Many people abuse illicit drugs as well as prescription drugs from doctors for various reasons. Individuals who abuse drugs say that they make them high and the significant risk they face may result in addiction problems. To maintain their high status, drug abusers continue taking more drugs.

However, the main danger of drug abuse is that it poses serious health issues to individuals involved. People who abuse drugs also face threats to their safety due to poor judgment, especially in the workplace. They also fail to concentrate, and this can lead to accidents causing injuries.  Many companies urine, saliva, or hair follicle drug test their workers to avoid these kinds of scenarios.

In the same vein, some people who abuse drugs also experience serious health issues that can be life-threatening. To diagnose certain conditions, the doctors need to perform drug tests on the patients should they suspect abuse of illicit substances. There are mainly three primary drug tests that include urine, hair, and saliva.

While these tests aim to detect drugs in the circulation system of the person involved, there are individual differences among them. As such, if you want to get a clear understanding of the significant differences between these tests, then read on.

Urine Test

Urine test for drugs is the most prevalent among other tests where about 90 percent of the employers use it to screen their employees. The Department of Transportation (DOT) mainly uses urine tests to check the truck drivers and pilots for drug abuse. The aspect of safety is of paramount importance in the transportation sector.

In other words, a urine test is the industry standard in different circumstances. The test involves the collection of an individual urine sample using the test kit provided. The example then goes to the lab where thorough tests are conducted to detect any drug. The tests screen for various types of drugs and are not limited to specific substances.

Urine tests can also pick up prescription medications that are often abused by people who want to have a feel of their lulling effect. As a result, urine tests are common among various employers. The other important about this type of analysis is that it is non-invasive. You can collect the sample in a private place, and the real test is conducted in the lab when you are not around.

Urine tests are however not always accurate, and for this reason, other alternative specimens like saliva and hair tests are gaining prominence. These tests seem to have higher positive results, and many companies are now turning to them. Below are the pros and cons of urine tests.

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Pros Of Urine Test

The main advantage of a urine test is that it can pick several drugs from the system. These include illicit substances as well as prescription medications. In other words, the test is cost-effective since you only need to conduct a single screening to pick different drugs. The method can help the company to save money since it does not need to carry out multiple tests on each.

The other benefit of a urine test is that it is currently the only drug testing method approved for workplaces and also covered by the federal guidelines. The specimen is easy to collect since the individuals can do it in privacy. There are no fears of intimidation or intrusion of privacy during the collection of the sample.


However, there are fears that people can manipulate the urine specimen since it is collected in privacy. Various websites sell synthetic urine and adulterants that can affect the urine testing program for drugs. Fake samples can subvert the testing program.

All the same, some experts note that cheating is not that easy as some people may think. Elements such as temperature, creatinine, and pH are checked to ensure the integrity of the specimen. Any attempt to cheat can only result in an inconclusive test.

Urinalysis is said to be ineffective for pre-employment drug screening. The main aim is to eliminate individuals who regularly use drugs from the list. The problem with the test is that it has a limited window period of about previous two to three days of drug use. People can abstain from taking drugs a few days before going for pre-employment drug screening.

The other issue with urinalysis is that it can only detect recent drug use but cannot identify a pattern of the same. In other words, the subject can be a regular user of the drugs but only stops taking them when he is about to go for a test. In such a situation, routine tests may be necessary, but these can be costly to the company.

Urine samples can deteriorate over time, and this can be another challenge. Weather elements such as heat, humidity can also affect the urine samples which in turn affects the quality of results. Shipment and storing the urine samples are also other challenges that can affect the quality of the results.

Hair follicle drug test: What Is It?

Hair follicle testing involves an undetectable snip off the hair in the smallest quantity using scissors. The collection method is straightforward and non-invasive at the same time. After collecting the sample, the packaging is also simplified, and all these processes are convenient for in-house collections.

These newer hair follicle tests can pick a variety of drugs including prescription medications that are often missed by other forms of drug tests. It also detects illicit drugs like ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, PCP, opioids, amphetamine as well as methamphetamine. Hair drug testing has many advantages over other tests, and it seems many organizations are switching to this method.

hair follicle drug test

Pros and Cons of Hair Testing

Hair testing method is simple and, and it also helps to detect drug use over a long period. The technique is useful when conducting tests for conventional drugs that are commonly abused by people such as opiates, cocaine, and methamphetamines.

