3 Mar 2021

New Zealand's first drug saliva test offered in Canterbury

6:39 pm on 3 March 2021

A laboratory is hailing the introduction of an easier and more efficient drug testing alternative to urine samples.

Doctor holding swab test tube for 2019-nCoV analyzing. Coronavirus test. Blue medical gloves and protective face mask for protection against covid-19 virus. Coronavirus and pandemic

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The country's first saliva drug test, also known as an oral fluid or mouth swab test, can now be accessed in Canterbury.

The test, which is being offered at Canterbury Health Laboratories, can replace traditional urine tests to detect recent drug use.

The lab's head of toxicology Grant Moore says employers can have their own swab kits and do it themselves on site, before sending samples away to analyse.

Employers can also directly observe the test, he said.

"For those being tested it means they aren't having to travel for their test and it is less invasive to collect a mouth swab than a urine sample," Moore said.

The use of amphetamine-type substances, opiates, cannabis and cocaine within a preceding 24-hour period can be detected by the saliva test, depending on the substance.

"The advantage of testing saliva is that urine testing picks up drugs that have passed through the body whereas saliva registers drugs that may have just been taken but have not yet been fully processed internally," Moore said.

"This means that, depending on an organisation's employment policies, it could be used straight away if impairment was suspected or a workplace accident has occurred, and the test is sent away for testing with results within four to five days."

The screening test will indicate if a substance is detected.

Canterbury Health Laboratories said just as with urine testing, if a screening test result does not come back as negative, it needs to be confirmed by an accredited laboratory.