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How to Pass a Mouth Swab Drug Test [Updated 2019]

Drug Test

It's an era when marijuana is legal for recreational and medicinal use in certain states and DC, yet drug testing remains a practice among public and private organizations. The primary goal of the test(s) is to maintain a drug-free workplace that is conducive for productivity, health, and safety.

A preemployment drug test, for example, is a tool for organizations to screen individuals who are about to join their team.

Whether you're thinking about joining the military, working in the medical field, or pursuing a political career after your college degree, it's reasonable to expect a drug test for such positions. This holds particularly true for federal jobs and any environment where public safety is of utmost priority.

The pre employment screening runs alongside random drug testing and a handful more throughout your stint in a company or your working life, for that matter. You may be required to undergo testing using urine, blood, hair, or oral fluid as specimens to detect exposure to drugs as well as alcohol.

In the past few years, many companies have adopted a mouth swab drug test (MSDT) because of its convenience. It has also become a weapon of choice to detect the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of the cannabis plant.

Failing or getting a positive result in such drug tests is not an option. The implications are severe, with job loss and termination as the ultimate consequence of failing a drug test.

With stakes this high and your dream job hanging by a thread, you need to arm yourself with vital and critical information about drug testing. Being well-informed is a default imperative if you are using marijuana for recreational or medical purposes.

This guide will discuss how a mouth-swab drug test work and what you need to do to pass the test, which should be your ultimate goal every time.

Table of Contents

What Is a Mouth Swab Drug Test?

Mouth Swab Drug Test

MSDT is also known as an oral fluid or saliva drug test. While urine remains the most popular way to test applicants and employees for drug use, oral fluid is becoming useful to confirm exposure to a range of drugs in a shorter time frame.

A National Roadside Survey among nighttime drivers in 2007 revealed that oral fluids and blood yielded similar information about recent drug use. Despite the similarity, the same survey found that oral fluids have a higher detection rate for cocaine than for blood.

Amphetamines, certain opioids, and other commonly used drugs also show higher concentrations in oral fluids than in the plasma, according to this research. It also noted that THC provides similar levels in the oral fluid than in blood.

That explains why a mouth-swab drug test is commonly used to check marijuana use. Generally speaking, businesses employ this method for workplace drug testing because of these reasons:

Inexpensive, Noninvasive, Easy to administer with fast results
  • Inexpensive

  • Noninvasive

  • Easy to administer with fast results

How Is Saliva Screening Conducted?

How Is Saliva Screening Conducted?

The personnel will put a swab inside a person's mouth and wait for two to five minutes to make sure the swab is soaked with saliva.

This specific type of drug test wants to detect the parent drug:

  • Five-panel drug testing looks for traces of methamphetamine, amphetamines, THC, opiates, phencyclidine, and cocaine in the saliva.

  • While the five-panel drug test is a standard for federal agencies, seven-panel and ten-panel drug tests also exist.

This test can be administered in the office, clinic, or health unit, and the samples are sent to a certified laboratory. The lab analysis of the saliva collected can be a two-form process:

  • The initial test uses immunoassays, which measure the presence of a molecule or an analyte.

  • Confirmatory test such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) or liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) happens when you have a positive or false-positive results.

Which Employers Require MSDT?

In 1986, US president Ronald Reagan issued an executive order called the Drug-Free Federal Workplace. EO 12564 made drug testing mandatory among federal employees, whether they are on or off duty and are involved in the following activities:

  • Law enforcement

  • National security

  • Public health or safety

  • Protection of life and property

  • Functions that require a high degree of trust and confidence

Which Employers Require MSDT?

President Reagan then signed the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. This law became the basis for private companies to implement drug-testing procedures in line with state and federal laws and internal policies.

What the Laws Say about Saliva, Oral Fluid Testing

Federal laws have been enacted to support a drug-free workplace espoused by the executive order. More recently, the Department of Health and Human Services has revised the guidelines for federal workplace drug testing programs to allow oral fluid specimens as an alternative to urine as the situation dictates.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has compiled the relevant regulations on drug testing:

  • The Department of Transportation Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 has established drug-testing procedures involving body fluids like urine and blood for transportation employees working in safety-sensitive positions.

