Over-the-counter tests are becoming increasingly popular as they are cheaper, save time and are convenient. Pregnancy tests, cholesterol level tests, HIV and drug tests are some of the more common over-the-counter tests. Over-the-counter means that you don’t need a doctor’s prescription for these tests and can order it online or buy one directly at a brick-and-mortar store.
Over-the-counter, drug tests are popular for many reasons. The first one being they are quick and convenient. You can take the test and know the result between 5-10. minutes. Lab tests take at least a day to publish your results and it also involves driving to and back to the lab. At-home drug tests are also very popular with parents who want to check if their child is using any drug, people who want to make sure their results are clean before they submit to a lab testing either for employment purposes or any other reason. Whatever the reason may be, home drug tests are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.
How do home drug tests work?
Home drug tests test the saliva, hair and urine. Urine tests are the more popular ones for ease of use. Some home drug tests come with the option to ship the results for further lab testing. Lab testing provides more accurate and detailed results.
Drug tests in general are divided into different kinds of panels. Every panel tests for a specific drug. For example, a multi-panel test will show different kinds of drugs while a one-panel test will only test for specific substances like cocaine or THC.
Why do some people opt for over-the-counter drug tests?
- In the U.S, a lot of companies ask new employees to pass a drug test. Usually, individuals worried about their lab results first take an at-home test to find out their status. Unfortunately, since at-home tests are not always accurate, this isn’t the best reason to buy one.
- A lot of parents consider using home drug tests are a preventative step. The reasoning being that if a child knows they will be regularly tested then they will not take drugs in any manner. This reasoning is not supported by any scientific research. According to this study, random drug testing of school kids did not have any significant effect on lowering drug use among students.
- Some parents also want to test their kids if they already suspect them of taking drugs. Change in their child’s behaviour, mood, the routine can prompt many parents to ask their children to take a drug test.
While there may be several reasons behind choosing to use an over-the-counter drug test, it does come with a long list of cons.
- Accuracy: Over-the-counter tests are never 100% accurate. You can only get a detailed and accurate report from a lab test. This is the reason why some home tests come with shipping containers for the lab in case you want to confirm your test results. Moreover, certain kinds of foods, medicines and drinks can result in a false-positive result. Then you have the testing conditions to consider. It is very easy to contaminate your sample for a home test since you’re not doing it in a controlled, sterile environment. Lab tests also identify a larger variety of drugs than over-the-counter drug tests. Individuals who want to get tested for personal reasons are free to choose whichever mode of testing they want, but employers looking to test their workers are usually advised to go with lab testing.
- Treating home testing as a stand-alone response: The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) does not advocate home testing and testing by schools. Home testing for drugs also leads to punitive measures which are strictly advised against by experts. Instead, experts say that positive test results should lead to early intervention and understanding the child’s situation. The AAP has also said that drug testing does not reduce the chances of children trying out drugs. Some children also take certain substances for medical reasons which will show up as a positive on the test and could potentially breach their privacy.
- Fairly easy to circumnavigate: A cursory Google search will arm adults or students with enough knowledge to know how to fool the test. There are many household items that you can use to create a false result. Lab testing is accurate and there is no way to tamper with the sample to get the result of your choice. To make sure there is no tampering involved in the home test, the administrator will have to observe the person who’s taking the test at all times.
- More expensive in the long run: Since at-home tests are not always accurate, you might have to repeat the test a few times. Buying a home test multiple times just to be sure of the results is definitely more expensive than taking a single lab test and being sure your results are accurate.
The verdict is clear; however, it still depends on your personal choice. The important things to factor in before getting a drug test is to be clear about your reasons for getting one, the amount of time and money you are ready to spend on the testing.