Saliva Drug Test FAQ

drug test saliva

Frequently asked questions regarding saliva drug testing

Here are the most frequently asked questions that UK Drug Testing are asked about saliva drug test kits and the answers. We hope you find this saliva drug test FAQ section helpful.

What are the detection windows for drugs in saliva?

Detection times for oral fluid saliva drug testing depends on the type and brand of saliva drug test kit used and the drug that is being tested for, but as a general rule, drugs are usually only detectable on a saliva drug test, for up to 48 hours after last use.

Cannabis and methadone have a very short detection period in the saliva of about 12-14 hours.
Information on drug test detection times for urine and saliva here

Is there is there any specific time that I should carry out the saliva drug test?

An oral saliva drug testing kit can be performed at any time of day but must be at least 20 minutes after the individual last ate, drank or smoked or put anything in their mouth.

How do you perform a saliva drug test with a mouth swab drug test kit?

The saliva drug test is performed using a mouth swab drug test kit that is then either inserted into a container with an inbuilt drug screen, or the mouth swab is actually built into the drug test kit as shown below . This is called a direct saliva drug test kit.

Saliva drug test

What is an oral fluid drug test?

An oral fluid drug test is just another name for a saliva drug test, but actually this term is quite helpful when thinking about saliva drug testing, as a mouth swab drug test collects all the fluid from the oral cavity (the mouth), so it not only detects drugs or their metabolites that are present in saliva, but also any drug residues that are present in the mouth, for example THC residues which are present in the mouth after Cannabis has been smoked or consumed orally. This is why when performing an oral drug test, it is very important to wipe the collection swab all around the oral cavity (mouth) to collect drug residues as well as as sampling the saliva.

How accurate is an oral fluid drug test?

A rapid oral fluid drug test kit is between 96-99% compared to a GC/MS oral fluid lab test. An oral fluid drug test is less likely to pick up drug use than a urine test, as drugs are detected in oral fluid for a shorter time period than they can be detected in urine. This is especially true for Cannabis THC.

Are saliva drug tests better than urine tests?

Whether saliva drug tests are better than urine tests depends on the specific context and goals of drug testing. Each type of test has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them should be based on the following factors:

1) Detection Window:

  • Saliva Drug Tests: These tests are generally better at detecting recent drug use, typically within the past 24 to 48 hours. They are ideal for identifying recent impairment or use of drugs.
  • Urine Drug Tests: Urine tests can detect drug metabolites for a more extended period, sometimes up to several days or even weeks, making them suitable for identifying past or chronic drug use.

2) Non-Invasiveness:

  • Saliva Drug Tests: Saliva tests are less invasive than urine tests, as they only require the collection of a saliva sample from the mouth.
  • Urine Drug Tests: Urine tests involve providing a urine sample, which may be seen as more invasive, especially in certain settings.

3) Sample Adulteration (tampering):

  • Saliva Drug Tests: Saliva tests are less prone to adulteration compared to urine tests, where the risk of sample tampering is higher.
  • Urine Drug Tests: Urine tests are more susceptible to adulteration, as individuals may attempt to manipulate the sample by diluting or substituting it.

4) Ease of Collection:

  • Saliva Drug Tests: Collecting a saliva sample is relatively straightforward and requires minimal privacy invasion, making it suitable for various testing environments.
  • Urine Drug Tests: Collecting a urine sample may be more challenging, especially in situations where privacy and sample integrity are concerns.

In summary, saliva drug tests are preferable when the goal is to detect recent drug use and in situations where privacy and ease of collection are important. Urine drug tests are better suited for identifying a more extended detection window, making them valuable for identifying past or chronic drug use. The choice between these methods should be based on the specific requirements of the drug testing program and the desired information.

What are the disadvantages of oral fluid drug testing?

Oral fluid drug testing, also known as saliva drug testing, has several advantages, such as its non-invasiveness and the ability to detect recent drug use. However, it also has some disadvantages and limitations which it is important to be aware of:

  1. Limited detection window: Oral fluid drug testing is primarily effective for detecting recent drug use, typically within the past 24 to 48 hours. It may not be as effective at identifying past or chronic drug use.
  2. Sensitivity to drug type and dose: The effectiveness of oral fluid testing can vary depending on the type of drug being tested for and the dose used. Some drugs such as Cannabis THC may not be as easily detected in oral fluid as they are in urine.
  3. Potential for adulteration: While it is less prone to adulteration than urine testing, it is still possible for individuals to try to manipulate the results by various means, such as using mouthwashes.
  4. Collection process challenges: Collecting an oral fluid sample can be more challenging than collecting a urine sample, as it requires the cooperation of the individual being tested. This may not be ideal for individuals who are uncooperative or have difficulty producing enough saliva.
  5. Contamination risk: Contamination of the sample with food, drinks, or other substances can potentially lead to false positives or inaccurate results.
  6. Limited drug detection: While oral fluid testing can detect a variety of drugs, it may not be as comprehensive as urine for all possible substances, and certain drugs may be missed in oral fluid samples.

What is a direct saliva drug test kit?

In a direct saliva drug test the mouth swab is actually built into the drug test kit as shown in the photo above .These newer direct saliva drug testing kits are even easier to perform as the drug test is incorporated directly into the mouth swab as shown above, and some of them also have a saliva indicator to show when enough saliva has been absorbed by the mouth swab. The direct saliva drug test kits are currently only available for 7 drug groups or less.