  • The Department of Defense (DOD) requires its contractors to implement a drug-free workplace policy based on its regulations.

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has fitness-for-duty programs that ensure employees are not under the influence of any substance that may impair their ability to perform their duties.

If you are an employee or an employer involved in the federal agencies above, then you or your premises are subject to drug-testing procedures.

Private companies, on the other hand, turn to their state laws about workplace drug testing. Thirty-one states have codified provisions, including restrictions and limitations when it comes to testing applicants and employees and if they refused.

On Medical Marijuana Matters

Marijuana remains a gray area in the United States. Certain states have legalized the recreational or medical use of the controversial plant. However, the US federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I substance, together with LSD, heroin, ecstasy, peyote, and methaqualone per the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Where marijuana is fully legal:

  1. Alaska

  2. California

  3. Colorado

  4. Maine

  5. Michigan

  6. Nevada

  7. Oregon

  8. Vermont

  9. Washington

  10. District of Columbia

  11. Massachusetts

  12. Washington, DC

On Medical Marijuana Matters

Where medical marijuana is legal:

  1. Arizona

  2. Arkansas

  3. Connecticut

  4. Delaware

  5. Florida

  6. Hawaii

  7. Illinois

  8. Louisiana

  9. Maryland

  10. Minnesota

  11. Missouri

  12. Montana

  13. New Hampshire

  14. New Jersey

  15. New Mexico

  16. New York

  17. North Dakota

  18. Ohio

  19. Oklahoma

  20. Pennsylvania

  21. Rhode Island

  22. Utah

  23. West Virginia

Illinois will have legalized the use of cannabis for recreation on January 1, 2020.

There's a constant clamor to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. For employers and employees, their biggest challenge is interpreting the laws related to drug testing and marijuana.

Thus, companies need to be aware of relevant laws and formulate policies on how workplace drug tests are conducted and what happens when an employee has positive results because of medical or recreational marijuana. They can save money on lawsuits that can arise from discrimination.

When Is the Test Conducted?

When Is the Test Conducted?

Businesses and state and federal agencies typically compel applicants or employees to undergo testing under these scenarios:

  • Preemployment. A drug test is part of the company's recruitment and hiring process. The requirement to undergo drug tests often comes after an offer has been made. It's up to the company to decide what happens to the offer when the test result is positive.

  • Random drug test. It comes unannounced for existing employees of a company. The test can be like a follow-up exam for applicants who successfully joined the company or an assessment of the “drug-freeness” of the workplace. The existence of random drug tests is seen as a deterrent to drug abuse or a way to curb it.

  • For-cause drug test. The company subjects an employee to a drug test over reasonable suspicion that they may be under the influence of certain substances. Tardiness, absenteeism, noticeable dip in productivity, and untoward behavior toward others often trigger this kind of drug test.

  • Postincident drug test. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed in a clarificatory statement that this kind of test is permissible under 29 CFR ยง 1904.35(b)(1)(iv), “Employee Involvement.” The employer can opt for drug testing to investigate an incident that harmed or could have harmed employees, provided that everyone involved in the incident is tested.

  • Return-to-duty drug test. This is reserved for employees who have violated the company's drug and alcohol policies. They may have tested positive for illicit drugs or refused to undergo a drug test. RTD test is more common in federally mandated workforces (e.g., DOT).

Athletes and pros can also be subject to drug testing pursuant to the World Antidoping Code implemented by WADA.

Can You Refuse a Drug Test?

Can You Refuse a Drug Test?

Unless it is mandated, you can't be forced to undergo drug testing, but there are consequences for this refusal:

  • The employer can withdraw the job offer or promotion.

  • The employer can suspend or terminate your services.

  • The employer can require you to take an RTD test.

In Alaska, Arizona, and Florida, refusal to submit to the drug test can be a basis for nonhiring.

