How Do Different Drug Tests Work? Find Out Here

Drug tests are performed to rule out the presence of drugs in a person’s body. They are undertaken for a number of reasons, from vetting for citizenship to ensuring a person’s character in a job application. If you are interested in drug tests because you want to begin administering them to your staff randomly, then it’s important to learn about what the different types are. It’s essential that you find the type of test that’s right for you. In this post, you will learn exactly how you can do that:

What Is A Drug Test?

A drug test is a diagnostic test that’s performed in order to identify whether or not a person has been consuming illegal or performance-enhancing drugs. These tests come in many forms, from swab drug tests to hair follicle tests. The most common type of test that’s performed is the urine test, however. Drug testing identifies drugs in a person’s body by looking for specific metabolites, that are only present if you have been under the influence of some kind of drug. The most common drug tested for is marijuana, although other drugs can also be checked for.

Why Are Drug Tests Used?

The main reason that drug tests are performed is to determine whether or not a person has been using drugs, but there’s a lot more to them than just that. Sometimes, they are used by businesses during the hiring process, so that they can be confident that they are hiring staff who are of good character and don’t have any dangerous vices. Many companies perform routine drug testing, in order to rule out recreational drug use. If staff test positive on a drug test, they can lose their job or might have to sit on a disciplinary board.

The armed services and police force also use drug tests when they are hiring new staff so that they can filter out undesirables. Drug tests are also used in prison. If a prisoner appears to be under the influence or has been caught taking drugs, then the prison will force that person to take a drug test. If the drug test comes back positive, then they can receive extra days on their sentence. More often than not, however, prisoners just receive a slap on the wrist, a minor punishment, and are forced to attend drug courses. Many people are opposed to the use of drug tests, however. People say that they are unethical.

Different Types of Test

There are different types of drug tests. They are as follows:

  • Blood tests are performed during emergencies, in order to detect the presence of drugs in a person’s body. Hospitals will sometimes perform drug tests when they have a patient that has been involved in an accident before they can administer any medication to them. Blood tests are also sometimes used in pre-employment tests, but they aren’t the most common type of test performed by employers. When you go to see your physician for your annual health check-up, you will also receive a test then, which checks for the presence of drugs. Blood testing is an invasive method of testing because it involves drawing blood from the vein. It can also only detect recent drug use, so it isn’t ideal for ascertaining whether or not an employee uses drugs recreationally.
  • Hair tests are also very common in pre-employment checks. Hair follicles are plucked from a person’s face, head, armpit, or body. Hair tests can help to determine if a person uses drugs regularly. The main drugs checked for by hair tests are cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, opioids, MDMA, and PCP. The hair check method takes the longest to yield results. However, it also detects drugs with a window of three months, making it the most precise. The reason that hair tests have such a broad window is that the metabolites created by drug use can be detected from one week in one’s hair after consumption. Hair tests are used by the military and in other professional applications.
  • Oral fluid tests involve swabbing the inside of one’s mouth, in order to collect saliva. The saliva is then collected and analysed, to detect orally consumed drugs. It is possible to catch drug residue from the same day, however, the window of detection is around 24 to 48 hours after the last use. Oral tests are very effective in their short window and are used by companies when screening staff and in prisons.
  • Sweat tests are a type of test performed, that involves placing an absorbent pad on a person’s skin for less than 24 hours. Sweat tests give an idea of a person’s cumulative drug use. Many companies like sweat tests because unlike other tests, they are very hard to tamper with. Sweat tests also provide a broad window, like blood tests and hair tests.

Detection Windows

As this post’s previous points have already explained, detection windows vary depending upon the method administered. Some drugs leave the body quicker than others, however. Because of this, tests might not pick up certain drugs unless they were recently used. By far the most detectable drug is THC, which can take up to 45 days to leave the body. THC cannot be flushed from one’s system, either, because it is non-water-soluble. THC gets caught up in the body and released very slowly. Here’s a rough idea of how long other drugs stay in the body:

  • 7 – 14 days: Ketamine and MDMA
  • 2 – 4 days: Cocaine, heroin, pharmaceutical opioids, opiates (heroin, fentanyl), and amphetamines
  • 1 – 7 days: Barbiturates

Can Drug Tests Be Tampered With?

Can drug tests be tampered with? The answer to that is a strong yes. It is entirely possible for people to alter the results of their drug tests, in order to show a negative, even if they have been taking drugs. Urine tests are most commonly tampered with. People do this by taking another person’s urine and putting it into the vial given to them to take the test. The best way to avoid a test being tampered with is to monitor the person taking it closely.

Drug tests are necessary so that employers can rule out drug use among staff. Sometimes they are also used by parents, who want to check whether or not their children have been using drugs. Whatever the purpose for administration is, make sure that you find the test that’s best for what you need it for.


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