The growing popularity of oral fluid drug testing

April 06, 2017

While nobody exactly enjoys bringing up their own body fluids in the workplace, drug testing is an important part of keeping a work environment safe and productive. Not only that, but in a world where opioid usage has reached epidemic levels, screening for illegal substances helps protect everyone involved from the dangers of drug abuse.

And, while no one likes talking about their body fluids, people like going into a workplace bathroom with a sample collection cup even less. Fortunately, forensic science has developed a better alternative to the often awkward and embarrassing collection of urine samples.

“One of the quickest and easiest ways to accurately screen for recent drug use is through the collection of oral fluid,” said Neogen’s Dan Grubb. Oral fluid is a mixture of saliva and a fluid found near the cheeks and gums called oral mucosal transudate.

The testing process is simple. An absorbent collector pad is inserted into the mouth of an individual being tested, and snuggled up between their cheeks and gums. The test works best if the individual has not consumed any food or liquids in the past 15 minutes. The fluid travels up the collector pad, usually for a minute or two, until enough is collected to test. The collector is then sealed in a vial, which can then be tested, either on-site or in a lab.

So why is it that many choose to test oral fluid, instead of other commonly-tested samples such as urine, blood or hair?

“An oral fluid test is ideal for identifying recent drug usage,” said Grubb. “Traces of substances can take up to a few days to appear in urine, and up to a few weeks to appear in hair.

“Another reason is that an oral fluid test, unlike a urine test, can be conducted under direct supervision without invading the privacy of the person being tested,” added Grubb. “It’s more comfortable and less invasive than testing urine or drawing blood.”

Supervision during testing eliminates the risk of adulteration, or in other words, cheating. Other advantages to oral fluid testing include the easy, convenient transportation of collected samples and the lack of any pain or discomfort caused by needles.

Because of these pros, oral fluid testing is becoming a popular option for both roadside tests and workplace tests.

Roadside oral fluid drug testing is becoming more common in the United States, Canada and European countries (including Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom) in order to detect drivers operating under the influence. A police officer can easily administer a test without transporting the suspect somewhere more private.

In the workplace, a new rule in the United States pushed forward by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would allow oral fluid tests to be used on federal employees. The rule would also allow federal employees to be tested for commonly abused prescription drugs, like oxycodone. For more information on the changes, which take effect in October, click here.

To see a video of how oral fluid collection works, check out this demonstration of NeoSal, an oral fluid collection system from Neogen. To learn more about Neogen’s oral fluid collection products, click here.

Category: Toxicology