Drug testing and drug screening are standard practices with practically any hiring process. Both employers and employees must understand the difference between a drug test and a drug screening.

What is the Difference Between A Drug Test and a Drug Screen?

While the terms “drug test” and “drug screen” are often used interchangeably, there is actually a big difference between the two. Both methods can test for leftover traces of drugs in the body and determine if an employee has been getting high or using any illegal substances. But the critical difference is that a drug test can be much more accurate than a drug screening.  With a drug screening, the results are available to you within minutes, whereas drug tests take much longer.

What is a Drug Test?

Drug tests are much more reliable and accurate than drug screenings. But they can be much more expensive and it will take longer to get the results back. For a drug test, a blood, urine, or hair sample is analyzed using a GC/MC device. This device can tell if there are any drug metabolites present. Because a drug test is performed inside a lab, it can take between one to seven days before you will receive the results back.

What is Drug Screening?

When a person gets high, their bodies will eventually break down the drug or drugs into chemical compounds known as metabolites. These can show up on a drug screen and cause a person to have a positive result. Drug screens can be performed practically anywhere and are most commonly done using a urine test. However, sometimes saliva can be used for a sample instead. If there are any leftover metabolites in the sample, the results will show that the candidate has used drugs recently. If that is the case, the sample will likely be sent in for an actual drug test to confirm that the toxins are present in the sample.

Drug screenings are fast and more affordable than drug tests; that is why many employers often use them. The only downfall is that they are more reactive and less accurate than an actual drug test. If a drug test is performed afterward, it is possible that the results could come back with a false positive. Saliva drug screens can also be less accurate than urine drug screens.


The average cost of drug tests are around $200, while the average price for a drug screen is about $10. So, it is easy to see why drug screenings are the top choice for most employers. It would be rare for someone to use a drug test first unless the sample was tested for medical purposes.

The bottom line is that drug screens can be more affordable and are a much faster option, which is why most companies generally use them. But they can also be very inaccurate. If a worker ends up with a positive result, it may not necessarily mean they are taking illegal drugs. The sample would need to be sent in for a drug test to be better analyzed. Drug tests are the most accurate option of the two, but they are much more expensive and will take longer for you to get the results back.

Consult with Soteria Screening Laboratories to Learn More

If you have any questions or concerns about drug screening and drug testing for your business, you should get in touch with the experts here at Soteria Screening Laboratories. We are here to help you create a workplace that is safe and secure for everyone involved.

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