Difference Between A Drug Screen and A Drug Test

Drug screen or drug test is approached when there is a suspicion that someone might be consuming drugs that are harmful for their body.


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Although the terms drug test and drug screen are used interchangeably, they have differences in their root requirement, procedure, and conclusion.

Both tests are done under different circumstances, depending upon the need for accuracy.

A Drug Screen vs A Drug Test

The difference between a drug screen and a drug test is that the former is used for checking for illegal drugs that hamper personal growth, attentivity, and scope of better health while the latter checks for drug content in the body. Drug tests and drug screen are methods to assess if somebody has been consuming drugs; only the two are different in some respects. Prescribed drugs are advisable, but anything beyond that must be registered and treated before it has negative implications on your health.

A Drug Screen vs A Drug Test

Tests through a drug screen are faster and cheaper than a drug test. Drug screens are used when potentially harmful drugs are to be identified. This happens before an individual is tested for drug usage in clinical trials.

Often, drug screen may give a false positive report about specific drugs. Drug screens often depends upon the history of drug use, if any, and clinical diagnosis.

A drug test is an analysis to conclude if an individual has been under the influence of drugs or has been consuming drugs. Drug testing is the go-to choice for companies evaluating their employees for drug use.

Most companies have their employees undergo occasional drug tests to assess their health and attentiveness.

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonA Drug ScreenA Drug Test
DefinitionAn analysis of the bodily fluids to check for the presence of illegal drugs in the body.A test to determine the presence of drugs in the body.
AccuracyThe results of a drug screen may be open to questioning.A drug test has exceptionally accurate and reliable results.
TimeThe results of a drug screen may take up to an hour.The results of a drug test take up to seven days.  
Reliability  A drug screen may not identify certain drugs, so a confirmatory drug test often follows it.  A drug test is accurate and is not followed by any confirmatory tests.
SampleA drug screen involves a sample of either your urine or saliva.  A drug test requires a sample of your hair, urine or blood.

What is a Drug Screen?

A drug screen is used to check your body for contaminants and drugs that have been left behind due to regular usage. The application of drug screen is often on athletes who are suspicious of taking steroids or drugs to intervene with their performance.

The most common form of drug screen is through urine. It requires you to give a urine sample in a container. Urine testing through drug screen is cheap and has an easy collection process. Drug screening is done through panel screens.

A 4-panel drug screen detects the presence of drugs like THC, cocaine, and opiates, while a 5-panel drug screen test detects the presence of opioids, cannabinoids, and phencyclidine.

Several other panels are for detecting high-intensity drugs like oxycodone, PCP, and barbiturates. The other is the saliva screening process which is less invasive.

It involves taking a swab of saliva, which is then examined to check for drugs like amphetamine, PCP, opiates, and marijuana.

Drug screen is usually required before a person can continue their clinical treatment. For an individual looking into having a clinical treatment, a drug screening is often necessary to examine if or not the individual is under the influence of any illegal drugs.

drug screen 1

What is a Drug Test?

Drug tests if used to effectively evaluate if an individual has been under the influence of any drug. A drug test utilizes hair, saliva, urine, blood, or sweat samples to check for any drug intake.

The various drugs under question are marijuana, opium, steroids, and cocaine. A drug test may be required for employment purposes, legal and forensic purposes, or participation in sports.

For a typical drug test, you will be required to collect your urine sample into a collecting container.

Both men and women should have clean and hygienic genital areas before collecting their samples. If the test is through blood, you will be required to let the testing personnel extract blood from your veins.

The compensation in a drug test is that nobody would penalize you if you were under drugs that have been under your prescription.

This is when the drugs are not significantly harming the effectiveness of your body. However, if you are under the influence of drugs that are not for medical reasons, you will test positive for a drug test and may be questioned.

Some specific foods and supplements test positive for certain drugs. It is vital to inform your tester before taking the drug test of any such food that you may be intaking.

drug test

Main Differences Between a Drug Screen and a Drug Test

  1. The accuracy of a drug screen is not as much as a drug test.
  2. A drug screen uses the panel method while a drug test involves taking and checking samples manually and then through medical equipment.
  3. A drug screen is a scan of bodily fluids, while a drug test is a thorough test of the drug content in your body and how it affects its day-to-day functioning.
  4. Drug tests use more specific equipment to check for metabolites in the body, which is why they take longer while a drug screen is a speedy process.
  5. Results through a drug screen may come out inaccurate for the first few times, which may require you to undergo the procedure again. Drug tests are usually correct in the first go.
Difference Between A Drug Screen and A Drug Test


  1. https://www.wmpllc.org/ojs/index.php/jom/article/view/1171
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15563650902907798
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