Home Drug Test vs Lab

"Is a home drug test as accurate as a lab test?" Let's look at the facts.
Jared Rosenthal
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“Is a home drug test as accurate as a lab test?” Let’s look at the facts.

A lot of people contact Health Street because they are worried about an upcoming employment drug test. Many of these folks are primarily concerned with marijuana and it’s noted ability to stay in the system for long and unpredictable periods of time. So they want to test themselves at home prior to going into the lab. By the way, if passing a drug test for weed is your primary concern, you should study our infographic which explains how long marijuana lasts in your system.

So, before plunking down 35 bucks or so for a home drug test, callers want to know, “If I purchase a drug test kit at my local drugstore and pass it, will I definitely pass the lab test, too?” My first response to these callers is, “Is your company sending you to the drugstore for their drug test, too, or are they sending you to a lab?” Usually the conversation ends there. But for those that want to know the details as to why these two tests are so different, let’s continue:

Is a home drug test less sophisticated than a lab test?

Of course. A home drug test is nothing more than a crude screening tool. Think of it as checking the wind direction by licking your finger and sticking it up in the air. You can pretty much tell which way the wind is blowing, but you sure wouldn’t set sail on the high seas based on that, would you? You’d probably want to rely on an expert using sophisticated instrumentation. Drug testing is pretty much the same thing. When you take a lab test (and I can only speak of Health Street’s procedures), we set you up with a 2 step test that includes a screening and GC/MS confirmation if you fail the screening.

A GC/MS test is the absolute gold standard in drug testing. It identifies the actual substances within the specimen so there is absolutely no doubt. It takes several days to complete, and it is performed by a nationally certified lab, overseen by scientists with advanced degrees. The lab itself is reviewed regularly by state authorities and national certifying bodies like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Our affiliated labs hold multiple certificates of operating authority. Even the temperatures are regulated – unlike that warehouse that stocked your drugstore drug test or the truck that sat in 100 degree heat crossing the country on the way to delivering it to Walmart.

Still not convinced? Lab drug tests are reviewed by a physician MRO (Medical Review Officer)

Look, I know you are sharp. You can aim your pee into a cup just fine. You can read the directions on the drug test kit and determine if the blue line shows up or not, and pretty much, you can determine if you pass or fail the test. But, and I’m just guessing here, you are not a doctor. And even if you are a doctor, you are not a certified MRO that reviews the drug test results of literally hundreds of thousands of people each year. Health Street’s MROs can’t even comment on results of home tests because they have no data. They are not “evidential” and they don’t hold up in court. Furthermore, a clinician treating an addict in rehab would always want to order a GC/MS test, so that they can determine the levels of the drug in the body. Let’s face it, anyone who knows anything about drug testing goes with the lab test.

Types of lab drug tests available

The most common urine drug tests offered by Health Street are:

Home drug tests are actually more expensive than lab tests

OK, so you could care less about all that lab-geek stuff. You just don’t want to spend more than the $35 that a home drug test costs at Walgreens or CVS. Well, that’s unwise. A basic lab test is just $75, which is a lot easier to pay for if you have a job. A home drug test is around $35, which can give you the wrong result, and result in no job. So, you tell me, which one is more expensive in the long run?

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