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What To Know About The Mouth Swab Drug Test [2023 Update]

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If you’re looking to change professions or get into a new line of work, you should be aware that your new employer may require you to submit to a mouth swab drug test as part of the hiring and onboarding process.

Some companies require ongoing testing of their employees, and mouth swab tests are also used in rehab centers and as part of roadside investigations.

What is this form of drug testing, and how does it work?

Everything you should know is below so keep reading for on-point information that will give you the answers you need and some peace of mind before you apply for that dream job.

What Is a Mouth Swab Drug Test?

A mouth swab drug test (also known as a saliva or oral drug test) is a non-invasive method for collecting your saliva and testing it for the presence of certain substances.

It is commonly used to test job applicants and employees in industries like public transportation, and certain companies are known for their drug testing programs.

For example, Amazon drug tests new hires, and its employees must submit to random drug testing.

Mouth swab drug tests are also administered in rehab centers and similar settings for monitoring purposes.

How Does a Mouth Swab Drug Test Work?

There are two parts to a mouth swab drug test.

The first step is collecting a sample from the test subject.

A long stick with a cotton swab at the end is inserted into your mouth.

Saliva is gathered by rubbing the swab end on the inside of the cheek or under the tongue.

The second part is testing the collected saliva sample for the presence of certain substances.

This is either done on-site or by sending the specimen to a laboratory for analysis.

How Far Back Can a Mouth Swab Drug Test Check?

How far back a mouth swab drug test can detect drugs depends on the particular substance.

Some, like heroin, can only be caught several hours after use because they pass through your body quickly. Others can linger for several days or even longer.

Here’s a look at a few commonly tested drugs and how far back they can be detected:

  • Marijuana – 24 hours
  • Oxycodone – 2 days
  • Hydrocodone – up to 36 hours
  • Morphine – 4 days
  • Fentanyl – 4 days

These are not hard and fast rules, and actual results can vary depending on circumstances such as how you ingested the drug, the amount you took, and your body’s metabolism.

Which Drugs Are Detected?

Mouth swab drug tests can detect the presence of commonly used drugs and substances.

These include:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (sedatives)
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA (i.e., ecstasy)
  • Methamphetamines
  • Opiates
  • Oxycodone

With the capability of detecting nearly a dozen substances, saliva tests are used increasingly by companies and agencies as an effective means of testing job applicants, employees, drivers, and patients.

If you are considering a move to a new company or a different field, be prepared to submit to oral drug testing as part of the job process.

How Soon Are Results Ready?

Mouth swab drug tests are becoming increasingly popular among employers and facilities because they are easy to administer and they can provide fast results.

Some saliva tests can provide results within a few minutes and are used for roadside applications (e.g., accident or impairment investigations) or cases involving reasonable suspicion that require immediate results.

Many employers send collected samples to an outside laboratory.

In such cases, analysis usually takes 24 hours for results to be reported.

How Effective Is It?

Aside from being easy to administer, non-invasive, and in many cases, fast-reporting, mouth swab drug tests are also accurate.

When correctly performed, a saliva test can be up to 97.5% accurate compared to a laboratory test, which is a high rate of effectiveness.

How Are They Done?

One reason the use of mouth swab drug tests is becoming more widespread is they are easy to administer.

They are designed to be performed on-site at workplaces or as needed at investigation sites.

These are the steps for collecting a saliva sample:

  • A wand-like device with a cotton swab at the end is inserted into the test subject’s mouth
  • The swab end collects saliva by absorbing it into the spongy material
  • An indicator on the device turns blue when a sufficient amount of oral fluid is collected
  • The swab tip is immediately separated from the wand and dispensed into a secure vial
  • The collected sample can either be tested on-site immediately, or sent to a laboratory for analysis

Oral drug tests do not require needles or urine and are non-invasive.

To maintain the integrity of the process, test subjects are advised not to eat, drink, or chew gum for 10 minutes before testing.

What Color Is a Positive Oral Drug Test?

Because they are often used on-site at workplaces or as part of investigations where fast results are needed, mouth swab drug tests need to indicate clearly whether a targeted substance is present in a saliva sample.

A common way for oral drug tests to indicate a positive result is by displaying a pinkish or reddish colored marker.

Some tests also use a separate indicator that turns blue to alert the person administering the oral swab that a sufficient amount of saliva is collected.

Why You Might Need a Mouth Swab Drug Test

Improving technology is making drug tests easier and cheaper to administer.

As a result, the use of mouth swab drug tests is becoming more widespread, and the applications extend beyond the field of employment.

Aside from screening job applicants and new hires for drugs, these are a few other scenarios when saliva tests are used:

  • As part of a workplace accident investigation to determine whether drug use is involved
  • For field and roadside sobriety testing
  • In situations involving reasonable cause
  • In rehab centers and similar settings where sobriety must be monitored

As the need for cost-effective drug testing increases, advanced methods allow companies and agencies to perform the non-invasive collection of saliva samples that can be analyzed rapidly.

When Are Mouth Swab Drug Tests Required By Employers?

Drug testing is a reality in today’s workplace environment.

Many employers, large and small,  require mouth swabs in various situations:

  • Federal employees working in the fields of law enforcement, national security, and public health and safety
  • As part of the hiring and onboarding process
  • Employees working in public transportation sectors
  • Random drug testing programs

Saliva tests can even be imposed as a condition of accepting a job promotion or transferring to another department within the same company.

What to Expect During a Mouth Swab Drug Test

A mouth swab drug test is the least invasive form of sample collection and takes just a few minutes from start to finish.

You will be advised to refrain from any food or drink before taking the test (10 minutes or so).

Depending on the device, you may learn the results as quickly as a few minutes or within a day if the sample is sent out to a lab.

What Happens if a Mouth Swab Drug Test is Positive?

A positive mouth swab drug test can disqualify you for the job you are seeking.

Because there is a lot at stake, many companies refer positive test results to an independent laboratory for verification.

Workplace drug testing programs must comply with federal and state laws that can vary from one part of the country to another.

For instance, in California, an employer can require you to submit to a mouth swab drug test only after they have offered you the job.

It is important to remember that a positive saliva test does not mean you are a habitual drug user or that you have a substance abuse problem.

It is a snapshot of a moment in time and simply indicates that you used a particular substance recently.

However, bear in mind that the drug testing process and lab verification if you test positive, can add to the time it takes to get a job.

Final Thoughts

Mouth swab drug tests are fast, reliable, and non-invasive, making them ideal for employers and agencies seeking a cost-effective and manageable means of screening people for certain substances.

Given their growing popularity and expanding use, it would be a good idea to know the fundamentals of saliva tests, especially if you are planning to test the waters in today’s job market.

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