Benefits of Saliva Drug Testing Over Urine Drug Testing

By William Bierlein

Saliva drug tests determine if certain drugs are present in a person’s system using oral fluids as a testing sample. This drug testing method is fast, cost-effective, reliable, and causes no pain whatsoever.

You might be wondering if a saliva drug test is better than a urine drug test. While comparing the two is not a clear-cut apples-to-apples situation, there are certain prominent benefits you can gain by using a saliva drug test instead of a urine drug test.

To understand the benefits of saliva drug testing, you need to first have a clear idea of how it works.

How Does a Saliva Drug Test Work?

Saliva drug tests are sometimes also referred to as mouth swabs or oral fluid drug tests. When conducting a saliva test, you swab the inside of the mouth— over the gums and inner cheek area with a sponge or absorbent pad attached to the end of a swab stick. The swab is placed in the mouth for about 5-10 minus to get accurate results.

With most at-home or workplace saliva tests, you place the saturated swab stick in the collection chamber and wait for the results to appear in about 5 minutes. If the results show a defined, color-full, and visible line, no drugs are detected.

If the line is not visible, then drugs have been detected. There’s also a third possible outcome where the test results show only one line. This means a test is invalid, and you will need to re-do it.

An oral fluids drug test can detect the following drugs:

  • Alcohol
  • tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • cocaine
  • amphetamines
  • barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • methamphetamine
  • opioids
  • phencyclidine (PCP)

What Exactly are Drug Panels?

If you have come across a 5-panel saliva drug test or a 10-panel oral fluids drug test, 12-panel saliva drug test,  you must be wondering what it’s all about. The number of panels represents the number of drug families that a saliva test kit can detect.

For example, a 5-panel saliva drug test kit can detect five drug families. A 10-panel kit would detect 10 drug families, while a 12-panel kit would detect 12.

Choosing the right panel comes down to your specific needs. For instance, workplaces usually use the 5-panel to screen for:

  • Cocaine (COC)
  • Opiates (OPI)
  • Methamphetamines (mAMP)
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Amphetamines (AMP)

Safety-sensitive workplaces may employ the 12-kit panel to cover a broader base of drug families. If you want a home kit for personal uses, the 5-panel saliva drug test kit would be more reasonable and affordable.

Even though urine drug tests have been the standard since 1988, saliva drug tests are quickly growing in popularity. That’s because most workplaces and health care facilities are now realizing the benefits that saliva drug testing holds over urine testing. So, what exactly are the benefits of saliva testing over urine testing? Let’s get into the details.

Saliva Drug Testing Allows for Privacy

Typically, urine drug testing is not the most private of tests. It is uncomfortable for both the donor and the person administering the test. The donor will also need access to a private restroom to take the sample required for a urine test. On top of this, some urine drug testing situations may require a gender-specific observer, which is not always practical or possible.

On the other hand, saliva drug testing is safe and quick, and there’s no need to plan for complicated logistics, gender-specific observers, or dedicated rooms for collection. Saliva drug testing can be performed virtually anywhere. It’s also comfortable for both the donor and observer or person collecting the sample.

 Non Invasive and Easy to Perform

Another top benefit of saliva drug testing over urine testing is the ease of collection. First, the process is non-invasive, so there is no pain or even the slightest discomfort. For instance, the donor may experience a shy bladder during the urine drug test. This happens when the donor has difficulty urinating.

In the end, the test will need to be rescheduled, which is inconvenient. The donor will also be uncomfortable since they must go through the process twice. They may experience a struggle in the second test, too.

With the oral fluids drug tests, it’s as easy as swabbing the inner cheek area and under the tongue. A mouth swab saliva drug test takes less than 5 minutes and is not one bit complicated. The only preparation needed before taking a saliva drug test is not eating or drinking anything 10 minutes before the test.

Has a Lesser Risk of Tampering With the Test

Since urine sample collection mostly takes place in private, it’s easy to manipulate the sample. But with a saliva drug test, sample collection happens in the presence of an observer. Also, since most drug detections can not be altered by mouth wash and food, it’s pretty hard to tamper with the sample.

Likewise, saliva tests are not responsive to adulterants which are substances that alter the presence or levels of drugs in a sample. This means that it’s harder to cheat in a saliva drug test.

It is Effective and Accurate

Saliva testing is just as accurate as urine drug testing. One study found the saliva drug test to have an accuracy rate of 97%. That said, the accuracy of the saliva drug test will vary based on the type of drug, the test kit, and sometimes the type of food ingested.

For instance, inducing saliva production through citric acid candy and chewing lowers the concentration of drugs such as codeine, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

Ideal for Reasonable Suspicion and Post-Accident Tests

In safety-sensitive roles, agencies and workplaces must ensure that individuals are fit to work. This is where the saliva drug test proves valuable. Because the oral fluid drug test can detect recent drug use, sometimes within minutes of consuming a drug, it ensures that all safety-sensitive workers are not under the influence of drugs when performing their role.

Case in point: Methamphetamine is detectable in your saliva 10 minutes after use and MDMAs after one hour.

Saliva tests will also come in handy post-accidents when an agency wants to determine if an individual was under the influence when driving or operating machinery. The same can not be said for a urine drug test.

That’s because drugs can only be detected in urine if they have metabolized. It can take anywhere from 6-12 hours for a drug to metabolize, which defeats the purpose of getting a drug test immediately or within a few hours.

But a downside of saliva testing is that drugs do not remain in oral fluids for long. In fact, most drugs remain in oral fluids for only 5-48 hours after use. If your goal is to test for long-term usage, it’s better to use a urine test. Otherwise, saliva testing will suffice if your goal is to gauge the current state of an individual.

Ultimately, saliva drug testing is just as safe and effective as urine drug testing, but with a little more convenience and comfort. And in the long term, especially when you shop for saliva testing kits in bulk, it can save you more money and lessen the stress of planning logistics for a urine drug test.

Which is Ideal: Saliva Lab Test or Onsite Rapid Drug Testing?

Rapid drug testing refers to testing which happens on-site primarily with immediate results—for instance, using a saliva drug test kit to detect any drug substances. On the other hand, lab testing occurs when you send the saliva sample to the lab for testing. This method is often more rigorous, but it also takes time. It takes 2-3 days on average for lab testing results to come back.

Rapid saliva drug tests are limited to detecting a dozen drug families, but with lab testing, you can test for any drug. Therefore, lab testing is more expensive than rapid drug testing but offers more comprehensive results. When contemplating which to choose, first figure out if your state allows rapid drug testing. Some states do, while others don’t. In the case of a non-negative (postitive)result, the test administering personnel should send the sample to the lab for more in-depth analysis.

Should You go With Saliva Drug Testing or Urine Drug Testing?

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between the two. Both saliva and urine drug testing have their unique limitations and advantages, as you have seen. It all comes down to understanding your needs and what you hope to accomplish.

If you want rapid drug tests for your workforce, saliva drug testing may be better aligned. However, if you want a more comprehensive test, you may choose a urine drug test since it covers a more extensive base of drug families.

That said, you want to choose a drug test kit that is convenient, appeals to the larger section of your audience, and easy on your budget. Before selecting your test, ensure that you are also aware of the existing codes, laws, and regulations surrounding each drug test.

Whatever decision you make, know that saliva testing is just as fast, accurate, and reliable as urine testing.