Choosing Your Test

What you need to know before choosing your test:

What do I need to test for?

Different tests detect different drug and alcohol substances.

What detection window am I interested in?

Some tests detect drug or alcohol use ‘in-the-moment’; others detect use up to 4 days later; others detect historical use, between 7 days and 6 months after the incident.

Where will the results be used?

Only laboratory test results are admissible in court, because they offer the highest level of accuracy. Results from a ‘point-of-care’ (POC) test may be sufficient to suspend an individual from a workplace or other establishment, but will need to be confirmed by a laboratory test if the results are to be used elsewhere – at an employment court, for example.

How quickly are results needed?

Point-of-care tests offer results in minutes. Results from Cansford Laboratories tests take up to 3 days – the fastest turnaround time of any UK lab.

How should results be collected?

Collecting hair, nail and oral fluid (saliva) samples is a non-invasive procedure and can be done anywhere. Collecting blood samples is more invasive for donors, and must be done by a trained phlebotomist.

Different methods detect different substances over different time periods and involve different collection methods.  Select the right test for you below.

Alcohol use

In The Last 12 Hours

Breath can be tested for alcohol using handheld devices which provide immediate results. This type of testing can accurately determine whether a person has recently consumed alcohol or is currently over the legal or pre-determined limit.

Alcohol use

From Two Weeks To Six Months

A hair alcohol test allows us to trace alcohol consumption for 3 or six months. Testing hair for alcohol is often used to determine alcohol abuse but it can also be required to show abstinence. Nail clippings can be used if a hair test is not possible.

Drug use

In The Last 36-48 Hours

Testing drugs in for a shorter period of detection is required, Cansford recommend oral fluid testing. Testing oral fluid has the additional benefit of providing an accurate toxicology profile at the time of test.

Drug use

From Two Weeks To 12 Months

Hair provides a historic record of drug use, and detection windows are based entirely on hair length. It takes about 14 days for the drugs to appear in the hair shaft, and moving away from the scalp, every 1cm of hair length approximates to a one month window of detection. Nail clippings can be used if a hair test is not possible.

Steroid use

From Two Weeks To Six Months

By doing our steroid hair testing here in the UK mainland, we can reduce the turnaround time for written results to three days.

DNA

To Establish Paternal, Maternal & Sibling Relationships

Our collections teams are available to travel almost anywhere in the UK, where they will take a saliva sample from the inner cheek of the individual in question.

Understanding different tests:

Hair test

What can it detect?

Drugs and alcohol

What’s the detection period?

For alcohol: 0 – 6 months
For drugs: 7 days – 12 months

Test type

Laboratory

How are the samples collected?

A sample of hair is cut, usually the thickness of a shoelace. If the donor has no hair on their head, a sample can be taken from elsewhere on the body.

When is this test typically used?

When an individual is accused of long-term substance use and testing is required to go back months. Useful for pre-employment tests.

 

Blood test

What can it detect?

Alcohol

What’s the detection period?

Immediate:
test detects substances currently in the donor’s system

Test type

Laboratory

How are the samples collected?

Sample is taken by professional, using a needle and other specialist medical devices.

When is this test typically used?

When a user is accused of substance abuse in the past week

 

Oral fluid (saliva) test

What can it detect?

Drugs

What’s the detection period?

0 - 2 days

Test type

Point-of-care

How are the samples collected?

Absorbent swab is pressed into donor’s inner cheek

When is this test typically used?

Often used to confirm results of other types of test

Often used in pre-employment and workplace testing

 

Nail test

What can it detect?

Drugs and alcohol

What’s the detection period?

Dependent on length of nail clipping

Test type

Laboratory

How are the samples collected?

A nail clipping taken under supervised conditions.

When is this test typically used?

Can be used as an alternative to hair testing, when latter is not possible.

 

Urine test

What can it detect?

Drugs and alcohol

What’s the detection period?

0.5 – 5 days (although some substances can stay in donor’s system longer)

Test type

Point-of-care

How are the samples collected?

The donor is asked to urinate into a cup, possibly with supervision to prevent tampering

When is this test typically used?

When an individual has a history of substance use and must be tested over a long period to monitor for abuse. In this case, multiple tests should be taken over a period of weeks.

Often used in pre-employment and workplace testing

 

UNDECIDED WHICH TEST TO USE?

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