Understanding The Different Types Of Drug Test

Understanding The Different Types Of Drug Test

What types of drug tests are there?

Understanding the different types of drug test available can be crucial for individuals undergoing testing and those performing the drug tests. Drug tests typically detect the presence of specific substances or their metabolites (breakdown products) in a person's body, and each type of test is designed to test a part of the body where drugs metabolites may be found. 

Urine Drug Test (UDT):

  • Overview: The most common type of drug test, a urine drug test analyses a urine sample to detect the presence of various substances or their metabolites.
  • Names: You might encounter terms like 5-panel, 10-panel, urine cassettes, urine strips or urine cup tests. The number indicates the different drugs or drug classes screened. For example, a 5-panel test typically screens for 5 drugs and these usually include marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and opiates and one other drug. A six panel screens for 6 drugs, a 7 panel for 7 drugs etc. Drug test cups are now available that screen for 17 drugs on one urine sample. Drug test strips and cassettes are the simplest form of urine drug test and usually screen for just one drug.
  • Advantages of a urine drug test: Cost effective as it is the cheapest type of drug testing and also very easy to perform and very accurate. A urine drug test can detect a wide range of drugs and the detection time is around 3-4 days from last use for most drugs, can be much longer for Cannabis. Urine testing is the best way to detect Cannabis use as saliva detection times are very short and less relaible than urine. Laboratory confirmation testing if required is readily available for most drugs, and affordable.

Saliva Drug Test:

  • Overview: This test analyses oral fluid (including saliva) for the presence of drugs, providing a more immediate snapshot of recent drug use. The advantage ot saliva drug testing over urine for workplace drug testing is the shorter detection window for drugs, and the fact that it can be done anywhere as toilet facilities are not required to perform the test. Sample collection technique is very important with oral fluid drug tests as it is important to collect an adequate oral fluid sample to run all the test panels. 
  • Names: Saliva tests may target specific drugs or encompass a broader range. Terms like 6-panel saliva drug test or 12-panel oral fluid tests are examples. Single drug tests for saliva including Cotinine (smoking detection) are also sometimes available. 

Hair Follicle Drug Test:

  • Overview: This test analyses a small sample of hair to detect drug use over an extended period of time. The legth of time drug use can be detected depends partly on the length of the hair being tested.  Hair drug testing is commonly mandated for court and legal proceedings to establish abstinence from drugs. Consequently, the laboratory reports generated from this drug test hold legal validity in court. This method of drug testing is widely favoured in family court and legal scenarios, with results typically accessible within three to five business days.
  • Names: Hair drug tests can be broad-spectrum or targeted, depending on the drugs being screened for. A hair test is usually conducted by a laboratory and is more costly than urine or saliva but can be used as evidence in court.

Blood Drug Test

  • Overview: Blood tests are less common due to their invasiveness, but they provide real-time information on drug presence. They are usually only performed either by law enforcement, courts or in a clinical setting. The most common blood drug test is a drug driving blood test and is performed by the police if you fail a roadside drug test, or if they have any other reason to believe you are driving under the influence of drugs. 
  • Names: A wide range of drugs can be screened for on a blood test and usually the clinician performing the blood test will request the drugs that they wish to be screened for.

Fingerprint Drug Test

  • Overview: Fingerprint tests focus on a limited number of particular drugs or class of drugs, such as marijuana, opioids, or amphetamines. They are not yet available for all drugs, and are very costly when compared to urine or saliva so their usage is currently still quite limited in UK. They are also reliant on a very expensive digital reader to interpret the results, and this is only cost effective if you are doing very large numbers of tests, and they do not offer any increased accuracy or sensitivity over urine tests. 
  • Names: These tests often include the drug's name or abbreviation, like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) for marijuana or OPI is an Opiates test.

Onsite Drug Test

  • Overview-an onsite test is performed using a rapid drug test kit usually urine, saliva or a fingerprint test. The results are available immediately within minutes, and the result is either negative ie no drugs detected or positive meaning a drug or its metabolite has been detected. An onsite drug test can not tell how much drug was taken or give a level of drugs in the persons system at the time of the test.
  • Names-rapid drug test, drug test kit. panel drug test, drug of abuse panel test. onsite drug test, panel drug test cup, urine drug test kit, saliva drug test kit, oral fluid drug testing kit. If it has kit in the title its usually means its an onsite drug test with results in minutes.

Laboratory Drug Test

  • Overview-a laboratory drug test is where a sample of urine, saliva, hair, blood or sweat is sent away to the lab for testing. The resulst usually take between 3-10 days to be available. A lab drug test is often performed after an individual has failed an onsite test or is requested by a court or in a clinical setting. The lab drug test can tell how much drug has been taken and will usually specify this in the report.
  • Names-Confirmation drug test, lab drug test, laboratory drug test, lab based drug test, urine drug confirmation

Why is it important to understand different types of drug testing?

Understanding the different types of drug tests is essential for individuals to know what substances are being screened for and the detection times. Employers, healthcare professionals, or legal authorities may choose specific types of drug tests based on their requirements and it's important to be aware of the testing parameters and limitations of each type of test. Additionally, interpreting the results correctly requires knowledge of the substances each test is designed to detect and the potential for false positives or negatives.

Can you help me understand the different types of drug tests?

Yes we are here to help. UK Drug Testing offers the most extensive selection of rapid onsite drug testing kits for onsite drug screening in the UK. If you cannot locate the specific test kits you need or are uncertain about which drug tests would be most suitable for your requirements, please reach out to our customer support team during office hours. You can contact them via chat or telephone at 01263 731 168 or through email, and they will gladly help you identify the most suitable drug test for your needs. Alternatively if you have any questions or comments to add you can pop them in comments. 

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