How Saliva Drug Tests Work

If you work in a medical facility, perform employee screenings, or suspect that your child or teen may be abusing substances, you should know about saliva drug testing. This evaluation will help you to determine which drugs are in a person’s system, and some advanced tests can reveal how concentrated these substances are. Of course, there are also advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of when it comes to saliva drug testing. Getting all the information you can before performing the test can help you read the results correctly and objectively.

To administer a saliva drug test, you’ll give the “test taker” a cotton swab to place in his/her mouth. The swab is placed in between the gum and cheek for about two minutes, so that the cotton can properly absorb enough saliva for accurate testing. Then the swab is placed into a vial for testing.

The vial is sealed and then placed into a sterile plastic bag. In medical settings, the test administrator, as well as the person taking the test, must sign or initial the bag and the label on the vial. This is to indicate that both people are aware that the saliva is being used for drug testing purposes. After the saliva is sealed, it is sent to a medical lab. The saliva will be carefully analyzed for its molecular makeup, and special machinery will detect any abnormalities in the saliva.

Parents often use saliva drug tests to determine whether their teens have been using marijuana, or have been experimenting with heroin, as this type of drug test detects these substances pretty accurately. A saliva drug test will also reveal whether a person has been abusing prescription drugs like amphetamines, and can indicate whether the person taking the test is addicted to heroin or THC, a substance that is found in marijuana, but is also present in other psychoactive drugs.

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