At-Home Drug Tests: Are They Accurate?
Drug tests are an unfortunate reality for many Americans—even in states where recreational use of cannabis is fully legal, many employers still hold a negative view of cannabis use and seek to screen out cannabis consumers from the pool of prospective employees. As many as 8 in 10 employers use some kind of drug screening in their hiring process, and an estimated 10-15% of Fortune 500 companies use hair follicle testing, the most rigorous and notoriously difficult to beat of the drug panels available.
Since drug testing is so prevalent, especially in the employment world, it can be helpful to know where you stand, especially if you’re facing a drug test in the near future. You’ve likely heard about home drug testing kits, perhaps with mixed reviews. While home drug tests are a great way to check your status before the big day, it’s important to get your testing kits from a reliable source and to make sure that they’re made with current technology. Here, we’ll break down the science of different types of at-home drug tests and recommend a few that we swear by.
At-Home Drug Test Types
The type of at-home drug test you’ll need depends on the type of testing you’ll be subjected to: after all, it does no good to test clean on a mouth swab only to be asked to pee in a cup! Different drug tests have different windows of detection, so it’s important to know what you’ll be asked to submit to.
Unless you’re taking a blood test, you have options for testing at home before the big day. From urine screens to mouth swabs to hair follicle tests, there’s an option for just about every need.
How Accurate are At-Home Drug Tests?
Drug tests that you can order online have advanced to be near as accurate as most laboratory tests. In some cases, you'll even have to send in samples to an actual lab similar to how your chosen test facility would.
To get the best results, you’ll need to make sure your testing kits come from a reliable source: we like TestClear because they’re a reliable source to cover all of your drug testing needs. They offer a variety of drug testing and detox products, as well as express shipping for when you’re on a time crunch.
At-Home Urinalysis Drug Tests
An at-home urine drug screen will test for both THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis responsible for the high it produces, and THC-COOH, its main metabolite, or inactive metabolic byproduct. Since THC-COOH can hang around in your body’s fatty tissue, it can be excreted through urine for a long time, potentially months for long-term heavy consumers. We like the kit offered by TestClear (read our review OR just buy it) , as it’s 99% accurate and works by the same process as laboratory tests.
To use an at-home urine drug testing kit like the Marijuana Drug Test Kit from TestClear, you’ll need to collect a small sample of urine into a sterile cup. Then, remove the test from the pouch (make sure it’s at room temperature first) and take off the cap to reveal the test panel, essentially a little dipstick with arrows on it. Immerse the panel to about 50% of its length (don’t pass the arrows!) for 10-15 seconds, allowing the capillaries (tiny tubes) in the panel to soak up the urine and carry it deeper into the panel for testing.
After immersion, do not wipe the test panel. Set it on a flat, nonabsorbent surface and allow it to process for 5 minutes before reading. Timing is important: the results are invalid and therefore should not be read beyond ten minutes. The test will detect THC and its metabolites at a concentration of 50 ng/mL, a threshold comparable to the vast majority of laboratory urinalysis tests.
Now, a note about reading an at-home urinalysis: these drug panels work exactly the same as their laboratory cousins in that they test for the presence of THC and THC-COOH using a type of test called an immunoassay. This type of testing uses antibodies designed to bond with THC and THC-COOH, saturating the molecule (or taking up all the available bonding sites). This prevents a visible line from forming on the test panel because the antibody molecules are saturated with THC and THC-COOH molecules, and thus unable to form the line indicating a negative result.
Thus, you should look for two lines on a negative test: the control line, which confirms the validity of the test, and the test line, which indicates a negative result no matter how faint it is. If there’s a line there, you’re in the clear! A positive result will produce no line at all, and would trigger a confirmatory GC/MS test, a different type of testing that is more specific than the immunoassay, to confirm the presence of illicit substances. If there is no line in the control box, the results are invalid regardless of what they show.
At-Home Mouth Swab Drug Tests
At-home mouth swab drug tests are just as accurate as ones administered by professionals as they are publicly available for at-home use. Saliva drug tests are meant to detect the presence of THC, not its lingering metabolites, in your saliva. The window of detection for this test is thus much shorter, about 1-2 days for most of us, because there’s nothing really keeping THC in your saliva (unlike your fatty tissue or hair follicles, where it can linger for months).
The SalivaConfirm 6 Panel Oral Fluid Screening Kit works to detect the presence of illicit substances themselves in saliva, and tests for six different drugs: THC, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. To use a mouth swab at home, introduce a saliva sample into the testing apparatus, then read the results in 8-10 minutes after allowing to process.
As with a urine screen, reading the test is simple: the lines will appear as expected in a negative result, and will fail to appear in a positive result. Make sure two lines appear to confirm a positive result: if the control line does not appear, then the results of the test are invalid and should be repeated with a new test.
At-Home Hair Follicle Drug Tests
This one is sort of a home-laboratory hybrid, as you collect the sample in the privacy of your own home and then mail it to a lab for analysis. Use the shipping label included with HairConfirm Regular Hair Drug Testing Kit and the lab will receive your sample the following business day, delivering results within two business days of sample receipt. Since you're sending it to a laboratory, it is just as accurate as the real deal.
To use the HairConfirm test, take a sample of hair according to the instructions (about 90-120 hairs should do the trick) and cut it off as close to the scalp as possible. Then prepare it for shipment by putting the sample in the provided container and sealing it before sending it out to the lab. You’ll receive results in approximately 2-3 business days.
For THC in particular, this is one of the most sensitive tests available, detecting THC at levels as low as 1 picogram per milligram. For reference, a picogram is 0.000000000001 gram! Hair testing is remarkably sensitive, and the HairConfirm test performs comparably to other laboratory testing using the exact same methods—you can trust that if you test clean with it, you can pass that upcoming hair test. GC/MS testing will be performed to confirm any positive results at a threshold of 0.3 pg/mg.
A Quick Note About CBD & Drug Testing
Much of the data we have about CBD is anecdotal, and its potential impact on drug testing is no exception. There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject, and the ones available paint a rather murky picture: avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely. A single study (as yet unconfirmed) suggests that even isolate-based products may not be completely risk-free under certain circumstances.
If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you’ll need to consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you. To learn more about the science of CBD and drug testing, check out our article for a more thorough discussion of how to minimize your risk of a false positive.
If you’ve got a drug test coming up and want to test yourself, or are just curious, there are a number of at-home options that perform just as well as their laboratory counterparts. We recommend TestClear as your resource for your drug testing needs, as they provide reliable products delivered expediently to both test your readiness and help cleanse your system of unwanted compounds.
You can use discount code: 'TestClear10' to get 10% off of all TestClear's at home drug testing kits!