Home Drug Tests vs. Lab Tests Accuracy
Unfortunately, most home drug tests are unlikely to give you the exact same result as a lab drug test. Since home tests can be expensive for the average worker ($35 and up), you need to know whether the results will be fairly similar to those of the lab your employer will be sending you to.
Many people turn to home drug tests because they are worried about an upcoming drug test for a potential job, or for their current job. Some employers also use home drug tests, primarily for the cost factor—if you are testing many employees, the home drug tests might be less expensive.
Marijuana is one of drugs that creates the biggest amount of worry, since marijuana metabolites can stay in the body for weeks. It seems reasonable, then, as an employee, to go to the local drugstore and pick up a home drug test. After all, if it is negative, it will set your mind at ease, and if not…well, maybe you can push the test to a different date or find another way to handily pass the drug test.
What happens if I fail a test in the private job sector?
Unfortunately, most home drug tests are unlikely to give you the exact same result as a lab drug test. Since home tests can be expensive for the average worker ($35 and up), you need to know whether the results will be fairly similar to those of the lab your employer will be sending you to. Consider a home drug test as more like a screening tool—sometimes a screening tool that is not all that accurate.
Your home drug test probably sat in 100-degree heat (or extreme cold) in its trek across the country to reach its destination. Once there, it may sit in the back for weeks, or months, before finally making its way to a store shelf where you—or someone like you—purchases it. Home drug tests are not admissible in court, due to known inaccuracies.
Why Choose a Lab Drug Test?
On the other side is the “gold standard” of drug testing. First, remember that if your employer is doing a drug “screening,” this is different from a drug “test.” A screening is much more likely to produce a false positive or a false negative. Drug tests done by laboratories are, overall, very accurate. Laboratories regulate temperatures and procedures, while ensuring there are no contaminants, through rigorous sanitation practices.
A lab-based test is much more involved—therefore, much more accurate. The lab will conduct an initial screening process to determine whether the specimen in question is clean or has a drug metabolite in it. If a metabolite is present, the lab will run it through a much more advanced process.
Lab tests have built-in thresholds to ensure such things as second-hand inhalation of marijuana smoke or the poppy seeds on your morning bagel do not result in a positive test result.
Lab test results must be above tested thresholds so they will hold up in court, and because you want accurate results. That being said, some employers do use the equivalent of home drug tests, or “rapid” drug tests.
Some organizations that are federally regulated are only allowed to conduct laboratory drug testing, meaning instant testing may not be allowed. Private companies may use instant tests, but if there is a positive result, the specimen will be sent to a lab for a confirmation test. An employer with particularly safety-sensitive jobs or one that could potentially have to defend a drug test in court, will find lab drug tests the only logical choice. An employee that wants to see if they will pass tomorrows workplace drug test should be well aware of the limitations involved.