What Are the Different Types of Oral Drug Tests?

Oral drug tests can detest past and present use of a variety of substances, including cocaine and ecstasy.
A mouth swab can detect the presence of illegal substances like cocaine.
Saliva specimens may be collected for oral drug tests.
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  • Written By: D. Waldman
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2014
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The two basic types of oral drug tests are on-site tests and laboratory tests. On-site tests provide instant results in less than 10 minutes, and laboratory tests are analyzed in an off-site testing facility and can take several days to a week or more for processing. Both types of oral drug test require a specimen of saliva to be acquired from the person being tested. Oral drug testing typically is performed by two major categories of people, employers needing to verify the sobriety of their employees and parents concerned about the well-being of their children.

On-site oral drug testing allows the tester to receive immediate results using a saliva specimen from the person being tested. This type of oral test is ideal for situations that require an instant reading. They are the most common types of drug screening used for randomized drug testing on the job as well as spot tests by parents to verify their child's sobriety. They also are used by employers immediately after an on-the-job accident has occurred in order to better assess whether substance use was a contributing factor in the incident. On-site oral drug tests can be used to detect recent alcohol use as well.


Laboratory-analyzed oral drug tests are preferred for situations that require verification of potential drug use over a longer period of time. The saliva specimen is collected in the same manner as with an on-site test but is then sent to a testing facility for processing. The results typically take at least a week to be determined, but they are able to screen for a wider variety of drugs. These types of oral drug tests are most commonly used for pre-employment screenings, allowing an employer to verify past drug abuse as well as present use.

Oral drug tests can detect past and present use of a variety of substances, including marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy. They typically are classified as either five-panel drug tests or 10-panel drug tests, indicating the number of substances for which the test will screen. The period of time for which the test can detect usage varies depending on the substance. The majority of substances, however, are tested for use during the past two to three days.

Oral drug tests are preferred over a urine drug test because they make it much more difficult to manipulate the results in order to create a false negative reading. They are not as extensive as a hair drug test, but they provide enough detail to satisfy most tester's needs at a significantly lower price. They also are much simpler to administer than blood drug tests while providing very similar accuracy levels with regard to the results.


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