There are many reasons why an individual might have to undergo a drug test. Perhaps it is for a job interview, court-ordered as part of probation, or part of a sobriety test for drug rehab.

Saliva Test

Regardless of the reason, there are many ways that drug tests can be done. This includes testing hair, urine, and blood. However, one of the easiest and most common ways is to test saliva.

Let’s take a few moments to discuss more saliva drug testing. By the end, you will better understand how drug tests work and how accurate they are.

How Do Saliva Drug Tests Work?

A saliva drug test is about as straightforward as it comes. To perform the test, you must have the underside of your tongue or the inside of your cheek swabbed with a cotton swab.

That is the most common way to gather saliva, but the collection method of your saliva will depend greatly on where you have the test performed. Other collection methods involve spitting into a vial or gathering saliva through a suction device.

The test is typically conducted on-site, so you will quickly know the results. That said, it could still be a day or two before you are informed of the results of a saliva drug test. For a job interview, the tester usually sends drug test results to the employer first. Then, you will get the results from your boss.

Before the test, you must avoid drinking or eat for at least 10 minutes. This is because mouthwash, beverages, and some medications can hurt the accuracy of the test.

Which Drugs Can Be Detected in Saliva Testing?

Like most drug tests, a saliva drug test can check for several drugs. In fact, a test can detect one single substance or screen for a whole combination of substances. While it is impossible to list all of the drugs that can be detected in a saliva test, some of the most common ones include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opiates
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines

The types of drugs for which individuals are tested will depend on their situations. For example, when individuals are tested before entering drug rehabs, the facilities will likely test for the specific drugs that they misused. They might be tested for multiple drug substances for a job interview or probation.

How Accurate Are Saliva Drug Tests?

Many people question the accuracy of a saliva drug test. Compared to other tests, it is relatively accurate when performed correctly. In most cases, it has an accuracy of over 97%. Of course, like with any drug test, the accuracy varies depending on several factors.

When it comes to testing for opiates, for instance, it can show up in a saliva drug test several days after the last dose. Codeine can be detected in a saliva drug test for up to four days after an individual has taken it. Other drugs, such as marijuana, typically only show up in saliva drug tests within 72 hours of the last dose.

Some other factors that might play a role in the accuracy of drug tests include the number of substances individuals consume, their frequency of use, and how they consume the drugs. Once again, eating or drinking can affect the accuracy of the tests too. This is why many people are asked to sit in a room where they can be monitored for several minutes before they are given saliva drug tests.

What Are Some of the Drug Detection Times?

The time that drugs stay in your system depends heavily on their type. As a result, not all drugs have the same drug detection time. This refers to the time that drug tests can detect the drugs.

Some drug tests, like for testing hair, have a much longer detection time. For example, most drugs are only present in saliva for a few hours to a few days. However, hair drug tests can detect some drugs used within the past 90 days.

As mentioned, the drug detection time on marijuana for a saliva drug test is around 72 hours. Heroin, however, has a detection time of roughly an hour. Hydrocodone has a detection time of roughly 36 hours, whereas methadone can be detected upward of 10 days after the last dose.

Many benzodiazepines, such as Librium and Valium, can be detected in saliva drug tests for close to 10 days after taking them. Of course, not all benzodiazepine drugs stay in the system that long. For instance, Ativan is only present in a saliva drug test for about 10 hours after the last dose.

The bottom line is that saliva drug tests are becoming the standard for drug testing. This has much to do with how cost-efficient they are compared to other drug tests. On top of that, saliva drug tests are easy to perform, and the specimens are very hard to tamper with.

For example, people often tamper with urine drug tests by using other people’s urine instead of their own. They get away with this because they are alone in the bathroom while taking the test. This makes it easy to switch or tamper with the specimens before handing them over to the testers. Saliva drug tests are performed right in front of the testers, so it is not possible for the tested individuals to tamper with the samples.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Saliva Drug Tests?

There are several advantages of doing a saliva drug test. As we mentioned, the test is cheap and fairly accurate. However, there are a few disadvantages, which is why other drug testing methods are still used.

As you have likely noticed from the detection time, drugs do not stay present in saliva for as long as they do in urine. In this regard, a urine test can provide a bigger window into the usage history of an individual. In contrast, a saliva test only helps if the individual has used it recently.

However, those are the only real disadvantages of using a saliva drug test. Beyond that, the tests are cheap, accurate, and easy to perform. These aspects make it the perfect option for most individuals who need a quick drug test.

Are You Ready to Take Addiction Seriously?

Drug addiction is no laughing matter. It is estimated that roughly 22 million people have some substance use disorder. As a result of this high number, experts suggest that over 45 million people are directly impacted by addiction. Thus, getting addiction treatment from a facility that you can trust is very important.

The best way to help individuals understand their addiction problems is through interventions. Here at Long Island Interventions, we can help you set up an intervention for a loved one who needs help. We can set your friend or family member on a course toward recovery.

Do not wait any longer to get the treatment you or a loved one needs. Give us a call today so that we can help you take your first step toward a new life without substance misuse.


  • How long do drugs stay in your saliva?
  • What can be detected in a saliva test?

Published on: 2022-10-31
Updated on: 2024-03-08