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What is Saliva Drug Testing?

Saliva is the name for the oral liquids produced by the saliva glands located in the mouth. The average adult produces in excess of one thousand milliliters of saliva on a daily basis. Saliva drug testing involves using a swab that looks very similar to a toothbrush, but in place of bristles there is a pad that collects the saliva. The pad is placed between the lower cheek and gum for about two minutes. Once saturated with saliva, the pad is then transferred to a collection vial. Many of the most commonly abused drugs can be detected in saliva including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines. However, these drugs cannot be detected in saliva for very long. Saliva drug testing is most commonly used to determine is someone is or was recently under the influence of a drug.

Drug Detection Times

Saliva drug testing is easy, painless, and non-invasive. It’s also nearly impossible to beat a saliva drug test by using someone else’s saliva. This type of drug testing is most commonly used when someone is involved in a work-place accident or if someone is believed to be currently under the influence of a drug. Saliva drug tests can detect the most commonly abused drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines. Most drugs can be detected in the saliva for 12-24 hours. An extensive study by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City concluded that it is a reliable method for drug detection. Saliva drug tests are becoming more common in the workplace. Of the United States companies that drug test, 20% test both urine and hair and 30% test saliva.


  • Inexpensive
  • Non-invasive
  • Difficult to beat
  • You can’t substitute someone else’s saliva
  • Quick results with a small sample
  • The sample doesn’t need to be sent to a lab


  • The test only works on drugs that you can take orally
  • Most drugs will be out of saliva after 12-24 hours
  • Can only detect recent drug use
  • Cannot detect long-term drug abuse


Saliva drug testing is very reliable, quick, and painless. It’s also difficult to beat this test because the donor cannot add any adulterants nor can they substitute someone else’s saliva (this is common in the case of urine analysis drug testing). The donor will also be monitored at all times by the person who is collecting the saliva specimen. Saliva drug testing is a great way for employers to tell if their employees are currently under the influence or if they were recently under the influence. However, saliva drug testing cannot detect historical drug abuse.  This type of drug test is best for those who drive commercial vehicles or if there is reason to suspect that someone has recently used a drug. There are many kits on the market which claim to rid the saliva of drugs, but most of these products are scams. The best way to pass a saliva drug test is to abstain from drug use.


Contributed by Guest Blogger Brandon Mahaffey

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