An oral drug test (also referred to as a mouth swab drug test or saliva drug test) is a screening tool used to detect substance use. These tests typically consist of gathering saliva from the inside of the mouth with a swab-like instrument or absorbent pad then analyzing it. Drug testing is commonly used by various agencies, including employers, health providers, law enforcement, and rehab centers, for several purposes, such as determining a person’s sobriety status or worthiness for a job.
Traditionally, these tests have been conducted using urine, hair follicles, or blood samples in a clinical environment. In some cases, when applicable, oral drug tests may be preferred, however. They are relatively non-invasive, easier to collect than urine, much faster to process, and generally a highly effective way of testing blood, DNA, and for diseases such as Hepatitis A/B/C, HIV, and tuberculosis.
Also, the samples are collected in full view of the individual administering the test and, therefore, are extremely unlikely to be subject to tampering. Drug screens that use oral collection can be very useful for police when conducting roadside tests to identify possible drug use unrelated to alcohol.
How Are They Performed?
The oral drug test is one of the least invasive drug screens, as it does not require the collection of blood or urine. It is conducted using a collection stick with a sponge or absorbent pad on one end to swab saliva from the inside of the cheek. The sample is then analyzed for traces of specific substances, either on-site or in a laboratory. The only preparation needed is to avoid eating or drinking anything for ten minutes before the test.
What Substances Can a Mouth Swab Detect?
The substances an oral drug test can identify depend on the type of test being used, which may screen for any one of these drugs individually or in a combination when using a comprehensive, multi-panel tool:
- Cannabis (THC)
- MDMA (Ecstasy)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
The length of time in which an oral drug test can identify the presence of drugs depends on a few factors, including the test’s sensitivity, as well as the substance being tested for and how much has been ingested. Moreover, some screening tools are more sensitive than others, and some substances are detectable for a more extended period than others.
How long an individual has been using the substance can also influence detection time. Studies have shown that substances are detectable for a longer period in individuals who use them frequently and chronically.
Substances are usually detectable in saliva within about 30 minutes of exposure to a substance. This is much more rapid than other screening tools. The brief time frame makes them especially useful for testing after an auto accident or under suspicious circumstances. The detection window in oral fluids is 5-48 hours, but again, that window can be extended for individuals who use a substance often or for a prolonged period.
Timeframe for Results
How long results take depends on whether the samples are sent to a laboratory or tested on-site, but findings usually take about 24 hours to ascertain. However, home drug testing screens and on-site testing devices, including those used for roadside tests, can yield results in minutes.
Are Oral Drug Tests Accurate?
When performed correctly, the accuracy of most mouth swab tests is near 98%. However, several factors can interfere with accuracy, including the following:
- Type of test used
- Drug type and concentration
- Skill level of the individual administering the test
- The detection window for the specific substance(s)
- Quality of the drug testing tool
Accuracy also varies between lab testing and on-the-spot testing—typically, instant oral kits aren’t as accurate as lab tests. Also, urine and blood tests are considered to be somewhat more accurate.
Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse or Addiction
If you need to take an oral drug test and are afraid of failing, this may indicate you have a substance use disorder and would benefit from professional help in the form of a long-term, comprehensive rehab program that aims to address all aspects of each individual’s health and well-being.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers use a multifaceted approach to drug and alcohol addiction that includes various therapeutic methodologies and activities, including behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, substance abuse education, 12-step group support, relapse prevention, aftercare planning, and much more.