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What Is the Difference Between an Employment Drug Screening and a Drug Test?

If your company runs employment drug screening, you’ve probably heard the terms drug screen and drug test. Should you distinguish between the two? And if so, what’s the difference?

Although many people use the phrases interchangeably, technically each refers to a unique process.

What Is a Drug Screen?

Most organizations begin with a drug screen. Individuals provide urine, salvia, blood or hair sample. Then, a lab analyzes the sample for the presence of chemicals or contaminants. At this stage, urine screens are the most common, and immunoassay screens are the preferred method. Immunoassays don’t search for the presence of drugs themselves. Rather, they are a biochemical test that looks at the body’s immune response. Since certain chemicals cause the body to produce certain antibodies, these antibodies may signal the presence of a drug in a sample. Unfortunately, because of the process used, over the counter and prescription medications occasionally result in false positives.

Drug screens are: 

  • Quick,
  • Inexpensive,
  • And inaccurate 5-10% of the time.

What Is a Drug Test?

If someone believes their drug screen is incorrect, they may request a drug test. This follow-up test usually is a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). GC-MS uses an extremely precise piece of equipment to positively identify the presence of a substance in a sample. False positives are extremely uncommon. Therefore, this is considered the gold standard method of testing.

Drug tests are 

  • Time-consuming,
  • Expensive,
  • And highly accurate.

If you’re still having trouble distinguishing between the two, remember the phrases “speedy screening” and “testing takes time.”

What’s the Best Policy for Your Business?

  • Start with a faster and cheaper drug screen.
  • Encourage individuals to report the use of any prescription and over the counter medications as well as vitamin and dietary supplements before the screening. This can help to eliminate the anxiety caused by a false positive.
  • Automatically offer a follow-up GC-MS drug test for all positive screens.

Is Your Company Interested in Adding Drug Screening to Your Background Check Process?

Metrodata Services, Inc. offers pre-employment screening services in Buffalo, New York and beyond. We work with businesses across various industries to reduce their hiring risks, and we would be happy to customize a package based on your organization’s needs. Learn more about partnering with us today!

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