Can a Saliva Drug Test Replace a Urine Drug Test?

In the UK, the two most commonly used drug tests in the workplace are urine drug tests and saliva (oral fluid) drug tests. Both are very useful in screening employees and prospective employees for current and recent drug usage.

Urine Drug Tests

These kinds of drug tests are useful for background screening. If you are interested in knowing if an employee has used any type of drug of abuse in the last few days, these types of tests are ideal. A urine drug test will answer the question “does this person take drugs?”

A urine drug test comes in a number of formats. A single drug test will detect a specific drug such as cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy. Most commonly, an employer will use a multi panel drug test to screen an employee for a number of drugs at the same time. The largest multi-panel drug tests can screen for 12 of the most commonly used drugs of abuse simultaneously.

Saliva Drug Tests

A saliva drug tests is very useful for testing drug usage over a short period of time. These types of tests are designed to indicate if a person has recently used drugs. They cannot tell you if a person is a frequent or infrequent user of drugs though. An oral fluid drug test will allow you to answer the question “has this individual smoked cannabis in the last 4-6 hours, or have they used any other drug during the last 24 hours?”

It is becoming more common for employers to use saliva drug tests in the workplace. These types of drug screens are useful as the lower the risk of accidents due to drug use. Here, the aim is not to discover if an employee smoked cannabis at home yesterday. The timeframe is much more immediate and you will be looking to ascertain if they smoked cannabis in the last few hours at work whilst on a break.

Saliva drug testing allows employers to clearly monitor staff for use of drugs in company time or on company premises, as these are activities which could put the individual, his co-workers and the public at risk of harm.

Anybody that is stopped by the police for suspected drug driving will be, almost certainly, made to take a saliva drug test. Since 2015 it has been illegal to drive with any trace of a wide number of illegal and legal drugs. This “zero tolerance” approach to drug driving will be replicated in 2019 in Scotland, when that country also brings in anti drug-driving legislation. The type of saliva drug test used by police is often called a “drugalyser”

Most Saliva Drug Tests used by employers will screen for a number of drugs at the same time. The smaller sized kits will typically test for 3 drugs or for the 4 most common drugs of abuse in the UK. A larger saliva drug test kit will detect 7 types of drug.

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2015.

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