Companies have to follow state and federal laws to ensure that drug testing does not infringe on your right as an applicant or employee. For instance, the job listing has to disclose the drug-test requirement, or an employer sends a written notice to employees.

What Are Commonly Tested Drugs for MSDT?

What Are Commonly Tested Drugs for MSDT?

Substances Detected

According to online databases and federal guidelines, the drugs listed below meet the criteria and qualify for the MSDT:

  1. Cannabinoids (THC)

  2. Cocaine

  3. Angel Dust (PCP)

  4. Opium

  5. Heroin

  6. Morphine

  7. Codeine

  8. Methamphetamines (crank, speed)

  9. MDMA (Ecstasy)

  10. Quaaludes

  11. Valium

  12. Librium

  13. Xanax

  14. Methadone

  15. Mushrooms

  16. Peyote

  17. LSD (acid)

  18. Mescaline

  19. Lortab

  20. Vicodin

  21. Percocet

  22. Oxycodone

  23. Alcohol

As you can see, a saliva drug test can detect a wide range of substances aside from THC. Some other types of drugs (e.g., downers like secobarbital, phenobarbital, butalbital, and Darvon compounds) can also show up on an MSDT. The test can even detect anabolic-steroid use in athletes, so it's fair to say that the scientific evidence is concrete proof that these tests work.

For those who are using alcohol or drugs, the next thing you want to know is, “What is the mouth-swab drug test's detection period?” You may also want to learn how to pass a mouth-swab drug test. Fortunately, this MSDT guide provides the answers to both of those questions below.

Saliva Drug Test Detection Times

Saliva Drug Test Detection Times

Drugs can be detectable in your body within minutes or hours and remain detectable for days or weeks before they leave the system. Several factors affect how the body (primarily the liver) metabolizes drugs. These factors include age, sex, body mass, metabolic rate, overall health, and the drug itself, its half-life, and the frequency and amount of use. The metabolism for drugs can take a while, so it takes longer for metabolites to appear in urine, for example.

Saliva drug testing, however, operates with a shorter window of detection so they can detect drugs within 48 to 72 hours after use.

The list below contains the general or approximate detection times of drugs in saliva:

  • Cannabis: up to 1 day

  • Amphetamines: 0.5 day

  • Methamphetamine: 1 to 3 days

  • Heroin: 1 to 2 days

  • Cocaine: 2 to 10 days

  • Alcohol: 12 to 24 hours

  • Phencyclidine (PCP): 1 to 3 days

  • Methadone: 1 day

  • Benzodiazepine: up to 2 days

  • Barbiturates: 1 to 2 days

  • Oxycodone: 1 to 2 days

False Positive

It's best to disclose information about any medication (be it herbal, over the counter, or prescription) that you are using before taking the MSDT or any drug test for that matter. The medicine can cause a false positive that occurs because of cross-reactivity.

Based on our database, the following medications can yield a false positive:

  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)

  • Tramadol (Ultram)

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

  • Amitriptyline (Amitril)

  • Doxylamine

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)

  • Dextromethorphan (Delsym, Robitussin)

  • Labetalol (Trandate)

  • Diltiazem (Cardizem)

  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)

  • Ibuprofen (Aleve, Naproxen, Advil, and Motrin)

  • Metformin (Glucophage)

  • Trazodone and Fluoxetine (Prozac)

You can also get a false-positive result from the food you eat days or hours before the test. Examples are pizza, granola bars, and poppy seeds. That's why you must avoid eating anything 10 minutes before the mouth-swab drug test.

Aside from getting a false-positive result, the inability to disclose medications can result in a test failure, termination, and unwanted administrative hassle. The results from the MSDT can be disclosed to employers in a matter of minutes or days to confirm positive results.

Effectiveness of Saliva versus Urine versus Hair Drug Testing

Each method is effective as long as it's properly administered and the samples are collected within the detection window. These methods can work together instead of being deemed a replacement of the other. Sometimes, the kind of specimen to collect for drug testing is a matter of mandate.

  • Saliva testing. The test is used to detect exposure to drugs more recently (e.g., hours to a day or two). Companies can buy kits that allow them to administer the test and get results in minutes or send them to the laboratory for further processing.

