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Oral Fluid vs. Urine Drug Testing: Which DOT Drug Test is Best?
Mariah Barr
5 mins read

Knowing the key differences between both types of DOT drug tests can help you decide when to use each method.

Now that the DOT has announced its approval of oral fluid drug test use for the companies it regulates, many are wondering how it could change their DOT drug test programs and policies.

We're still waiting for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to officially certify two labs to conduct DOT saliva drug testing; however, now is the time to learn as much as you can about this new DOT drug testing method so you're prepared when your company can officially use it in your drug and alcohol testing process.

Below, we'll compare traditional urinalysis to oral fluid drug testing and cover the following topics:

  • The collection process of each type of drug test
  • The detection window times for urine drug tests and oral fluid drug tests
  • Which situations each type of DOT drug test is best for
  • How long it takes to get results from each type of drug test
  • Why you should work with a TPA for your DOT drug testing services

Drug Test Collection Processes

Urine Drug Test Collection

The process for urine drug testing usually involves the employer scheduling a test at a local drug testing center or lab, the employee traveling to the lab location, and a trained healthcare professional conducting the test with specific restrictions. The collection process is typically unsupervised, meaning the risk of an employee tampering with the sample cannot be ruled out.

Oral Fluid Drug Test Collection

While saliva drug tests can be conducted at a drug testing center or lab, a trained employee can also perform them in-house at your place of business. The sample can then be sealed and sent directly to the lab. The oral fluid collection process is much less invasive than urine drug testing, and "cheating" the results is virtually impossible since the entire process is supervised.

Drug Test Detection Windows

The detection times for each type of drug test vary. Since most substances are detectable in saliva within 30 minutes of ingestion, oral fluid drug test detection times are generally five to 48 hours. On the other hand, urine drug testing typically detects recent drug use in the previous day to seven days. 

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Due to this difference in drug test detection windows, each method is better suited for specific situations that warrant a DOT drug test.

When to Use a Urine Drug Test vs. Saliva Drug Test

Because an oral fluid drug test offers a smaller detection window, it's an ideal method to use when testing for recent drug use. Post-accident and reasonable suspicion drug testing are two instances when performing a saliva drug test would be most effective. A saliva sample can be collected at the scene of an accident and start the testing process sooner than a urine test.

Alternatively, urine drug testing is better suited for detecting the potential for repeated drug use since it has a longer detection window. Many employers use urine drug tests for their pre-employment, random, return-to-duty, and follow-up drug testing needs.

Drug Test Turnaround Times

Urine drug screens can require up to two days of sample analysis to see current usage levels, which can slow down the testing and decision-making process depending on the reason for the test. Oral fluid drug test results can be readily available within a few hours, but remember, it can show only relatively recent drug use.

Trust a TPA for Your DOT Drug Testing Services

A reliable third-party administrator (TPA) can manage your drug testing program and help you navigate all the recent changes to DOT drug test rules. Foley is ready to be your dedicated TPA.

Our in-house drug and alcohol testing experts are tracking updates from the DOT on oral fluid drug testing and will continue to share more information as it becomes available.

For now, if your DOT drug testing program isn't working for you (or your employees) or you're not sure if you're meeting the most recent federal regulations, talk to a DOT compliance specialist at Foley. Our team can help you develop a program that's both convenient and compliant. Click here to schedule a free program demo or fill out the form below to get started!

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