Every year, drug and alcohol abuse costs employers billions of dollars in lost productivity, accidents, and healthcare expenses. In an effort to combat this widespread problem, many companies have turned to drug and alcohol testing. With drug testing increasingly becoming a common practice and even mandated in some workplace environments as a part of the employment process, home drug test kits have skyrocketed in popularity as people look for a way to test themselves in their own homes before taking a workplace drug test.
Home drug tests are often marketed as an easy and private way to screen for illicit substances from the comfort of your home. You don't need to take time off from work or make an appointment, they're relatively cheap and accessible, and you can get the results in a matter of minutes. It's a no-brainer why they're so popular. However, are home drug tests accurate the way laboratory drug tests are? Let's take a closer look.
What are Home Drug Tests, and How Do They Work?
Home drug tests are at-home versions of urine drug screens commonly performed in workplace settings. They work by collecting a urine sample and testing it for the presence of drugs or alcohol. Home drug tests usually come with test strips that change color to indicate a positive or negative result for each substance being tested for.
Home drug tests can detect substances like marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), and opioids. Urine drug tests are generally the most popular because they're easy to use and are often the cheapest option.
Are Home Drug Tests Accurate?
If you're like most people, you probably don't give much thought to the accuracy of home drug tests. But the truth is, these tests can be very inaccurate — and relying on their results alone could lead to some serious consequences.
Why Home Drug Tests Can Go Wrong
There are a few variables that could lead to inaccuracies when you do at-home drug testing. Some of these include whether or not you performed the test correctly, the detection window for a positive result, what you consumed before the test, how the test or sample was handled or stored, or if you took any over-the-counter (OTC) medication before the test.
Incorrect test administration is probably the most common reason for an inaccurate home drug test. Urine, hair, and saliva tests all have specific instructions that must be followed to get an accurate result. If you don't follow the instructions correctly, it could lead to a false-positive or false-negative result.
The "detection window" refers to the days following the last use of a substance in which a drug test can yield a positive result. Different substances have different detection windows, so it's important to know how long each substance can stay in your system before you take the test. Marijuana can be detected in urine for up to 30 days after last use, while amphetamines can only be detected for up to four days. This window can also vary depending on a person's individual metabolism, how often they use the substance, and how much they take.
Another factor that can affect the accuracy of home drug tests is what you ate or drank before taking the test. Certain foods or drinks — like poppy seeds or coca tea — can cause false-positive results for certain drugs. And if you don't drink enough water, your urine sample could be too concentrated, which could also lead to a false-positive.
Similarly, certain medications can cause false-negative or false-positive results. Some antibiotics can cause a false-positive result on a urine drug test for amphetamines. And OTC medications like ibuprofen and naproxen can cause a false-positive result for THC.
Home drug tests are often stored in less-than-ideal conditions, which can lead to inaccurate results. If a sample for a urine test is exposed to too much light, it could lead to a false-positive or false-negative result.
It's also important to keep in mind that there is no standardization among home drug test manufacturers, so each kit may work differently. Some test kits may not be sensitive or specific enough compared to laboratory-based tests and yield false-negative or false-positive results.
For example, let's say you're taking a home drug test for marijuana in anticipation of a workplace drug test. You smoked weed about a week ago and are pretty confident that it'll be out of your system by now. You take the test, and it comes back negative. But are you really in the clear?
It's possible that you could still test positive for marijuana on a workplace drug test because of the variables mentioned above. The home drug test may not have been sensitive enough to pick up on the traces of THC in your system, or it may have had a higher cutoff level for a positive result.
So, if you're taking a home drug test in anticipation of a workplace drug test, keep in mind that home drug tests are often less accurate than laboratory drug tests. It's not uncommon for people to get false-negative results on home drug tests, only to fail their workplace drug test because the home test wasn't sensitive enough.
Where Should You Go for a Drug Test?
If you need to take a drug test, your best bet is to go to a professional testing center like US Drug Test Centers. At these centers, the tests are more accurate and are less likely to be affected by variables like incorrect test administration or storage conditions, because they're being performed in a controlled environment by trained professionals.
Different types of drug tests can be performed in this type of professional setting, so you can choose the best one for your needs.
While home drug tests may be convenient, they're not often accurate enough to rely on — so it's best to avoid them as much as possible. If you're worried about whether or not you'll pass a workplace drug test, the best thing to do is go to a testing center and get tested by a professional. This way, you can ensure that your drug test results will always be accurate.
With over 20,000 locations across the nation, US Drug Test Centers is never more than a short drive away. Order a test today!