  • Urine testing. It is the most commonly adopted drug test, especially for federally regulated programs. Urine covers a relatively longer time frame for exposure to drugs than saliva does.

  • Hair testing. This test checks in with the chronic use of a substance. It can detect 90-day usage or a more prolonged usage of a substance.

How to Pass a Mouth-Swab Drug Test

How to Pass a Mouth-Swab Drug Test

It's important to understand that an MSDT test and a urinalysis screen for totally different compounds. For example, a saliva drug test screens for activated THC, which is the delta-9 compound contained in cannabis. In other words, after you take a giant bong hit or smoke a spliff, the activated THC will be stuck inside your mouth.

On the other hand, urine tests screen for THC-COOH. This is a metabolite that your body produces when it metabolizes the delta-9 compound, which is the psychoactive ingredient that gets you stoned when you eat or inhale weed.

The major difference is that: THC is more detectable in urine because THC attaches to fat cells and lingers longer in your system. Meanwhile, the THC inside your mouth is more of a here-and-now situation.

If you're not prepared for a random mouth-swab drug test, you can fail quite easily. Essentially, the mouth-swab drug test can't detect THC metabolites lingering in your body, but it can detect the THC that is attached to your saliva.

Confirmation Cutoff

When you're a cannabis connoisseur, it doesn't matter if you eat or smoke it; you can be at risk for failing an MSDT. The only time that you can reduce this risk is when the THC concentration levels in your saliva are lower than the threshold limits of the test.

This is known as the confirmation cutoff. The cutoff may vary depending on the manufacturers of the test and the legal limits of THC that each state can test for by law.

Example of analytes and cutoff levels. (Source: SAMHSA)

How to Pass MSDT with a Scheduled Date

How to Pass MSDT with a Scheduled Date

Knowing what the mouth-swab drug test screens and the detection period is vital to passing your drug test. If you believe that a test of this kind is on the horizon, here are useful measures to follow.

  • Abstain from using drugs and smoking. This is the best and safest way to pass the mouth-swab drug test. Avoid smoking cannabis for a few days or at least 72 hours before the test.

  • Consuming edibles, or food infused with cannabis, may present a lower risk of detection than smoking does. However, researchers are always working on better MSDT kits that can detect recently eaten edibles. If you are a chronic user, it's all the more reason to avoid using the substance days leading to the test.

  • Add high-fat foods to your diet. THC has high fat solubility; thus, it gets absorbed by and stored in fatty tissues. Eating foods rich in fat allows THC to bind itself to the fat cells and tissues. This advice can work with a saliva drug test, but not with a urine test, which has a longer detection window. For urine testing, you have to do the reverse: fill your plate with nutritious food, particularly high-fiber food, to flush out toxins.

  • Drink lots of water. Water is the body's no. 1 cleansing agent. It aids in digestion and natural bowel movement.

  • What's more, saliva is 99 percent water. By keeping yourself hydrated, you have stimulated the production of saliva. According to this research, saliva has a normal pH of 6 to 7; its salivary flow, from 5.3 to 7.8. Gums and sour candies can alter these properties.

  • Brush your teeth as often every day. The goal is to eliminate old saliva that can contain traces of drugs used. Do the brushing after every meal. Also, include your tongue and the inside of your cheeks.

  • Gargle, rinse, and repeat. Brushing alone may not be enough to clean the buccal cavity (the mouth). Thus, you have to rinse using a mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or a specialized product that is designed to eliminate toxins in the mouth. Spit it out, and do the process as often.

How to Pass with Little Warning

How to Pass with Little Warning

A random police checkpoint or drug test at your workplace can leave you vulnerable to MSDT, especially if you just roached one out. A surprise drug test leaves you only precious minutes or hours to act. Here are ways you can pass the test:

  • For the police checkpoint, swish and spit out water as fast as you can. It's always a good idea to keep bottled water or mouthwash in your glove compartment.

