Drug Testing Methods

Drug and alcohol testing comes in many shapes and sizes. The method of administration will depend on the type of sample need, the level of accuracy required, the detection window needed and the type of drug to be detected.

Several drug and alcohol testing methods are available on the market today, and they can be categorized in different ways. Here are some of the classifications of various alcohol and drug testing methods:

Drug & Alcohol Test Types

  • Urine drug testing: One of the fastest testing methods is analyzing a urine sample for presence of drug metabolites using immunoassay and gas chromatography mass spectrometry confirmatory tests. This may not be reliable when testing for alcohol, but urine drug tests are best used in detecting illicit and prescription drugs.
  • Breath alcohol testing: This is the best and quickest way to determine the concentration of alcohol in the blood. The donor is made to blow through a breath-alcohol test device (or breathalyzer), which reveals the blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
  • Blood drug testing: Blood samples are fairly accurate in terms of alcohol or drug concentration in the body. However, this is a very invasive type of testing, and some sample collectors and patients balk at the idea of drawing blood for testing purposes.
  • Hair follicle drug testing kit: As the least invasive of all tests, analyzing a hair sample allows for detection of drugs for a longer period of time.
  • Saliva drug testing kits: A quick swab of the inner cheek may reveal compounds of drugs that have been used fairly recently.
  • Perspiration or sweat drug testing: Although not widely used for drug and alcohol testing, specialized skin patches can analyze drug components in sweat.

Testing Options by Accuracy

  • Immunoassay: This biochemical test checks the concentration of a drug group using a specific antibody. Immunoassays are commonly used as initial screening tests and must be followed by a more detailed test in cases of positive results. Instant drug test kits fall under this category.
  • Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS): This is the most commonly used type of confirmatory test. GC/MS has the ability to detect several substances in one sample and reveals the concentration of each drug.
  • Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS): This kind of confirmatory test is similar to GC/MS, but uses a liquid chromatograph instead of a gas chromatograph to identify drug compounds.