Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between a Drug Screen and a Drug Test

Drug Screen vs Drug Test

When talking about a drug screen and a drug test, one might think that they are two similar things. However, though they may sound similar, there is a difference between these two, and the difference is a huge one. Common sense may not be the only thing one needs to figure out the difference. As in the case of waterproof and water-resistant, one might think that both terms are synonymous, but there’s a difference. When talking about “waterproof,” it means that the object, for instance an expensive watch, “can be submerged in water without incurring damage,” while “water-resistant” means you can simply “splash water onto it.” If you get these two terms interchanged, you may be allowing a costly object to be damaged since you think that “waterproof” and “water-resistant” mean the same thing.  The same thing applies to “drug screen” and “drug test.” If you have one confused for the other, the consequence can be that devastating.

The best way to differentiate both is the time it takes to for them to be completed. Drug screening gives speedy results while drug testing may take time. This also means that drug screening is cheaper and faster, and a drug test is expensive and slow. Drug screening is a method that is ideally used to review multiple samples quickly. Drug screens can be highly reactive to the samples but less selective. This tends to produce false positive results for testing substances such as poppy seeds, ibuprofen, and OTC sinus medications. The drug screen cannot differentiate between ibuprofen and its metabolite. For instance, over 60 percent of drug screen results come out positive for amphetamines, only to prove later that they are negative when a drug test has been performed.

With such a huge percentage of releasing false positive results, why do laboratories even use drug screening methods? It’s pretty simple: it’s because it’s cheap. It would be expensive to have each sample undergo a drug test. The customer will need to pay a greater amount as well to cover for the testing expenses. In that case, not many people would be interested in getting a drug test.

Furthermore, drug screens come in several types. There is on-site screening which is performed manually. This method is popularly used in screening employees for low-paying jobs or in parole departments. This only indicates that companies or job agencies only aim to get time and cost savings, and they don’t care about the results. If a person passes the drug screen, then everything is just okay. If the person fails the screen, he does not make the cut, he gets fired, or worse, he will not be granted parole. This appears to be a pretty unfair system since positive drug screening results still have a 60 percent chance of turning out a negative in a drug test.

Another type of screening is used together with the drug test. All samples will be analyzed on an automated screen. If a sample passes the screening, the testing is done, and a passing status will be granted. If the sample gives a positive result and fails, a drug test will be given as a confirmatory test. Drug testing involves using a gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS),  very precise equipment that can measure the charge, atomic weight, and molecular size of different drug metabolites. Because this equipment has a high precision, it can differentiate poppy seeds from opiates, amphetamines from nasal sprays, and so on.

Summary:

  1. Drug screening and drug testing are both methods used to determine the presence of certain substances, usually those that are commonly abused.
  2. The main difference between both methods is the time it takes to complete an analysis of a sample.
  3. Drug screening offers faster results compared to drug testing which makes the former a cheaper method to use.
  4. Drug screening can be considered a simple testing method, while drug testing involves a more complicated process because of the use of high-precision equipment.
  5. Drug screens cannot tell the difference between a drug and its metabolites, while drug testing can.

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