How Accurate Are Drug Tests?

Jun 07, 2023
How Accurate Are Drug Tests?
Whether you’re in a legal jam or your job requires it, drug tests can be stressful, especially if you’re unsure how they work or whether they’re accurate. Here, we answer all your questions about what to expect from your drug test results. 

From routine pre-employment physicals to heated custody battles, people from all walks of life undergo drug tests for various reasons. And with so much on the line, it's understandable that you want to ensure the results are as accurate as possible. 

Phylis Muthee, NP, ARNP, and the team at Ezzia Healthcare PLLC in Everett, Washington, have years of experience administering and reviewing drug tests. We take the process very seriously, starting with making sure our patients are completely informed. Here's what you should know about your upcoming drug test. 

Understand the different types of drug tests

The drug test you’re likely most familiar with is the urine test, a popular choice because it’s noninvasive and relatively low-cost. Urine tests detect the presence of drug metabolites, which are byproducts that remain in your body after the substance has been processed.

Another widely employed drug test is the saliva test, which detects recent drug use and takes even less effort than a urine test. Saliva tests are known for their quick results and ease of administration. While generally accurate, they may have a shorter detection window than other tests, meaning they might not detect substances used several days ago.

The hair follicle test is another type of drug test known for its long detection window, as traces of substances can be in your hair for an extended period. However, since it takes time for drug metabolites to appear in your hair follicles, hair tests may not detect substances used in the past few days or weeks.

We also offer blood, breath alcohol, and sweat tests, depending on the reason for the drug test and the substance we’re testing for. 

Where it can go wrong

While they can provide valuable information quickly, drug tests are imperfect and have limitations. A drug test hinges on several factors, including the type of test used, the substance being tested, and the testing procedures used.

Because there’s a chance that user error can impact your results, go to a professional for your drug test. We know which type of test is best for your situation and have years of experience administering them correctly. 

Where it can go right

To discuss the accuracy of drug tests, we have to dive into the concept of false positives and false negatives. False positives occur when a test shows the presence of a substance that is not present. 

False positives can occur for various reasons, including cross-reactivity with other substances or medications already in your system. For example, certain over-the-counter medications or foods might trigger a positive result for specific drugs. You may have heard that eating poppy seeds can trigger a positive drug test, and it's true. 

Drug tests can be sensitive almost to a fault, so consider everything you consume and its potential effect on your test. To avoid false positives, we can perform a confirmatory test to validate the initial positive result.

False negatives, while less common, can also happen. They happen when a test fails to detect a substance that is indeed present. The sensitivity of the test, the amount of substance used, and the detection window can influence the likelihood of a false negative result. 

If you want more information about drug tests, call our friendly staff or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment at our Everett, Washington, office today.