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What Are Some Limitations to Drug Testing?

What Are Some Limitations to Drug Testing

As great as it would be for one test to have all the answers, this isn’t usually the case. This applies to many situations and questions in life, including when it comes to drug testing. While drug testing is certainly useful and helpful in a wide range of scenarios, there’s no one test to rule them all. Let’s dive into the limitations that can impact drug testing.

Here we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of drug testing, its limitations, and what it can and can’t achieve. For further information or to order a test, contact our team at ReliaLab today.

Types of Drug Tests

The first and most recognizable limitation in drug testing is the type of test itself.

To begin with, not every drug can be tested for. New drugs are created all the time, and so existing drug tests cannot pick up what they haven’t been designed to detect. While the drug testing industry works as hard as possible to keep up with the latest inventions and variations, tests can’t be created and distributed overnight.

For the drugs that are detectable in tests, not every test will pick up every drug. Depending on the drug itself and how it interacts with the body, it may show up in only a specific type of test.

Urine Tests

Urinalysis is the least expensive type of drug test, and is one of the most widely used. In many cases these tests can identify drug use from the last three days. Urine tests can detect drugs including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illegal substances.

Urine testing can also pick up prescribed medications such as antidepressants, Oxycodone, and Valium. When the person does not have a valid prescription to a prescribed medication, this is classed as a drug of abuse.

Urine Test Limitations

Urinalysis tests can be finicky when it comes to timing. As well as being less effective for drugs taken earlier than three days prior to testing, urinalysis tests generally can’t detect drug use from the past two to four hours.

Additionally, several factors can affect the accuracy of the test. The way you did the test, the way you stored the urine, and what the person ate or drank prior to taking the test can all influence the result.

Saliva Tests

Oral fluid testing, otherwise known as saliva testing, is increasing in popularity due to its less invasive nature when compared to urinalysis. Much like urine tests, saliva tests typically detect drug usage from the past two to three days. However, oral fluid tends to be less easily substituted or contaminated than urine.

Oral fluid tests are conducted via cheek swab, and can detect marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamine, and opioids, among other drugs.

Saliva Test Limitations

Oral fluid testing is generally more expensive than urinalysis, making it less accessible in some situations. It also has a shorter detection window than urine tests, so one day can make all the difference.

While typically close to 98% accurate depending on several factors such as the drug itself, its concentration, and the skill and ability of the person performing the test, saliva tests are often not as accurate as some other tests.

Hair Follicle Tests

Hair follicle tests can determine if a person has used certain drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, or opiates within the past three months. While this is a much larger window of time in comparison with other types of tests, it doesn’t necessarily make it the best test overall.

Fair Follicle Test Limitations

The drug itself and individual factors like the person’s hair and sweat can affect the results. Certain drugs bind more easily to melanin (dark pigmentation) in a person’s hair, meaning that hair color can impact results. Bleached and dyed hair can also affect results.

Additionally, a person’s hair must be at least 0.5-1.5 inches in length to be useable for a hair follicle test. While the hair tested can come from the person’s armpit or face, for those without any hair at all, a hair follicle test cannot be used.

Contact ReliaLab For All Your Drug Testing Questions

If you’ve been wondering which type of test would be best suited for your needs, we hope this blog has helped to answer some of your questions. At ReliaLab we offer the types of drug tests listed above in addition to other types of testing such as DNA tests. To order the drug test or tests you’re looking for, contact our team at ReliaLab today.


Order a Test

Whether you are an individual looking to get a drug test done today or an employer looking to get a pre-employment drug test done today, ordering a test online is easier than ever! Just submit your order online, receive your test authorization by email, go to your local clinic to be tested, and receive your test results in 24 to 48 hours.

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If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our lab.