What Are the Different Types of Oral Drug Tests?

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  • Written By: D. Waldman
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2020
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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. 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 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 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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Post 3

I don't have to take drug tests for the job where I work, but I have taken them in the past for positions I was applying for. I'm not a drug user. The smell of marijuana makes me sick. Even though I'm not a user, I still get nervous about the tests.

Whenever I have to wait that week for the results I get more nervous. People make mistakes, and someone in the lab where they get the results could make a mistake, and my test might come back positive for marijuana. Test results should be immediate, so you can dispute the results then and there and take a second test if necessary.

Post 2

@mobilian33 - I agree with you that the old urine drug tests are a bit more invasive than drug tests need to be. These are bad enough when you have to take one for work. Can you imagine wanting to test your child for drugs or alcohol and asking him to go to the bathroom and bring you back a fresh sample of his urine?

I think the simplicity of the oral drug tests will make the whole process go much smoother whether you are taking the test for work or having your child take the test.

Post 1

Until reading this article, I had never heard of hair tests that will let the testers know if a person is taking drugs. I had no idea that drugs would show up in a place like your hair. However, I must say I like the sound of these types of tests.

I would much rather donate a few strands of hair for drug tests instead of having to pee into a cup once a month or three times a year, or ever how often a company tests its workers for illegal drugs. I don't use drugs, but I don't like drug tests that require my urine. I find it embarrassing to have to give a sample and have it sent to a lab to be tested.

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