Types of Drug Tests. Essential

A drug test is done to identify the existence of substances in an individual’s system. There are several valid reasons that might require you to take a drug test such as a pre-employment drug test, divorce, being on probation, requesting custody, or taking part in a sports competition. In all of those situations, you are told to take a certain type of substance abuse test. There are quite a few drug testing methods available and they are:

Types Drug Screening

There are quite a few drug testing methods available and they are:

  1.   Urine Drug Test
  2.   Saliva Tests
  3.   Hair Follicle Test
  4.   Drug and Alcohol Test
  5. Blood Test

Urine Drug Test

This is the most common and the least invasive type of drug test. According to FMA Health, this type of test is a widely accepted legal form of drug test which cannot be said for other types of drug tests. It works by detecting the metabolites of drugs. When an individual’s urine sample is sent to a testing center if they find drug metabolites the result comes positive. A negative result means the opposite.

What Can Be Detected in A Urine Test

Following are the drugs that can be detected after performing a urine drug test.

  •       Methamphetamines
  •       Marijuana
  •       PCP
  •       Cocaine
  •       Opiates
  •       Amphetamines

Saliva Test

You might know it as an oral fluid test or mouth swab drug test. In this type of test, your saliva is collected as a sample from the mouth. Oral fluid tests are cost-efficient providing results in record time compared to other drug tests. Not to mention, you can run this type of test on the spot. The test is done in front of the supervisor and the testers can collect samples and send them almost immediately. Thus, the test is quite hard to cheat if not impossible. A saliva test can identify drugs only if they were taken recently. Starting from the very minute of drug consumption up to 48 hours is the time limit for substance identification in this test.

Hair Follicle Test  

A hair follicle drug test is a kind of test that uses hair from roots as a sample to discover the presence of substances in an individual’s body. It can detect traces of drug metabolites even if you took them three months ago. The hair drug test is also a non-invasive testing method that is getting more and more popular among employers. A hair drug test can trace:

  •       Cocaine
  •       Marijuana
  •       Amphetamines
  •       Methamphetamines
  •       PCP
  •       Opioids

Drug and Alcohol Test

To get yourself involved in certain occupations you must pass drug test. These professions include but are not limited to transit employees, pipeline, aviation, maritime, trucking, and similar career choices. People working in the mentioned sectors are required to undergo alcohol and drug testing. For this type of drug screening breath-alcohol test is regarded as the most appropriate solution. In this method, a breath alcohol machine is used. An individual blows into this device which is then used to measure the level of alcohol in the bloodstream. If the device shows a number 0.02 then the person in concern is prohibited to be involved in any safety-related task according to the guidelines of DOT. In case a BAC of 0.04 displays on the device the person of concern faces complete dismissal from the safety-related task. The number 0.04 implies that the person who took the test has used drugs.     

Blood Test

All of the above-mentioned tests were non-invasive and somewhat cost-efficient but not blood tests. This is considered to be one of the costliest drug screening methods with the most precise results. But unfortunately, it can only detect the presence of drugs if they were taken a few days prior to the test. This intrusive method works by collecting blood from your veins. All you have to do is go to a medical lab and the rest would be taken care of. After sending the sample for testing you might need to wait patiently for 2-4 days for results. In the worst-case scenario, it can take up to 10 days if the laboratory is busy.

Different Types of Drug Screening and What Drugs They Can Detect with Their Detection Period  

Below is a chart that shows an estimated drug identification period for several types of drugs by their screening type

DrugsHairUrineBlood and Oral fluid
Synthetic Cannabinoidsup to 3 months3-4 daysBlood: 2-3 days in light users. More than 2 weeks in regular users.

Saliva/ oral fluid: up to 1 day

PCPup to 3 months8 DaysUp to 3 days
MarijuanaUp to 3 monthsUp to 3 days for a one-time user

