Home Drug Testing The 411: Onsite and Laboratory-based Drug Screenings

The 411: Onsite and Laboratory-based Drug Screenings

Weighing in on the differences between onsite drug screenings and lab-administered drug tests

“Employee drug testing isn’t about catching employees using drugs” – Ed Poole, OHS President/COO

Hollywood has the skinny on who’s wearing headlining fashion on the red carpet —rumored to win an Oscar and the lowdown on celebrity love. It seems the likely pairing to bring that same flavor to the world of drug testing. Just as an employer looks for the perfect-exemplary employee, the methods by which the company ensures a drug free work environment is equally marketable.

Where to begin searching for the perfect drug test? First, it is important to know what drug testing ISN’T. “Employee drug testing ISN’T about companies “catching employees’ using drugs. It’s about a company’s legal and moral obligation to prevent drug-use in the workplace for the vested interest and safety of everyone” (OHS , 2017).

Employers have the option and convenience to choose quick and easy methods like onsite drug screenings. When time isn’t of the essence-–a slightly lengthier method of lab-administered drug tests would meet priority standards as well. The million-dollar question is concerning where the search for drug testing kits should begin? On the shelf at the local market, neighborhood pharmacies or the more traditional method of lab-administered tests.

The answer may not be one that is as simple as considering the magnitude of what’s available. Drug testing products aren’t a “one size fits all” product. Tests may require specific sources for testing like saliva, hair and urine. Each specimen will carry varying time lengths for producing a conclusion about drug use. Not without mentioning, drug test offer the modern capabilities of testing for specific narcotics and time frames depicting their last use along with pricing that fits every budget.

Onsite drug screenings (rapid drug screen) are the least expensive version of drug tests available by employers. They can be administered and produce results in as little as 3-5 minutes—testing for up to 10 drugs of abuse in a single urine sample. These testing kits are made available at some retailers, but bulk purchases can be made through laboratories locally or online. Many of the rapid testing devices have been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are dependable methods for drug detection. There are some cons to rapid testing devices. If your organization chooses instant urine testing, then please be advised that the interpretation of the results is in the eye of the beholder. Only a limited number of drug panel configuration exist, so all illegal substances may not be detected using quick response urine sampling methods. Urine sample tests aren’t tamper-proof and the results are susceptible to donor adulteration.

Onsite saliva drug screening test follow the same pattern of leaving the interpretation of the test results to those collecting samples. Oral versions can detect drugs shortly after their use and it’s difficult to tamper with the device, though there are a few exceptions. Oral tests aren’t the best for detecting the active metabolite in marijuana; THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) (Quest Diagnostics, 2017). There is also a limited number of FDA-cleared instant saliva testing devices. Additionally, when any onsite drug screening test is deemed positive for drug use, a follow-up is required for confirmation in a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) laboratory-based facility. This will require additional time and resources.

Laboratory-administered saliva tests are excellent for the detection of drug use. Additional benefits include that they also offer superior detection of the marijuana metabolite THC (Quest Diagnostics, 2017). This test method also has star quality because it can be collected onsite without traveling to the laboratory collection site and produces accurate results. A few of its other rock-star qualities are its ability to put up a fight when it comes to trying to alter the results–the test is difficult to tamper with and drugs can’t hide from detection; drugs can be identify shortly after their use. Just like many of the other selections, there are some pitfalls to using lab-based saliva test. The production of results can take anywhere between an hour to multiple days and the Department of Transportation does not permit this method of testing.

Laboratory-administered urine drug test produce reliable results every time and facilities are certified in providing this type of service and information to employers. Drug testing panels are typically unlimited and facilities can produce hundreds of different configurations to meet the needs of those purchasing the service. Lab-administered test are the most common method accepted by the Department of Transportation, while the rapid administered tests are not. This method involves extended turnaround times for the results and therefore may not be the best option for employers who need immediate results. The employee must report to a collection site for testing, which may require appointments and a longer lag time for the employer. Unfortunately, this method is also susceptible to donor tampering.

Not joining the nominations is the onsite administered drug screening using hair follicles and the lab-administered drug screening for hair follicles. Why? The presence of drugs takes days to surface in a hair follicle. Hair grows at different rates. Drugs remain in hair follicles for extended periods of time. Some sources even report that it remains forever despite the time-frame by which the substance was last used. Justly, we all get haircuts and this could alter the results—especially with the all enduring buzz cut.

The winning method of drug testing is the reader’s choice because each organization understands their legal and moral obligations as employers to eliminate the use of narcotics in the work environment.

For more information on this topic, please read “Employee Drug Tests: The Six Different Types and Timing of Drug Tests for Your Employees.”



OHS. (2017). Retrieved from Employee drug tests: The six different types and timing of drug tests for your employees: http://www.ohsinc.com/services/employee-drug-testing/

Quest Diagnostics. (2017). Retrieved from Weigh the pros and cons of instant drug and alcohol testing: http://www.questdiagnostics.com/home/companies/employer/drug-screening/products-services/instant-testing/instant-pros-cons.html


[contact-form-7 id=”155″ title=”Contact form 1″]



I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 8.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn specialized information, get discounts on training, and network with professionals like you!
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.