Do I need to confirm the saliva drug test result?

When you use a rapid saliva drug test kit you will then get an individual result for each drug group tested. It is a screening saliva drug test, and you would need to send a laboratory confirmation chain of custody urine or saliva drug test (this has to be sent away to the lab) to confirm any non negative ( positive) results if you are doing the saliva drug testing in a workplace setting.

How long do the drug test results take with a saliva drug testing kit?

A saliva drug test kit is an instant near patient test which means you get the results within minutes of performing the saliva drug test. If the result is negative you do not need to do anything else. If you are performing the saliva drug test in a workplace setting you should then confirm all non negative (positive) results using a laboratory confirmation chain of custody urine drug test (this has to be sent away)

How long does it take to get oral fluid drug test results back from lab?

If the oral fluid is sent to a laboratory to be tested for drugs the results are usually available within about 7-10 days depending on the labs processing times, and how quickly the sample is received at the lab.

I see you have a saliva drug test that shows if someone has had Cannabis within the last 12 hours, do you have these for other drugs such as Cocaine?

drug testing saliva

We also have single saliva drug test kits for Cocaine

and saliva drug test kits for Cotinine (Nicotine and smoking detection)

All the saliva drug testing kits have a shorter window of detection than the urine drug tests are ideal for workplace drug testing where you wish to know if someone is under the influence of drugs while at work or if you need to establish if someone has appropriate levels to return to work if they have taken a drug.

The window of detection for most drugs in saliva including Cannabis and Cocaine is up to 12-14 hours.

How far back does a mouth swab drug screen go?

Most mouth swab drug tests detect for a maximum of 12-14 hours, and sometimes considerably less. There is a very much shorter detection time on a mouth swab drug test than with urine drug testing.

Are there any mouth swab or saliva drug test kits that detect drugs for longer periods?

The simple answer is no. The detection times for drugs in saliva is very short when compared with urine drug testing kits or hair drug testing.

How accurate is a mouth swab drug test?

An oral mouth swab drug test is 97-98% accurate when compared to  a laboratory GCMS saliva drug test, for the same drug on the same sample. To get the best from a mouth swab drug test, the way the sample is collected is very important. You may find our saliva drug testing tips helpful.

Which oral drug and alcohol testing kits are best for the workplace?

The 12 in 1 oral fluid mouth swab saliva drug & alcohol testing kit is a very  comprehensive oral drug & alcohol test kit and is an excellent choice for workplace saliva drug testing.

It tests for 11 drugs plus alcohol on one drug test kit and is an ideal choice for a workplace saliva drug test.

We also have a 13 panel oral fluid saliva drug test kit that is ideal for workplace drug testing

saliva drug tests workplace

What action do we need to take if one of these saliva drug tests should prove positive?

The saliva drug test kits are drug screening tests. If the saliva drug test results are negative, ie no drugs detected, you do not need to do anything further. If the saliva drug test result is not negative, what you do depends on your drug and alcohol policy.

If you intend to take any disciplinary action on the basis of the onsite saliva drug test results, then you would need to do a GCMS lab confirmation drug test with a full chain of custody.  This can either be done on a saliva sample or a urine sample. 

We recommend that most UK companies keep at least one lab drug test pack available, for when they get a non-negative saliva drug screening result, as this avoids any delays in getting a confirmation saliva drug test done. 

What should we do if we get a positive result on the onsite workplace saliva drug test kit and we do not have a laboratory confirmation drug test pack on site?

First thing to say is don't panic.

Contact our UK Drug Testing customer support team for advice and we will usually be able to get a lab drug test pack with full chain of custody instructions and paperwork, out to you on a next day UK express delivery, or offer alternative suggestions. UKAS accredited GCMS laboratory drug test packs are now available to drug test saliva as well as urine.

There is so much choice how do I choose the best saliva drug tests for our company drug testing?

If you are unsure which saliva drug tests are the best choice for your workplace drug testing requirements, then contact our customer support team either by e-mail or telephone during office hours for assistance and they will be happy to help.  

What can be detected in a saliva mouth swab drug test?

The range of drugs that a mouth swab drug test can test for, and that can be detected on a saliva drug test is constantly increasing and evolving. 5 years ago there were probably only 5-6 drugs that could be detected on a saliva drug test kit. The number of drugs we can now screen for on a saliva drug test is up to 18 drugs including alcohol and this number is likely to increase further in the near future.

The following drugs can now be detected on a saliva drug test

  • Alcohol 
  • Amphetamine
  • Barbiturates 
  • Buprenorphine 
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Cocaine
  • Ketamine 
  • K2 & K3 Synthetic Cannabis 
  • Marijuana ( Cannabis THC parent Delta-9 ) 
  • MDMA Ecstacy 
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone
  • Opiates ( including heroin ) 
  • Oxycodone 
  • PCP (Phencyclidine)
  • Propoxyphene
  • Tramadol

What are the saliva drug test detection times for UK drug tests

As a general rule the saliva drug test detection times are much shorter than in urine or hair, and most drugs can not be detected in saliva after 48 hours. Visit our drug test detection times page for detailed detection time for each drug in saliva. 

Contact UK Drug Testing about saliva drug tests for workplace drug testing

Telephone 01263 731 168 Monday to Friday 8.30 to 4.30pm


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 Saliva drug test FAQ page last reviewed and updated 30/10/23