In contrast to urine and blood tests, the advantages of oral fluid testing include ease of use, non-invasiveness, observable sample collection, difficulty to adulterate, and demonstration of recent drug use.
These same advantages extend to the use of oral fluid testing in the workplace. For example, in the case of a safety-related accident to test for drug use or if there is concern about an employee’s behaviours, oral fluid testing can be carried out immediately, and samples quickly and easily taken.
Given the rise in addiction and mental health distress following the pandemic, it is likely that there will be a need for more frequent drug testing in the workplace, particularly for those in roles which require operator vigilance, such as control of dangerous machinery or driving a vehicle.
Indeed, research carried out for Dräger’s Safety at Work report 2021 indicated that almost three quarters (74%) of managers who took part in the research say their organisation is quite, or extremely concerned about workplace impairment, and resulting injuries and accidents, due to alcohol and drug use.
In addition, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the use of prescription medication, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants, both of which can be highly addictive and can lead to cognitive impairment resulting in drowsiness, reduced reaction time and an impact on motor coordination.
Against this backdrop, the use of oral fluid testing is increasing in workplace environments. It would be wrong to suggest that oral fluid testing offers a replacement for blood and urine testing; but is a highly valuable tool for health and safety professionals for occasions when detection of relatively recent use of drugs is sought in a non-invasive manner. With employees much more familiar with lateral flow and PCR tests, and ever advancing improvements in more sensitive and reliable detection, this form of testing is set to become more common in the future.