There are many forms of drug screening tests on the market, but a blood drug test is one of the most reliable detectors of substance abuse in someone with substance use disorder.
If you’ve never had a blood drug test before and are nervous about having one, we will explain all you need to know.
Are you or a loved one at risk of failing a blood drug test due to substance abuse? If so, Zinnia Health can help.
We offer inpatient detox services for anyone with a history of chronic drug use and the inability to quit without withdrawal symptoms. Our medically supervised detox program provides supportive care and medication-assisted treatment for those who need it most. To find out how we can help, give us a call at (855) 430-9439.
What is a Blood Drug Test?
A blood drug test, or blood screen, is a drug test that looks for substance use by detecting substances or their metabolites in the person’s blood.
Blood tests are more useful in emergencies, such as a drug overdose, to discover exactly what substances the person used.
Some companies prefer blood drug tests to detect alcohol consumption because these tests can precisely detect ethanol levels.
Blood Tests vs Urine and Mouth Swab Tests
Urine and saliva tests are more routinely used than blood tests.
Urine tests don’t require supervision when obtaining the sample, so the sample isn’t always reliable. Some people attempt to dilute their urine or even bring in someone else’s to pass their tests.
Blood tests are supervised and only collected by a specialist, making it harder to “beat” the test.
What is the Purpose of a Blood Drug Test?
A blood drug screen can detect the presence of illegal drugs and some prescription medications.
People with certain medical conditions cannot provide saliva or urine, so a blood test is the best option.
Who Requires a Blood Drug Test?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), drug testing is a prevention and deterrent method used to promote a drug-free workplace.
Companies may administer blood drug tests to:
- Make sure new hires meet pre-employment requirements
- Fulfill physical test requirements
- Determine if someone’s injury is due to drug use
- Determine if someone’s behavior is due to drug use
- Determine post-rehab drug status
In addition to the above-listed reasons, some companies select employees for randomized blood drug tests.
1. Child Welfare Requirements
The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare state that “the most effective way to identify a substance use disorder or to determine if a child is at risk for maltreatment or neglect is to use a combination of screening tools… including random drug testing.”
2. Probation and Parole Requirements
Those on parole or probation are subject to court-ordered drug testing to fulfill their obligations. The type of test performed is determined by the court and state, but it can include blood (serum) drug tests.
If a parolee fails this drug test, it violates their conditions for release.
Are There Different Types of Blood Drug Tests?
Due to their sensitivity, some companies prefer blood drug tests over other types like urine or saliva tests. A blood drug test can detect the most minute drug levels.
Although there is only one type of blood drug test, the order form will have the name of the drug followed by the word “test,” and the testing method will read ‘blood’ or ‘blood serum.’
Some of the many substances that a blood drug test looks for are:
- Marijuana (THC)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
- Illegal supplements
Blood drug tests detect many substances, but the collection method is always the same.
How is a Blood Drug Test Performed?
A blood drug test is a lab test. Blood drug tests require a blood sample, so these tests are only performed by a professional – usually a phlebotomist. Only a few milliliters of blood are needed for testing.
Before beginning the test, the phlebotomist selects an area for withdrawal.
They will then sterilize this area with an alcohol wipe.
Next, they will tie a tourniquet (rubber band) around your upper arm to push more blood into the area.
Then they insert a small needle into your vein with a thin tube connected to it.
Lastly, the phlebotomist attaches a small vacuum-extraction blood tube to the needle to collect the blood sample.
After obtaining the sample, the phlebotomist uses a cotton swab to apply pressure to the area while withdrawing the needle. You’ll need to hold the swab there for a minute until they apply a small band-aid.
Depending on the lab, they can test the serum or the plasma from your blood for drugs onsite. Some labs don’t have this capability and must send the collected serum or plasma to a lab that can perform the test.
Blood drug tests are not available over the counter. You can, however, find urine drug tests at most pharmacies.
Blood Test Results: Positive vs. Negative
No detection or negative is a good result. This means there were no drugs or alcohol found in your system. ‘Detected’ or positive means that you failed the test.
This result means you’ve recently used drugs or alcohol. If you receive a positive result, the lab will confirm it before sending it out.
False Positives in Blood Drug Tests
While blood drug tests are overwhelmingly accurate, there is always the risk of receiving a false positive.
Some people receive a positive by unknowingly ingesting a substance through inhalation or residual amounts on surfaces.
However, there is a minimum level that drug testing centers deem “acceptable,” so anything below this number indicates contact with the drug and not use or abuse.
You may receive a false positive if you’ve used or consumed:
- Vicks Vapoinhalers
- Poppy seeds
- Certain antihistamines
- Some depression medications (tricyclics, quetiapine, and bupropion)
If you’re at risk of receiving a false positive, let the company requesting the test know. Refusing to take the test is the same as receiving a positive test result. Therefore, it’s better to ask them to reschedule and explain your situation.
Getting Help for Drug Addiction
People who struggle with drug addiction may use illegal tactics to pass their drug tests. Despite their best efforts, sensitive tests can detect many of these tactics resulting in both a fail and a note of attempted deception.
This move could cost you dearly, depending on why you’re required to submit to different types of drug testing.