  • For the random drug test, you can perform the same rinse routine. Snack on burgers and sweets, whose fats make it easier for the THC to bind into, as noted earlier. Drink lots of water or liquids. Gargle using a toxin-rid mouthwash.

How to Pass with No Advanced Notice

If you're faced with an emergency type of situation with no time to spare, you'll need some form of adulterant, a chemical that disrupts the drug test. Manufacturers of adulterants are always working on new or improved ones while researchers are busy making tests that detect adulterants; it's a dance.

For an MSDT with no warning, here are your best options:

  • Eat sour candies. These candies contain sour sugar that came from citric or tartaric acid. According to research, citric acid can stimulate the production of saliva and change its pH as well as the concentration of drugs found in the saliva.

  • Chew gum. It is another item that can stimulate salivary flow rate (SFR) and alter saliva's pH. This experiment found that chewing gum in cinnamon, watermelon, spearmint, strawberry, and apple flavors has stimulated SFR. It also found that spearmint and cinnamon increase saliva's pH.

  • Use hydrogen peroxide. It is a mild antiseptic that is safe for oral use. In gargling hydrogen peroxide, you have to dilute it first with water. Then swish for approximately 60 seconds or so and spit the solution. Take care not to swallow it.

  • Gargle with a specially formulated mouthwash. While you can use over-the-counter products for cleansing and rinsing your mouth, the product mentioned here is designed to pass an oral drug test. You can look up such products online, particularly in niche stores.

Disrupting the Mouth-Swab Drug Test?

Disrupting the Mouth-Swab Drug Test?

The test is administered under close supervision, eliminating any likelihood to cheat or tamper the specimen during the actual collection. Someone will check that your mouth is empty and that nothing goes in it, solid or liquid, minutes before collecting the sample. You are also required to go empty-handed in the testing room, and your pockets are turned inside out.

The mouth-swab drug test itself makes fixing nearly impossible because of the nature of saliva. Your saliva is mostly recycled, following swallowing and reabsorbing in a matter of minutes. So instead of thinking about ways to beat the test while taking it, take significant measures to affect the outcome 24 hours to 72 hours before the test.

Final Word

We have outlined what you need to know and do before an oral drug test. The knowledge and effort put into the task will set your mind at ease and free you from worries. TestClear specializes in products that will help you check, identify substances, and eliminate their traces in your body so you can pass the mouth-swab drug test in flying colors.

Detect the Level of Toxins or Substances Used

  1. The SalivaConfirm 5-panel oral fluid screening kit detects oral metabolites of most commonly abused drugs: THC, MET, AMP, OPI, and COC. This kit can do the detection in a matter of minutes.

You can buy one to test at home or use it in your business. It also has a color-changing saliva indicator to ensure that you have collected enough specimens for the test.

  1. The cocaine identification residue swab kit provides confirmation of the drug you used. Drop the crack or cocaine into the water, and check if the indicator turns blue. To know more about cocaine drug testing, refer here.

  1. A heroin residue swab, like the kit above, allows you to confirm the identity of a suspected drug.

  1. A methamphetamine residue identification test confirms that the substance is MET if the indicator turns blue or purple.

Detoxify and Cleanse

Toxin Rid Mouthwash

As its name implies, Toxin Rid Rescue Wash Mouthwash aims to remove drug toxins in your mouth minutes before the drug test. It comes in an ounce bottle that you can consume in one sitting.

To use, put one-third of the mouthwash in your mouth, hold it in for three minutes, and spit it out. Repeat two times. To cap the procedure, pop breath mints in your mouth.

With your new job or existing one on the line, it's critical that you pass the mouth-swab drug test. What's reassuring is that the solutions to achieve a successful outcome are readily available and accessible in your glove box, purse, pocket, or desk.

Hopefully, you can relax knowing that MSDT for cannabis is the most straightforward test to pass for as long as you are adequately prepared. Indeed, drug tests are not created equal and can provide varying results given the detection window, absorption, and metabolism of the drugs in the body. You can hold on to this variability and combine it with certainty through preparation. Given the abovementioned tips, it's not impossible to pass your MSDT within hours of smoking!