The mouth swab drug test, also called a saliva drug test or oral drug test, has become a common and effective method for detecting recent drug use. Even many police departments today are turning to this handy method to check on the spot for impaired drivers as legal marijuana use becomes more prevalent.
Convenience is a major factor. This method of testing is fast, simple, and inexpensive as other methods, and less intrusive than urine drug testing. Collecting a sample is as simple as using a sterile swab to swipe a small saliva sample from the inside of the subject’s mouth. It’s main drawback, for the moment, is that it is not yet an approved method for DOT drug testing. Because of its shorter detection window, some employers have started using it to test for recent marijuana use. It’s also especially effective for random drug testing because it can be performed at a moments notice.
How does this test work?
Significant research conducted by the National Institutes of Health shows mouth swab testing is highly effective. A common misconception is that the swab simply collects remnants of a substance that has just been consumed and is mixed with saliva. In reality, it collects and analyzes metabolites, which are the byproduct of the human body metabolizing drugs. Any substance consumed is broken down by the body, resulting in specific, predictable, and measurable chemical by products. These metabolites within the blood (plasma, specifically) are transferred as waste to saliva in the same way that they are transferred to urine and sweat.
Simple rinsing of the mouth with water or an over-the-counter product like mouthwash prior to a test won’t remove evidence of recent drug consumption. This drug test is highly effective from within a few minutes up to several days after a substance has been consumed because the same compounds evident in a person’s blood are also present in their oral fluids. This type of testing can also determine the level of the substance in the body’s blood system, helping to identify how recently and/or how much of a drug a person used.
Saliva testing offers a lot of advantages to employers, particularly when convenience and speed are important.
- The greatest advantage is its convenience. A test can be conducted on the spot — whether in an office, on the accident site, or at another location.
- It does not require any privacy, so there is no need for a bathroom or gender-specific collectors, as are required in the process of collecting urine samples.
- They are relatively inexpensive.
- Because of their convenience, they offer an easy testing option for a variety of situations, including the pre-employment, post-accident, follow-up, or return-to-duty drug testing.
- Results can be processed more quickly compared to other drug testing methods.
- They are less invasive than other options.
- Drug use can be detected in as soon as a few minutes, up to 72 hours after use.
- It is nearly impossible to cheat because the collector is present during collection. There is no opportunity to intentionally adulterate (corrupt) a specimen, such as switching it with a clean, pre-arranged sample.
- Lab testing for saliva is just as accurate as urine testing.
- If necessary, additional samples can be collected immediately as opposed to urine samples, which may require a longer wait.
Though there are few disadvantages, so consider their differences compared to other drug testing methods before deciding what is best for your situation.
- Many web sites and articles claim to offer products, such as detox mouthwashes, that can help persons beat a saliva test. Employees or employee candidates may be more tempted to try such products than they would be if providing urine samples.
- 72 hours is the maximum length of time after consumption that they can detect drug use. If your objective is identifying long-term, continued drug use, other testing methods may be better options.
- If an employer is regulated by the Federal Government, for example, any company that performs work for the government or is required to follow DOT regulations, then saliva drug testing is not permitted. Only urinalysis is permitted in these cases.
Drugs that can be identified by a mouth swab drug test
This method can detect various legal and illegal drugs, including, but not limited to:
- Opiates / opioids
- Synthetic marijuana
- Ecstasy (MDMA)
- Crystal meth
- Rohypnol (roofies)
This method has the shortest window for detecting drug use. Unlike other testing methods, however, it can detect drug use almost immediately. Often, within just a few minutes. Depending on the type of drug being tested for, the collection must be conducted within a couple of hours to a couple of days following drug use. These are some general detection time frames:
- Marijuana: From one hour after use to a half day or a full day at the most.
- Cocaine: From several minutes following consumption to about one day.
- Opiates such as Hydrocodone, Codeine, Fentanyl, or Oxycodone: Usually about an hour after their use to two or three days following use.
- Methamphetamine and amphetamines: From several minutes following consumption to as much as three days.
- Alcohol: Detection almost immediately after consumption through up to a half day afterward.