Are Instant Drug Tests As Accurate as They Seem?

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Most of us are familiar with lab-based drug screening. It is a screening where we go to a testing facility to have our urine sample collected, then get the results after a day or two.

While this testing method produces reliable results, the turnaround time can be inconvenient in some cases, like when screening an applicant for a non-safety-sensitive position. For this reason, instant drug tests (also called rapid drug tests) were introduced.

What Is an Instant / Rapid Drug Test?

As its name suggests, an instant drug test gives you results in five minutes or less, making it a viable and affordable choice for onsite screening. It typically involves collecting a urine sample in a cup, then dipping a test card in it. The indicators in the card will then change colors to interpret the result. With this screening method, the results are considered either negative or non-negative.

  • Negative — No drugs are detected.
  • Non-negative — A drug or its metabolite is detected. If this result is obtained, the specimen will be sent to a lab for further testing.

How Accurate Are Instant Drug Tests Compared to Lab-Based Ones?

In terms of negative results, rapid drug tests are highly accurate (up to 99%). However, if they give a non-negative result, it can’t be verified right away if it is really positive or just a false positive. Here are some scenarios that can give you a false-positive result.

  • You consumed food with poppy seeds — known to contain small traces of morphine and codeine.
  • You have been taking medication for allergies or sleep. Antihistamines and sleeping pills have diphenhydramine, which can show up on drug screens as methadone or PCP.
  • You are taking weight loss pills like phentermine, which is chemically similar to amphetamines.

If you are fully aware of the food or medication you are taking and have the prescription for it, you can dispute the false-positive result of an instant drug test. You may ask a lab for a more advanced testing method for verification. This brings us to the advantage of lab-based drug testing.

Screening laboratories usually perform a sophisticated process called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (abbreviated as GC/MS). This scientific method can provide conclusive evidence for the presence of drugs and metabolites in a specimen, minimizing the occurrence of false-positive results.

For Employers: Considerations When Choosing Instant Drug Tests

  • Check state laws pertaining to workplace drug testing. In general, instant drug testing results are not admissible in a court of law.
  • They cannot be conducted for safety-sensitive positions that are regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
  • An instant drug screen with negative results costs less than a lab-based one.

If your company needs instant drug testing services in Texas, contact Drug Screen Compliance. We use Noble instant drug testing cups for our rapid tests. This innovative system eliminates urine handling and tampering. It also makes onsite drug testing convenient.

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