Evaluating Employment Drug Testing Methods

September 2018

Employers use drug screening as part of their hiring processes to help ensure quality control, reduce the risks of workplace accidents and absenteeism, increase productivity and comply with regulations. With several drug testing methods available, employers must choose those that best fit their needs. In some cases, turnaround times or costs may be the most important factors, while other organizations require longer detection windows. What should you know about the different types of drug tests, and what criteria should you use to choose the best format for your organization? Read on to learn more.

Urine Drug Testing

Urine testing is the most commonly used of all the drug screening tests types. Laboratory standardization, along with wide availability of test sites, has helped to advance use of this type of test in many industries. Urine testing is the only format acceptable for federally required tests. Urine tests have multiple advantages to consider — including the option to customize test panels; availability of both lab-based and instant results; and the high level of validity due to the standardized testing methods used. In addition, urine tests are most likely to hold up to legal scrutiny. Disadvantages of urine tests include a relatively short detection window of one to four days, on average. Further, test subjects may have opportunities to switch or alter their specimens if the collection process is not monitored. Urine specimens are considered to be biological hazards, which can present challenges for processing and shipping to laboratories.

Hair Drug Testing

Despite the popularity of urine testing, some organizations choose to incorporate hair drug testing into their hiring processes. Hair testing provides the longest testing window — between a week and three months from the date of drug use — for the drug types that hiring managers most often wish to detect. Hair tests deter job candidates from attempting to substitute or alter specimens. The need for trained personnel to collect specimens also reduces the chances of contaminated specimens. In addition to the longer detection window, advantages of hair drug testing include convenient processing, storage and shipping of samples. Disadvantages of this testing method include its cost, which is higher than urine or oral fluid formats. What’s more, hair tests do not detect drug use that has occurred within approximately five to seven days from the test. Further, getting samples from some subjects — including those with no hair — can present problems.

Oral Fluid Drug Testing

Oral fluid testing offers a minimally invasive method that detects recent use and helps discourage attempts to alter samples. Results indicate if drugs are in the subject’s system at the time of testing, which makes these tests well-suited for use following accidents. Advantages of oral fluid drug testing include simplicity of collections and lower costs than with other methods. Plus, the testing process can be observed easily, and employers may choose either lab-based or instant tests. Disadvantages of the tests include the need for employers to keep test inventory on hand, along with shorter detection timeframes than with other testing methods. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has not authorized all types of collection devices for this method.

Complying With Privacy Laws

Regardless of the testing method you use, compliance with laws regarding privacy and disclosure is critical. Global Verification Network administers a comprehensive range of drug screening tests types and can assist you in complying with all applicable laws and regulations. To learn more about our drug testing processes, please contact Global Verification Network.

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