It is a sad commentary on modern society that drug testing has now become so widespread. Drug tests are required when people are applying for a job, prior to a sporting event, or for those who may be on parole or in drug treatment. Drug tests are often administered in schools. In addition to passing a drug test before employment actually begins, many employers will conduct random, unannounced drug tests to make sure that their workers are not abusing drugs.
The Types of Drug Tests
There are several factors that will come into play as regards which drug test will be used: cost, accuracy, and legality. Conditions under which drug tests may be given, and which tests can be required, will often differ from state to state. And, some tests are simply more accurate than others.
- Urine testing is the one most commonly done when applying for a job. The applicant will be required to provide a urine sample then and there, and often in the presence of another person to make sure that they are not substituting a ‘clean’ sample for their own. Deception is easy to detect, however, by the temperature of the urine, so being watched while urinating is not really necessary. Instant testing can provide information about the presence of a number of different drugs.
- Saliva tests are fairly reliable at detecting the presence of a number of drugs. They are less likely to be objected to by those being tested. The biggest drawback to this method is that it will only give information if drug use has been very recent.
- Blood tests for intoxicants are the most accurate way to determine drug use. These tests are very unlikely to be used casually for screening job applicants, and are generally illegal for such. Blood tests are usually given only when a medical situation has arisen, and would necessitate the use of a trained technician to perform anyway.
- Sweat tests are conducted mostly for people who are on parole or who are in a drug treatment program. No, the underarm is not swabbed – a patch is applied to the skin and then left on for up to 2 weeks to detect the use of forbidden substances. Sweat tests are nearly impossible to fudge, but the quality of the sweat can be affected by environmental conditions.
- Hair drug testing is a good way to get a long view of a person’s drug use. These tests can detect the use of illegal drugs, or alcohol, over a period of 3 months or longer. However, hair tests must be conducted in a specially equipped laboratory and are relatively expensive.
How Accurate Are Drug Tests?
Drug tests are considered to be quite accurate, but they are not infallible. These tests can yield incorrect results in up to 15% of the cases, which could have a very serious impact if you or a family member shows up as being a drug user or addict when this is not the case. A rather incredible number of drug tests are done in the United States every year, approximate 150 million, so there could be a good chance that either a false positive or a false negative could occur.
Of course, the possibility of human error will enter the picture in a small number of cases – either the person conducting the test was unable to conduct the test properly or the sample was contaminated some way en route. However, there are a number of other conditions that can make the subject look like a drug user when they are not:
- Poppy seeds will show up on a drug test as opioids. If you are used to having a poppy seed roll or bagel with your morning tea or coffee, you might want to switch to something else if you have a drug test impending.
- Over-the-counter medication can also cause a false reading. If you have a cold or the flu and take ibuprofen, antihistamines, or cough medicine that contains dextromethorphan, you will show up as a drug abuser.
- Even some antibiotics will cause a false positive, and those who may be suffering from a kidney infection will also be awarded a wrong diagnosis
If you do receive a false positive on a drug test, make sure that you demand a second test, conducted by another lab. Those who have been taking any medications should indicate this before the test, even if you stopped taking the medication weeks before. If you are refused a second test, and because this will have a profound impact on your future life, engage the services of a lawyer.
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