what is a saliva drug test kit?

Saliva drug testing kits are single use devices that provide an indication of drugs contained in an oral fluid/ saliva sample.

Saliva drug test kits are simple to use, fast and efficient and are commonly used in on-site workplace drug testing.

This form of drug testing has become the most popular in Australia and has rapidly replaced many urine drug testing programs. Saliva drug testing kits are also used for all roadside drug testing in Australia.

It is generally considered to be a less invasive and acceptable form of drug testing than other approaches such as urine drug testing.

how does a saliva drug test kit work?

The saliva sample is usually obtained using a supplied "swab" or the test kit itself contains an absorbent pad which collects the saliva/ oral fluid.

The saliva then flows along the drug test kit or a buffing agent is added to assist the flow of saliva. The addition of a buffing agent can greatly assist the ability of the sample to flow along the test kit because some saliva (particularly in people with low fluid or "dry mouth") can be quite sticky and not flow well along the test strip.

When the sample has flowed along the test strip and reaches the location marked as a "control line", the results of the test can then be inspected.

Most drug testing kits use the presence of a line to indicate a negative drug test result. The absence of a line against a specific drug class indicates a sample requiring further laboratory analysis.

There are very few drug tests that operate in the opposite way to the above - where the absence of a line indicates a negative test. This can cause considerable confusion and can produce panic/ doubt in people who are familiar with the more common interpretation format.

Naturally, you should refer to the manufacturer's directions for use of any saliva drug testing kit and exercise caution over any reference to interpreting a result as "positive".

how does a saliva drug test kit fit into drug testing?

There is an Australian Standard for saliva drug testing which is AS 4760:2019. There are a variety of on-site saliva (oral fluid) drug test kits used to detect the primary drug classes contained within the Australian Standard AS 4760.

Saliva drug testing is similar to other forms of drug testing in that an initial screening test result can be used to determine a negative test result. Any samples that do not produce a negative test result need to be sent to an appropriate confirmatory laboratory for further analysis.

Only a confirmatory laboratory can determine if a person's saliva sample is actually "positive". Accordingly, even if the manufacturer's instructions state that a particular result on a saliva drug test kit might be interpreted as "positive" - you should never do this in practice.

will a saliva drug test kit provide an idea of the amount of drug present?

A saliva drug test kit merely provides a yes/no response. It will not indicate a level of drug present - only an indication of the likelihood that a sample is above or below the cut-off levels built into that particular test kit.

does a positive saliva drug test indicate impairment?

The simple answer is that it is not possible for any drug test to indicate that a person is actually impaired at the time. Saliva drug testing has a shorter window of detection than various other forms of testing and therefore indicates more recent potential use of the drug.

It would be logical to conclude that more recent use of a drug has a greater chance of causing impairment, however it certainly is no absolute proof at all that the person was actually impaired at the time.

are all saliva drug test kits the same?

Saliva drug testing kits tend to vary considerably. The Australian Standard AS 4760 contains "target" concentrations which are levels that a screening kit should be independently verified to reliably perform to. If a test kit has not been independently verified or they are based on international cut-off levels that are not relevant to Australia, they are likely to be of little use for workplace drug testing.

Accordingly, it is possible to obtain very conflicting test results between different saliva drug testing kits.

can saliva drug testing kits be accredited?

This is a point over which there is considerable confusion in Australia. Accreditation can only be achieved by satisfying the requirements of a relevant Australian Standard and for this to be validated by an appropriate independent Authority.

Device validation criteria exists in the Australian Standard for oral fluid/ saliva testing AS 4760:2019. 

What about roadside saliva drug testing?

Roadside saliva drug testing is a completely different kettle of fish to workplace drug testing.

To better explain this let's consider the case of roadside alcohol testing.

Of course we all understand that breath alcohol testing is conducted by Police on the roads and that breath alcohol testing also occurs in the workplace.

The big difference here is that Police perform roadside testing within the Statutory powers provided them through various State Traffic Acts. However alcohol testing at work falls within the framework of the Company's workplace drug and alcohol policy and a completely separate Court: Fair Work Australia.

To further explain this difference; the ramifications of a positive breath alcohol test from drink driving on the roads can be considerable in Australia up to and including imprisonment. On the other hand; there are no powers of arrest, sanctions of imprisonment etc available to managers in Australia who encounter a positive alcohol test result at work (unless that test is performed by the police of course). 

Equally; the Australian Standard for oral fluid AS 4760 has absolutely no relevance to the Traffic Legislation that also allows for roadside drug driving testing. 

The equipment selected for roadside drug driving testing has not been evaluated from the context of suitability to align with AS 4760 in fact the State traffic legislation doesn't even reference AS 4760.

The equipment selected for roadside testing does not have any bearing in workplace testing;

  • The testing environments are entirely different; roadside testing tends to be conducted with sample collection speed and ease of use in environments without a flat surface as obvious criteria.
  • Workplace testing is more interested in device accuracy and sample processing time (than time in the sample collection phase).
  • Workplace testing is more interested in independent device validation

need help selecting a saliva drug test kit?

If you would like to discuss your requirements and obtain help selecting a saliva drug test kit that suits your needs, please reach out to us - we're happy to help you with your selection