It may be difficult to detect these common drugs using a urine test after three to four days of using them. In other words, a person who uses these drugs can test negative if the test is conducted a few days after using the substances. In such a situation, this is when hair testing comes in handy since it can solve the challenge.

The main advantage of hair testing is that it can detect drug use throughout approximately three months. The testing method is also useful due to patent technology it uses and not found in other screening methods. On average, urinalysis misses detection of about 85% of the drug users that are often detected by hair screening.

If there is a challenge of the result of the drug test, a second sample is essential. It is vital to collect this sample within a reasonable time for retesting for comparison with the original results. A retest is possible due to the extended window period of drug detection using this particular method of drug testing.

A retest is not possible with the urinalysis method due to its limited window detection period of just a few days. The individual concerned can abstain from taking drugs a few days before going for a retest. The sample can test negative due to its limited window period.

Hair follicle testing is right in that it helps to detect repeat drug use. In the workplace, the testing method is useful since it acts as a deterrent so that the employees cannot continue violating drug-free policies. The test has a more significant opportunity for return on investment since the company does not necessarily need to perform the tests periodically.

Cheating can be a problem with other forms of drug testing such as urinalysis. However, it is not easy to do the same with hair samples that are difficult to alter or dilute. With urine tests, people can purchase adulterants which change the quality of the example. However, this is not possible with hair testing.


The critical issue is that hair testing is not very good at detecting private uses of drugs. Some people use drugs but not on regular intervals so hair follicle tests cannot pick the substances among such people. The test may not be reliable if conducted on people who are intermittent users of drugs.

Hair follicle drug test also has a weakness in that hair takes time to grow. In case of an accident in the workplace, the hair testing method may not be ideal. It can only detect the drugs after five or seven days following the growth of hair after the incident. The reason for such challenges is due to the time it takes for the hair to grow.

The hair testing method can act as a deterrent to some people. It has a high “fear factor” where potential applicants for a job can stay away. If the company advertises that it uses the method to test drugs, regular users may not be ready for it.

Saliva Test

Saliva drug testing method involves the collection of a sample with a swab provided. The technique is noninvasive and straightforward since the subject only inserts the swab inside the cheek to collect the sample. The example then goes to the lab for testing and results come in a few days. Oral tests can only screen drugs like marijuana, PCP cocaine, opioids, and amphetamines.

saliva drug test in mouth

Pros And Cons

The main advantage of saliva testing is that it is efficient and also reduces the cost and time for collection of the sample. The saliva sample can be immediately collected on site, and the collection method is too simple. The collection method uses onsite swab tests approved by the FDA.

The test can pick recent use of drugs whereas urinalysis may require the drugs to pass through your system first. The test can only detect the drugs after they pass through the system. Such a scenario means that the urine test may fail to pick them immediately after use.

Oral drug tests are useful in that they have a small detection window period that ranges from a few minutes to around 48 hours. Oral examinations are likely to catch chronic daily users of the drugs, and these people can pose an imminent risk on the workplace. The testing method is ideal in the workplace. If you wish to deter other people you think can be a problem due to their use of drugs, this method is fast.

The other issue is that saliva testing appeals to many people particularly the employers who may need to conduct the tests themselves. The employers can observe the sample collection process so that there are not individuals who try to subvert it. After collection of the samples, the employers send them to the lab for testing.


However, employers need to know that some states prohibit onsite testing. It is therefore essential for them to understand the laws that regulate drug testing in their respective areas. The other issue is that the small detection window period by saliva test can be a drawback.

The test is capable of detecting drug use that takes place within a past few days. An individual can be a frequent user of drugs, but the test can fail to pick them under different circumstances. If the individual stops taking drugs some days before the test, it is difficult to detect any drug use.

The results obtained from the saliva test can be misleading since they can only detect recent cases of drug use. The analysis also focuses on mainly recognizing common drugs like cocaine, opioids, amphetamines as well as marijuana. It can miss other drugs in the system of the individuals.

Over and above, the three-drug testing methods outlined above are useful in their own right depending on what you want to test. The element of best option between these drug tests depends on what you feel comfortable with. If you are an employer and currently only using one of these drug test methods, you now know that the other drug test methods work differently. Each employer needs to figure out what fits bests in your business environment to maintain safety.

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