Up to 7 days for moderate use

Up to 15 days for a regular user

More than 30 days for heavy use

Blood: up to 4 hours

Saliva: up to 72 hours

CocaineUp to 90 days


Up to 4 daysBlood: Up to 2 days

Saliva: Up to 2 days

Amphetaminesup to 90 days48 hours12 hours
OpioidsMorphine: Up to 90 days

Codeine: Up to 90 days

Heroin: Up to 90 days

Oxycodone: Up to 90 days

Methadone: Up to 90 days



Oxycodone: Up 4 days

Morphine: Up to 10 days

Codeine: Up to 3 days

Heroin: Up to 7 days




Morphine: In saliva and blood for 3 days

Codeine: In blood up to 1 day and saliva for 4 days

Heroin: Maximum 6 hours in blood and 1 hour in saliva

Oxycodone: Maximum 24 hours in blood and 4 days in saliva

Methadone: In blood for 24 hours and saliva for 10 days



BarbituratesUp to 3 monthsUp to 4 days in the general case but up to 6 weeks in an extreme case.Blood: up to 2 days


BenzodiazepinesUp to 3 months


Clinical use: Up to 7 days

Regular use over a year: Up to 6 weeks

Blood: Up to 72 hours

Saliva: Up to 3 days

LSDup to 4 daysUp to 1 dayUp to 4 days
Steroids——-Up to 30 days——–


How Does A Drug Test Work?

Apart from the breath alcohol test approximately all other tests aim to determine prolonged consumption of substances. They look for the existence of drug metabolites in the samples be that a hair follicle, urine, or blood test. When testers find the presence of drug metabolites more than the threshold amount the report comes positive. This threshold amount is known as the ‘cut of level’ among the testers which is not the same for every drug.       

 Which Are Preferable for Employers

Each one of these drug testing types is precise when it comes to results. But in terms of comparison undoubtedly, blood and hair follicle tests produce the most accurate results. The problem with these two tests is that they are a bit expensive than other tests. They take more time for drug detection compared to others. Breath alcohol and saliva tests provide rapid results. When employers want to compare based on accuracy, speed, money, and the detection range of a test type, the go-to test is urinalysis. This is why a majority of employers prefer it as a pre-employment drug test method. This ensures that the selected candidates are in their best health to give their very best to the company while assuring a drug-free workplace.

Some employers can think otherwise since it is not rare to witness people cheat on a urine drug test. Many drug users go undetected by using synthetic urine which is generally available in the market. Keeping that in mind many employers are choosing hair follicle drug tests over a urine drug test to make sure. Hair drug tests are hard to cheat producing 99 percent accurate results.  They have the longest detection window of 90 days too. Employers who want to recruit candidates for a higher post can go for a blood test too.        

Foods to Avoid Before Drug Test

Following is a list of foods that can lead to a false positive while you are up for a drug test:

  •       Durian
  •       Tonic Water
  •       Poppy Seeds
  •       Coca Tea
  •       Hemp Seeds
  •       Pizza

Which Is the Most Precise Test

Among saliva, urine, hair follicle, and blood the most accurate are blood and hair follicle drug tests. Saliva tests provide results 90 percent accurately. Moreover, they are quite impossible to cheat as the test can be done whenever and wherever. Coming to the urine drug test, they are the most preferred drug test with 95 percent accuracy but they are easy to cheat. It has a moderate detection window but can identify a wide array of drugs. Hair follicle tests results tend to be 99 percent accurate and they are hard to cheat though it’s not impossible. It has the longest detection window but cannot detect recent use. The drug detection range of a blood drug test is also rich but it has a short identification window. It is time-consuming and expensive. You need to visit a lab to do the test. Each of these tests has its benefits and drawbacks. You need to find out what works best for you.    

Factors That Influence User Experience

FMAHealth suggests paying attention to the following factors:
Drug Type:
Different drugs act differently in the body. Responses depend entirely on the type of drug taken and the effect varies with it.

Dosage: User experience varies with the amount of dosage taken. Smaller dosages elicit mild responses and the opposite for high dosages.

Body Mass: Heavy people express better drug tolerance than people who weigh less. They need a higher dosage to get high.

Age: Old and underage people are more sensitive compared to others when it comes to drugs.  

Tolerance: Prolonged exposer to a specific drug helps build tolerance. Thus, the same dosage might not produce the same response like before. 

Bottom Line

Drugs or medications are there for treatment to accelerate the body’s healing process. Because of them, the death rate is going down each year. But today drug abuse has become a global problem that is killing people around the world. To fight this problem many drug tests are available producing reliable results. Some of them are quite convenient and fast. Almost every organization runs regular drug tests on their employees to ensure better performance.


  • Carolyn Gaughan

    Carolyn Gaughan is an ex-executive vice president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and represents the state associations of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians.