Are Home Drug Tests Accurate?

Regular drug testing is a reality for many Americans. Numerous companies continue to check their employees for drugs such as marijuana, despite the fact that it is now legal in the majority of states. And, unfortunately, even if you live in a legal state and enjoy the occasional toke on your days off, a positive drug test could end up costing you your job.

So, if you have an upcoming drug screening and are unsure whether you will pass, you might want to consider taking a home drug test first. These kits are available in drug stores and online for just a few dollars, and they have the potential to save you a whole load of hassle.

But just how accurate are home drug tests? Let’s take a look.

What are Home Drug Tests?

Home drug tests are commercially available kits that can be purchased from drug stores such as CVS and Walgreens, as well as online. Kits are available for testing saliva, urine, and hair, although urine tests are by far the most common.

These kits usually include a collection cup, the test itself (a strip, card, or cassette), and instructions for use. Some kits also contain shipping containers so that you can send your sample off to a lab for further testing if necessary. You will only need to send your sample if your home drug test comes up positive. The lab will be able to provide more detailed and accurate results.

Types of Home Drug Test

There are many different types of home drug test, and you will need to find one which is appropriate for you. As well as deciding whether to analyze your saliva, urine, or hair, you need to ensure that the kit checks for the substances you suspect you may test positive for.

Some of the drugs most commonly tested by at-home kits include:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids (including methadone and oxycodone)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Amphetamines
  • Ecstasy
  • PCP
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

Be sure to read the label properly to make sure the test covers all of the substances that you are concerned about.

Why Use a Home Drug Test?

If you know you have a drug test coming up, you may want to make sure that your system is clean first. Home drug tests are an affordable and convenient way of doing this. If you test negative, you can relax to some extent and abstain from drug use until after your screening. If you test positive, you will know that you need to take further steps to detox your system.

Another possible use for home drug tests is for parents who suspect their child may be using drugs. Some parents use regular drug testing as a preventative measure. Others may introduce it if their child’s behavior or mood suddenly changes and they think drugs may be involved.

Although drug testing your children may seem like a good idea, there are plenty of downsides, too. Urine tests can easily be cheated, and introducing them could well damage your relationship by breaking trust. Furthermore, there is a lack of substantial evidence that random drug testing works as a preventative measure.

If you decide to head down the drug testing route with your children, you should have an action plan ready in case they do test positive. Be ready to discuss the issue calmly and seek medical guidance if necessary. Finally, be aware that you should not take any action until a laboratory has confirmed a positive test.

Are Home Drug Tests Accurate?

Although some home drug tests such as the First Check kit claim to be 99% accurate, there are numerous factors which can influence the results of these tests. The accuracy of home drug tests can be affected by the following:

  • Whether the test is done within the ‘window of accuracy’
  • Whether the test was performed correctly
  • How the test or sample was stored
  • What was eaten/drunk before the test
  • Any other prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication taken before the test

Due to these factors, a test cannot be considered 100% accurate unless a professional lab has retested the sample. A false positive could occur due to the presence of prescription or OTC medicines. A false negative could be due to an expired test, improper storage, or conducting the test too early or too late.

The ‘window of accuracy’ for a test depends on the drug that is being tested for. It is also influenced by the person’s usage habits, lifestyle, and metabolism. As a general rule, these are the clearance rates for some commonly abused substances:

DrugEarliest Detection TimeLatest Detection Time
Marijuana1-3 hours1-7 days
Crack/cocaine2-6 hours2-3 days
Heroin/opioids2-6 hours1-3 days
Amphetamine/methamphetamine4-6 hours2-3 days
PCP4-6 hours7-14 days
Ecstasy2-7 hours2-4 days
Benzodiazepines2-7 hours1-4 days
Barbiturates2-4 hours1-3 weeks
Tricyclic antidepressants8-12 hours2-7 days

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Although these figures can be used as a general guideline, it should be noted that THC metabolites from marijuana can be detected for up to 90 days in heavy, daily users. The rate at which THC metabolites clear from your system also depends on your lifestyle and percentage of body fat. This is because they are stored in your fat cells and released gradually over time.

What if Your Home Drug Test is Positive?

If your home drug test is positive, you can send it off for further analysis. Although these kits can tell you whether a particular substance is in your system, they are qualitative, not quantitative. This means that they cannot show you exactly how much of any given substance is present.

This is important because passing a drug screening (or not) will depend on the detectable cut-off levels for that particular drug. For example, for THC, the cut-off is 50ng/ml.

If your home drug test is positive, and you have a screening coming up, there are still various things you can do to increase your chances of passing. The following tips may help you to pass, although none of them are guaranteed:

  • Stop using illicit substances as soon as you know you have a test coming up
  • Try and postpone the test if possible, to give you more time to prepare
  • Try a home detox product
  • Drink plenty of extra water to dilute your urine while taking a vitamin B supplement to retain a natural yellow color
  • Do not provide your first pee of the morning as your sample (it will be more concentrated)
  • Take your sample from the middle of your urine stream, not the beginning or end
  • Exercise regularly but stop 24 hours before your test as exercise releases THC metabolites from fat cells
  • Reduce your calorie intake to try and reduce body fat
  • In a pinch, try synthetic or powdered urine to cheat your test

Passing a saliva, blood, or hair test is a little more complicated. To learn more, read our related article on The Best Ways to Pass Weed Urine and Blood Screens.

Are Home Drug Tests Accurate? Final Thoughts

Home drug tests are reasonably accurate, providing you perform them correctly. Unfortunately, there are many factors which could lead to a false positive or negative by reducing the accuracy of the test. A false negative could be caused by an expired test or incorrect storage of the sample. Likewise, a positive test cannot be confirmed until a professional laboratory has checked it.

If you decide to give home drug testing a try, read the instructions first and be sure that you understand them fully. Do this before even taking your sample, as checking it too soon or too late could influence your results. Pay close attention to the window of accuracy for whichever substance you are testing for, as well as how you carry out the test itself.

While home drug tests are a useful tool for predicting whether you are likely to pass a screening or not, they should not be taken as a guarantee. The only way to be 100% sure that you will pass is to be totally free from illicit substances on test day. Although this may not be much fun in the short-term, if it protects your livelihood, it has to be worth it.

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