Drug Tests Involve a Multipronged Process
At ARCpoint Labs of Houston Northwest, we often encounter patients curious about why different drug testing options require different lengths of time to report results. The common misconception behind this question is the belief that all drug tests are the same. On the contrary, there are many diverse drug tests available on the market, and no two drug tests are exactly alike. In fact, each test has a unique timeline for completion based on the specific steps required to verify findings.
The time it takes to receive drug test results depends on the type of drug test being conducted and the laboratory providing the results. The turnaround time will also be affected by both the specimen/sample method and the substances tested. Depending on the compounds of the substances being tested, more sophisticated and time-intensive testing might be necessary.
Drug testing typically follows a set life cycle, which can be broken down into five distinct parts:
- Specimen collection
- Sample preparation
- Sample analysis
- Confirmation testing
- Reporting results
Each step can take a few minutes to several days to complete. Today, we’ll break down each stage of this life cycle to illustrate why drug tests have varying timelines.
Drug Tests Begin with a Specimen Collection
The initial step of the drug testing life cycle is specimen collection. This step typically involves taking a hair, fingernail, follicle, blood, or urine sample from an individual for testing. Specimen collection usually takes 5-10 minutes, depending on the sample type and how easily it is collected. In the case of collecting hair samples for drug testing purposes, the extraction process will depend on how much hair needs to be collected.
The Importance of Proper Sample Preparation
Once collected, the sample specimen must be prepared for testing. Preparation involves extracting all compounds that need to be analyzed. Depending on the chosen sample method and its associated lab tests, preparation time can range from 15 minutes up to several hours or even days. For example, if we run multiple tests on a single specimen, we will need more time than if we run a single test on one sample. This stage usually takes approximately 1-2 hours but can vary greatly depending on the specifics of each case.
The analysis stage involves measuring and quantifying relevant compounds present in the sample. This step typically takes about 1 hour per sample but can again vary depending on what specific drugs or alcohol are being tested. It can also vary due to special instructions or circumstances surrounding the test (e.g., specific cutoff levels). You can rest assured knowing we have state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge technologies. Our industry-best resources ensure your testing process will be as seamless, smooth, and accelerated as possible – all without sacrificing accuracy.
No additional testing is necessary if the sample is negative. In this circumstance, the findings will be sent to the proper medical review officer, who will then report the results. On the other hand, positive results from the initial analysis will require additional confirmation tests to verify a positive result. This process will transpire before reporting is finalized to the relevant party (i.e., an employer or insurance company).
Confirmation tests typically involve repeating steps performed during the initial analysis using advanced equipment or specialized techniques to double-check accuracy. This stage of the drug testing process usually takes between 2-4 hours but it can take longer depending on how many samples need to be confirmed and what types of confirmatory tests are necessary (e.g., GC/MS vs. immunoassay). Whatever the case, our laboratory team will always verify the results to be correct and legally defensible.
After each step in the process has been completed and the results have been verified/confirmed, we will report back to you as quickly as possible. Though most drug tests should expect at least 24-48 hours before all cycles are completed and finalized results return, some take much longer due to extensive confirmatory testing requirements. There is also the possibility of minor setbacks or delays with specimen collection, preparation, analysis/confirmation testing, etc. As a result, we prescribe estimated windows of time for drug testing results.
We understand how critical it can be for employers and individuals to get results quickly. However, these timelines exist for a reason. The scientific process is not immediate. As a result, expectations should be tempered and realistic regarding turnaround times. We hope that by understanding the various steps of the drug testing process, you now have some added clarity regarding timeline expectations.
The ARCpoint Labs of Houston Northwest Difference
Nothing is more important to us than delivering accurate results fast and efficiently. That said, our patients/clients frequently request expedited test results. Unfortunately, speeding up the turnaround time is not often possible since we follow a strict protocol with stringent procedures to produce accurate and legally valid results. Of course, drug testing’s most essential aspect is to provide accurate results.
However, there are some instances where we can accelerate your drug test results. Feel free to reach out to our team anytime to receive direct feedback. We promise to answer any inquiry and keep your information private and confidential.
Our team prioritizes client needs at every turn. We stand behind our immaculate facilities, qualified and highly-trained lab technicians, and safe and secure testing processes. If you are searching for affordable drug testing services you can count on to be court admissible and scientifically accurate, you’ve come to the right place!
Are you looking for local drug testing services? Call the professionals at (281) 843-4054 today!