Saliva Swab Drug Testing and How to Get Help for Addiction
A mouth swab drug test, commonly called an oral fluid or saliva drug test, is used to detect substance abuse.
Since the test is quick and doesn’t require a private room, it’s often used in on-site testing, like at the workplace.
What Is a Saliva Drug Test?
Taking a saliva drug test is extremely simple. Participants will be asked not to eat or drink anything for about 10 minutes beforehand.
Once at least 10 minutes have passed, the person conducting the test prepares a sterile absorbent pad or sponge at the end of a collection stick, which forms the swab.
They insert the swab into the participant’s mouth, rubbing it against the inner cheek for a few seconds.
Depending on the goal, the saliva samples may be sent for lab testing or inserted into testing kits for immediate testing.
On-site test results can come back in a few hours, but the test may not be as accurate due to contamination potential or misread results. If the saliva drug test went for lab testing, results usually arrive about 24 hours later.
A saliva test may also return a false negative or a false positive. Factors can include:
- The type of test used
- The type of drug detected (and its concentration)
- The skill of the person administering the test
- The quality of the testing device
The test results generally come back with 98% accuracy when performed correctly.
While urine and blood tests are considered more accurate, they are less cost-effective and more difficult to conduct.
What Does Saliva Drug Testing Detect?
Different saliva drug tests on the market don’t always detect the same drugs. Sometimes, a saliva test is taken to detect a specific drug, which means it tests for an individual substance.
A saliva test can also go into a multi-panel testing kit, such as a 10-panel drug test, to detect multiple drugs from one sample.
Saliva tests can check for:
- Amphetamines like Adderall
- Barbiturates like amobarbital
- Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium
- Opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin
- Cannabis (THC), including wax and oil
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
How long a saliva test detects a substance depends on the test’s sensitivity and how long the person has taken the drug.
People who have been using a substance for a long time are more likely to test positive, even if their abstinence period is the same as a light user who tests negative.
Generally, a saliva test can pick up on a substance 30 minutes after ingestion, which is much faster than other drug tests.
Meanwhile, the detection window ends sooner, sometimes in as little as 5 hours. However, it can last up to 48 hours, depending on the substance and the above factors.
Is a Saliva Test a Common Test for Drug Screening?
While saliva drug tests cannot detect as many drugs as other tests and have a shorter detention window, they are a common method for drug screening. They may also be used in tandem with different samples, like urine drug tests.
Saliva drug tests are widespread in the healthcare industry, such as for expectant mothers. They can also apply during a police arrest to detect recent drug use or as part of employee screening.
If a saliva test returns positive for drugs of abuse, additional tests may be ordered to confirm the suspicion; it all depends on the tester’s policies.
These tests are common because collecting a saliva sample is quick, easy, and painless. These tests can be delivered without notice, and dedicated personnel can conduct them publicly, so there’s little chance of cheating.
Compare that reliability to urine tests, where people may dilute their urine with water, take cleansing pills, or even swap their sample for fake urine to try and circumvent the test system.
How Can I Pass a Saliva Screening Test After Substance Use?
You might search for options if you’re worried about failing a saliva test because you’ve been using drugs.
While the internet makes many unproven recommendations, like swishing with mouthwash or chewing gum, no evidence supports these methods to help you pass a saliva drug test.
If anything, the person administering the test could make you re-test or take additional tests if they notice these attempts.
To ensure that you pass a saliva test after drug use, you must wait 48 hours (the maximum detection time) before taking the test.
However, depending on the circumstances, you may not be able to opt out of the screening test.
Can I Opt Out of Workplace Drug Testing?
If your workplace is conducting drug tests, can you opt out? It depends on the company. Talking to Human Resources (HR) can help you understand your rights and under what circumstances you may be let go.
Depending on your role or industry, any signs of drug abuse could lead to immediate termination. This outcome is often the case for people who work around children or in fields like healthcare or public transport.
If you walk into work and are asked to take a saliva test, you are always within your right to say no. However, you must understand that the company may choose to terminate you or ask you to take a different drug test.
What if you’re afraid of taking the test because you take certain substances, like Adderall, for legitimate medical reasons? You can take the test and get a note from your doctor to ensure it does not go on your record.
How Zinnia Health Can Help
If you’re nervous about taking a saliva test because you think you’ll fail, there is another way. Zinnia Health has helped many individuals overcome drug abuse on their wellness journey.