When determining the best drug testing method to use at your organization, it is important to decide the criteria that fit best with your organizational needs. For some organizations, the most important aspect of their drug testing program is the window of detection (time frame in which a drug can be detected since last use). Other organizations may weigh more heavily on drug testing costs or turnaround times. Below you will find an overview of the main drug testing methods available and the pros and cons of each type, as well as information on which organizations are more likely to use certain types of drug tests.
Urine Drug Test
Urine drug testing has been the gold standard of drug testing for many years. The standardization of laboratories as well as collection sites has led to this test being popular for pre-employment testing. Urine drug testing is the only testing method approved for federally mandated testing. All urine specimens are sent through a strict screening process followed by confirmatory testing. Confirmatory testing is done by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) which is used to test for the presence of a specific drug.
Urine drug testing is usually the most popular drug test due to the vast nationwide network of collection sites, as well as the cost effectiveness of this type of testing.
Window of Detection: Typically 1-4 days
Pros and cons to consider when using Urine Drug Testing at your organization.
- Certified laboratories follow the same standardized process for testing specimens to ensure validity
- Nationwide collection site coverage
- Customization of testing panels
- Most likely of all testing methods to withstand legal challenge
- Instant and Lab-Based testing options are available
- Limited window of detection
- Due to the lack of observation during collection, the specimen can be substituted, adultered, or diluted by donor
- Issues with Shy Bladder (Paruresis)
- Observed collections require the same-sex collector, which may not be available at the time of collection
- Biological hazard for specimen handling and shipping to laboratory
85% of drug tests processed by Accurate Background are urine drug tests.
Hair Drug Test
Hair drug testing is most used by employers looking for a longer window of detection that will show habitual drug use. Hair testing has also been proven to yield more positive test rates when compared directly to urine drug tests.
In recent years, Accurate Background has seen a rise in the overall requests for hair drug testing.
Window of Detection: Up to 90 days
Pros and cons to consider when using Hair Drug Testing at your organization:
- Longer window of detection – measures chronic drug use
- Convenient shipping and storage
- Requires collection to be completed by a technician, thus decreasing the ability to adulterate
- More expensive than urine or oral fluid testing
- Limited testing panels available
- Does not detect drug use within 5-7 days of collection
- Collection complications due to length or lack of hair
10% of drug tests processed by Accurate Background are hair drug tests.
Oral Fluid/Saliva Drug Test
Oral Fluid Drug Testing is a great testing method for onsite collections completed by employers. Accurate Background has seen a rise in oral fluid testing from the retail industry as well as post-accident and reasonable suspicion testing. Oral fluid testing is a great option for high volume testing needed at one time, such as hiring events. Due to the high level of convenience, ease of collection and overall cost effectiveness, oral fluid testing may be a great fit for your company.
Window of Detection: Drugs can be detected up to 48 hours after use.
Pros and cons to consider when using oral fluid testing at your organization:
- Direct observation
- Reflects recent drug use
- Minimal risk of tampering with specimen
- Easy collection
- Cost effective
- Instant and Lab-Based testing options available
- Shortest detection window
- Not all collection devices are FDA Approved
- Inventory to be maintained by employer
Certain industries require drug testing more than others for workplace and public safety. Here’s a look at some of the most common safety-sensitive industries:
Safety-sensitive employees in the transportation industry are responsible for creating a safe work environment for the public. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has made it mandatory for employees in sectors of the transportation industry, including aviation, trucking, mass transit, and other DOT jobs to complete DOT drug tests. DOT regulated drug tests use urine drug testing exclusively for their process. All DOT drug tests use a 5-panel test, which tests for marijuana metabolites or THC, cocaine metabolites, amphetamines, opioids, and phencyclidine (PCP). There are several scenarios in which employees must perform a DOT drug test, including pre-employment, at random, reasonable suspicion, and more.
Healthcare, Hospitals, and Medicine
The healthcare industry is another safety-sensitive industry well known for drug testing professionals. With readily available access to medicine and the commonality of alcohol and substance abuse in this field, many healthcare organizations choose to drug test their employees for the safety of their patients. Although many employers can use several types of drug testing methods, urine drug tests are typically the most common. These screenings can be expected pre-employment and at random.
Construction is another sector that commonly requires drug testing, especially since this industry experiences one of the highest rates of substance abuse. Since construction work involves manual labor and hazards such as heavy-duty machinery, it’s important for workers need to carry out their job duties to the best of their ability. Companies in the construction industry that implement a drug-free environment benefit from less injuries and a safer environment. The most common methods for drug testing in construction are urine analysis, hair, and saliva tests.
Stay Up to Date on Laws and Regulations
Keep in mind that your organization’s drug-testing policy must comply with all state and federal laws. For example, New Jersey’s medical marijuana law prohibits employment discrimination against medical marijuana users. In May 2020, the New York City Council’s ordinance Int. No. 1445-A went into effect, which barred employers (with certain exceptions) from requiring job applicants to drug test for marijuana. Employers can use a reputable employment screening service to protect their organizations and remain compliant with the changing drug testing laws.
Although urine drug testing is the most popular type of drug test used at organizations, there are many reasons why an organization may go with hair testing or oral fluid testing as an alternative. Understanding the basics of each testing type to compare with your company’s needs will get you on the right path for deciding on a new drug testing program or reevaluating the drug testing program you already have in place.
*The information provided above is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to be legal advice, either expressed or implied. Accurate Background recommends that you consult with your legal counsel regarding all employment regulations.