How Does a Mouth Swab Drug Test Work?

how does mouth swab test work

If there’s a mouth swab drug test in your future, let’s look at how they work.

The mouth swab drug test is also known as the saliva or oral fluids drug test. They’re used for all types of employee drug testing including pre-employment, random, annual, or post-accident testing. Most drugs are detected almost immediately after use—that includes marijuana.

Marijuana is the drug most often identified on employee drug tests. Compared to other drugs, it seems as if that would be good news.

  • Marijuana is not a gateway drug.
  • There has never been a case of a reported overdose due to THC.
  • According to Forbes, alcohol sales have dropped significantly in states where marijuana use is legal.

Hopefully, your employer just requires a pre-employment drug test. If that’s the case you never have to worry about another—unless you’re involved in an accident or exhibit signs of drug use at work.

In the face of legalization, some employers are quietly removing marijuana from the company test but—for now anyway—the majority aren’t.

The mouth swab drug test hasn’t been around as long as the urine test. Still, advances in drug testing technology have made it a popular choice for employers that are looking for recent drug use. You’ve probably heard that law enforcement agencies use them more often too when they suspect a driver is impaired by drug use during routine traffic stops or when arriving at the scene of an accident.

It’s because they’re cost-effective, non-invasive, and easy to administer.

Preparing ahead of time

If you’re applying for a job or know that you have a drug test coming up at work, the best advice is to put the pot away until afterward. Mouth swab tests only identify THC in your saliva for up to 24 hours after smoking your last joint.

However, if you smoke every day, some sites advise that you hold off a bit longer. That might be good advice to follow—better safe than sorry!

Some employers reserve the mouth swab test for random testing. We’ve mentioned that it detects recent drug use. However, the test doesn’t indicate current impairment because there’s no way to differentiate if the test registered positive before or after the buzz has worn off.

Either way though, popping positive isn’t going to go well for you.

If it’s a random test, there probably won’t be time to prepare ahead—which is the whole idea of course—but there are some home remedies that are supposed to work.

A quick internet search yields page after page of results on “how to pass a mouth swab test.” Many of them specifically mention beating a test for marijuana.

If your name comes up for the random, you’re probably going to want to try anything! The methods  listed below are supposedly tried and true.  If you haven’t tried out a manufactured product to keep on hand for emergencies, maybe you can use one of these in a pinch.

Brush your teeth

There are claims that brushing your teeth, cheeks, gums, and tongue profusely just prior to a mouth swab test will keep you from failing it.

Gargle mouthwash

You can easily keep mouthwash on hand at work without anyone suspecting a thing. There’s no scientific proof that it will mask marijuana use, but it’s better than nothing.

Take an aspirin

Again, there’s no scientific proof, but some marijuana smokers claim that letting an aspirin dissolve in your mouth prior to a drug test can make a difference.

It’s going to taste pretty nasty, though, so if you’ve got some mouthwash or a toothbrush nearby…

Apple cider vinegar

This method calls for making a mouthwash using a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water. The plan here is to help you produce more saliva which is said to dilute the drug concentration of an oral fluid sample.

Drug metabolites show up in saliva though, so this one may not work any better than brushing your teeth or gargling.

Hydrogen peroxide

Swishing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide three or four times prior to the test gets lots of buzz on the internet.

However, the concentration level shouldn’t be higher than 3%. Even then, use caution because hydrogen peroxide can be harmful if swallowed.

Some companies produce gum with small doses of hydrogen peroxide capsuled within each piece. It might be worth picking up a package to keep with you if your boss uses the mouth swab drug test.

Just say no! — Because it’s nonsense

There were a couple of methods listed in our search that we’re positive you shouldn’t try.

Stuff your face

One home remedy states that marijuana users should eat lots of fatty foods prior to a mouth swab test because any metabolites in the saliva will immediately latch on to the fats in the food.

That’s not sound advice.

Even though the majority of marijuana metabolites are stored in the fat cells awaiting excretion, they don’t immediately attach themselves to any and every fat particle they come across.

So, if you decide to inhale a box of donuts on the way to the test, don’t be surprised if nothing more comes of it than packing on a few pounds.

Household bleach

People actually say they rinse their mouths out with bleach before a mouth swab test to hide drug use.

That is never a wise idea!

Bleach is extremely harmful if swallowed—even a very small amount. It’s not worth risking a trip to the emergency room and permanent injury.

Don’t try it.

Taking the test

Employees are usually told not to eat or drink anything anywhere from 10 minutes to a half an hour before the mouth swab drug test.

The technician places the collection stick between your lower cheek and gum and asks you to leave the swab in place until it becomes saturated with saliva. Unless you suffer from dry mouth—or maybe you’re nervous—the test usually takes no more than five minutes to complete.

Some employers administer the mouth swab test on-site and others send their employees to a nearby drug testing facility.

Most employee drug tests are negative so using an instant result test saves employers money. However, if an on-site result comes up positive, the specimen is sent to a laboratory for confirmation using a more comprehensive test.

In addition to confirming the positive result, laboratory testing measures the level of THC found in the saliva.

DOT approved?

Last November, the Department of Health and Human Services approved using a mouth swab test as an alternative to the urine drug test for all government entities. However, each entity is allowed to decide whether or not they will allow the alternative method. So far, the Department of Transportation (DOT) hasn’t.

If you’re a safety-sensitive employee, you should know that the DOT has requested switching to the hair follicle drug test. The request is currently making its way down the chain-of-command. So far, there is no opposition to the switch.

When it happens, a DOT drug test is going to identify marijuana—all drug use actually—for 90 days!

CBD use falls in the mix

The marijuana mouth swab drug test looks for THC and not CBD, however, hemp plants contain levels of THC too. It’s found in much lower levels than in marijuana plants, but it’s in there.

The THC in the plants is extracted along with the CBD oils. With no regulation for standardized testing in place, many products have a higher THC level than indicated on the package.

You might be caught off guard if you’re called up for a test.

It’s important for CBD users to seek out a reputable manufacturer to avoid finding themselves in that situation.

Help is on the way

Employers know that marijuana’s detected in the system long after the buzz wears off. They’re taking a lot of flack for keeping it on the test in states where use is legal too—some even admit to feeling badly for it.

However, until there’s a test for current impairment, most employers are taking an “it’s better than nothing” attitude and have kept their current testing measures in place.

They aren’t going to be able to think that much longer though.

It turns out that marijuana remains detectable in the breath for about the same amount of time that we’re feeling the effects. It took a few years to get the science combined with the technology, but it’s finally here!

There’s going to be a marijuana breathalyzer on the market before the year is out! In fact, employers and drug testing companies can order ahead now.

So, hang in there!

When employers can test for current impairment, legalized marijuana and the workplace will finally strike a happy medium.

That’s going to be a great day!

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