The Quintessential Guide To Different Types Of Drug Tests

Drug testing is used by a wide variety of organizations to screen employees or job candidates. The approach is designed to identify recent use or consumption of various types of prescription drugs, alcohol and illicit drugs. The tests, which are conducted by laboratories on behalf of private and public entities do not test for impairment. Many organization implements different types of drug tests based on written policy while others are not guided by any clear policy.

Written policies are typically communicated to employees to ensure awareness. In some cases, supervisors are given guidelines on how to monitor employee behavior. This is aimed at detecting the abuse of drugs and alcohol. The initiatives may be coupled with assistance programs designed to provide rehabilitation support for any employee with the alcohol or drug abuse problem.

Drug testing techniques are guided by physiological considerations. When an individual ingests drugs, the body undergoes elaborate biochemical reactions. This results in the release of the active compound before the drug is broken down into smaller structures that differ from the original compounds. The reactions will lead to the excretion of the small structures, which are known as metabolites. Urine is one of the key excretion routes; hence, the use of urine in drug tests.

The parameters of drug testing vary depending on various factors, including the type of drugs being tested for, testing laboratory, regulatory requirements and testing expectations. Companies that employ commercial class drivers are required to test for five categories of drugs. These include phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, and opiates.

The majority of testing firms offer an expanded test, which allows companies to choose additional items from a list of eight drug classes. Some of the items on the list include MDMA, methaqualone, barbiturates and more.

Tests techniques:

Hair testing

The hair test is used to detect drug metabolites, which are deposited in the scalp’s blood vessels. Some of the metabolites eventually filter through to the hair follicles. Scientists developed a practical way to test hair samples for traces of drug metabolites, which are known to stay in the hair. This creates a permanent record of drug abuse. The testing process involves the dissolving of strands of hair in specially designed solvents.

Laboratory technicians proceed to analyze the sample that comes in liquid form using mass spectrometry and gas chromatography. The technique used to analyze the liquefied sample is highly sensitive. However, the process is costly and takes a considerable amount of time to complete.

Urine drug testing

Urine tests are a more cost-effective option and have the capacity to detect use within the past seven days. The metabolites can be detected for longer when testing chronic users. Abstaining from use prior to the tests may lead to a negative result. Laboratories can test the temperature of the urine sample to ensure integrity.

Saliva testing

Laboratories can test individuals for metabolites using saliva samples. However, the technique can only detect recent drug use. For this reason, saliva testing is well suited to detecting current intoxication testing only.

Blood testing

This type of drug testing is both intrusive and expensive. Yet, it is one of the most accurate ways of confirming drug use. The technique is mainly used in life or health insurance and accident investigation medicals. It can detect the use of cannabinoids within hours of use.

Perspiration testing

Organizations can test for drugs using a perspiration patch that must be worn for a prescribed period of time. The patch uses perspiration samples to detect the presence of metabolites, which have been excreted from the body. This technique is usually used to check people on probation.


These types of drug tests are generally used to screen samples after metabolites have been detected. They help confirm the initial results using technologies that are more sensitive. Immunoassays are designed to detect metabolites using the principle of antigen-antibody interaction. Radioisotopes, enzymes or fluorescent compounds help test samples by detecting any binding that happens with metabolites.

The Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Technique or EMIT is a cheaper but less effective immunoassay technique, which relies on enzymes for detection. RIA or Radio Immunoassay, on the other hand, employs advanced radioactive isotopes like iodine to achieve the objective. It is highly sensitive and effective when compared to EMIT.