also take longer to perform than other types of tests and can be subject to issues like shy bladder.

Saliva Tests

Much like urine tests, saliva tests can be performed instantly with a laboratory confirmation for positive results or they can be performed completely at a laboratory with collections done at the work site or at the lab. Instant They involve collecting a sample of saliva or oral fluid from a person and, similar to a urine test, mixing the fluid with a reagent and seeing if it causes a chemical reaction that would indicate the presence of drug metabolites. Generally, a person will be asked to hold a device in their mouth for a certain length of time that will have some kind of absorbent end on it like a sponge. Unlike urine testing, collections of saliva can be done essentially anywhere, including right on the spot immediately after an accident. Any positive results would be shipped to a laboratory for confirmation testing.

Laboratory Also similar to urine, collections can be done at the workplace and simply shipped to the laboratory for testing. They will undergo a preliminary instant test prior to being subjected to more rigorous and expensive lab testing. Advantages and Disadvantages The biggest advantage of saliva testing is that it detects drug usage immediately after ingestion, making it ideal for on the spot post-accident testing. The fact that you don’t need specialized collection facilities or same-gender collectors also makes it ideal for this purpose. It’s also more cost effective than urine testing and cheating is almost impossible. On the downside, drug traces can only be found in the saliva for several hours to about one or two days depending on the drug.

Saliva testing is also only now becoming somewhat common for workplace drug testing.

Hair Testing

By far the least common, but most expensive of the three main types of workplace drug testing, hair testing is primarily used in the casino industry. The only way to test hair is in a laboratory, but the collection can be done at the job site. Usually, a certain number of hairs are required (several dozen) and these are taken from a few different spots around the nape of the neck as close to the scalp as possible so as to remain unnoticeable. If no head hair is available, body hair can be used.

Once in the laboratory, the hair is liquefied and broken down into individual components where traces of drugs can be ascertained. Advantages and Disadvantages By far the biggest advantage for hair testing is the amount of time it can detect drugs in a person’s system. It can detect drug traces as far back as 90 days prior to the test. It’s also relatively non-invasive and although treatments like hair dyes and bleach can affect it, hair testing is nearly cheat proof.

Aside from the higher cost, the other main disadvantage with hair testing is the amount of time it takes for drug traces to show up in a person’s hair. Regardless of the drug, it will take about a week after it is used to show up in a person’s hair.

Generally, by using instant urine and saliva testing kits and sending the positive results to a laboratory for confirmation, most businesses, regardless of their size or budget, can reap the benefits of workplace drug testing, which include: increased productivity, fewer sick days taken by employees, fewer absences, decreased accidents, decreased workers’ compensation claims, and less chance of damage to or theft of company property. With a comprehensive drug testing plan in place, any company can turn their workplace into a drug free environment. --

About Lena Butler Lena Butler is a health blogger and customer service representative for TestCountry, a San Diego based point of service diagnostic test service provider that offers a wide range of laboratory and instant drug and general health testing kits.

What do you think?

Show All Blog Posts