How do you choose between hair, urine or oral fluid testing when it comes to testing employees for drugs?

By John Hawes | Last updated: January 17, 2019

An employer — or anyone who’s testing — would make this decision based on the different parameters that those three different types of testing offer. So, usually, they would go to the device that’s going to meet their time frame requirements.

When we’re looking at how long each type of specimen can detect drugs, or previous use of drugs, they’re all a bit different. Oral fluid testing is effective within about 2-12 hours prior to the test. Urine drug testing can go about 12 hours, up to several weeks, depending on the type of drug. And then hair testing can go back as far as one year, although the standard is 90 days. So, that’s easily what differentiates the tests that somebody would select.

A lot of times, oral fluid is used by an employer who may be dealing with a post-incident test or a reasonable suspicion to see if that person was under the influence of drugs when an incident happened, or if they have a suspicion they’re under the influence of drugs and they’re wanting to confirm that. Urine is most commonly used for pre-employment or pre-access because it does give a little bit more historical information. We don't see hair testing used as frequently now, but it was formerly used a lot for court purposes, such as child custody cases, and some companies using it for pre-employment testing. Overall, the type of drug test selected depends on how far back the employer wants to go in terms of looking into whether the employee or potential employee has used drugs.

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Drug Testing Urine Testing Oral Fluid Testing

Written by John Hawes

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John Hawes is the CCO and co-founder at SureHire Occupational Health Testing. John graduated in 2001 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy. As a former physical therapist, John uses his knowledge of physical therapy and interest in ergonomics and biomechanics to devise fit for work testing.

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