Fingerprint Drug Screening Versus Oral Fluid Drug Screening – A Comparison

06.23.2020

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Fingerprint Drug Screening Versus Oral Fluid Drug Screening – A Comparison

Dr. Paul Yates, Director, Intelligent Fingerprinting

We’re often asked how our Fingerprint Drug Screening System compares to traditional drug testing methods such as oral fluid tests that work by collecting an individual’s saliva. We believe that fingerprint-based testing offers a more convenient, hygienic and pleasant approach to testing, and we’ve put together this comparison to show how oral fluid tests measure up to the Intelligent Fingerprint method across a number of key criteria:

Invasiveness

Fingerprint: Drug screening using the Intelligent Fingerprinting method is wholly non-invasive. Sample collection is easy and simply requires the donor to press all ten fingerprints, in succession, onto the fingerprint drug screening cartridge which is then analyzed by the portable reader.
Oral Fluid: While oral-fluid testing is less invasive than urine tests, oral tests still require saliva to be collected from the mouth, as well as pre-test monitoring to ensure the person being tested doesn’t eat, drink, smoke or gargle before the test.

Convenience

Fingerprint: Fingerprint-based drug tests are particularly easy to administer, as sample collection is quick and hygienic and there’s no need for any special preparation before testing.
Oral Fluid: Oral fluid tests can prove difficult to collect – particularly if an individual has a ‘dry mouth’ – a common side effect of many drugs, both illicit and clinically-prescribed.

Speed

Fingerprint: Fingerprint sample collection takes seconds, with results for all drugs in the test displayed on the portable reader in ten minutes. The results can be easily printed using the printer accessory.
Oral Fluid: Oral fluid samples can be difficult to collect and process, adding to the overall testing time required. Pre-test waiting periods, the need to collect a minimum sample, dry mouth syndrome and the requirement for biohazardous disposal processes can all combine to make oral fluid testing a lengthier process to administer than fingerprint-based tests.

Hygiene

Fingerprint: Thanks to its non-invasive, non-biohazardous technique, fingerprint-based testing is easy to handle and hygienic to use and there is no need for clinical waste disposal of used cartridges. A face-covering can be worn throughout the testing process, if required.
Oral Fluid: Close physical contact is required when testing and kits can leak after sample collection, with the risk for testers of getting saliva on their hands.  Oral fluid tests also require biohazardous waste disposal – making disposal more complex and costly. If a face-covering is worn, the person being tested will need to remove this for the test.

Dignity

Fingerprint: Fingerprint testing is discreet and dignified for both the person being tested and the tester, with no requirement to collect invasive, biohazardous body fluid samples.
Oral Fluid: The oral-fluid based approach is less discreet, requiring closer physical contact with the donor and collection of biohazardous saliva. In addition, donors need to be observed for at least ten minutes before an oral fluid test as eating, drinking, smoking or gargling can affect the results.

Window of Detection and Assessing Risk of Impairment

The ‘Window of Detection’ is defined as the period during which a drug or drug metabolite (a metabolized by-product of a drug) is detectable in a test sample after the person took the drug.  It can be summarised for the different test approaches as:

  • Fingerprint Sweat – Drugs and/or metabolized by-products detectable for up to 16 hours from use.
  • Oral Fluid – Up to 48 hours from use.
  • Urine – Up to 4 days from use (longer for habitual cannabis users).

Fingerprint: When an organization needs to assess the risk of possible impairment due to drug use (eg for fitness for duty testing in the workplace), fingerprint sweat testing offers a clear benefit over oral fluid tests (as well as urine tests). Thanks to its shorter window of detection, fingerprint testing provides a quick and dignified way of identifying potential drug misuse in the period immediately prior to the test. A positive result indicates recent drug use and therefore suggests a greater risk of impairment at the time of the test. This approach aligns with advice set out in by the UK Trade Unions Council (TUC) ‘Drug Testing in the Workplace’ guidance document for employers.
Oral Fluid: While oral fluid drug tests are also aimed at detecting recent drug use, the window of detection is much longer – between 24 to 48 hours. This introduces a much higher risk of an individual obtaining a positive screening result and being deemed not fit for work, even though they may have used drugs up to two days previously – on a Saturday night, for example – and have a very low risk of being impaired when tested.

Cost-effectiveness

Fingerprint: Fingerprint drug testing relies on a multi-panel test cartridge that is similar in cost to oral fluid drug tests. In addition, thanks to its ease of use and hygienic approach, there’s no need for specialist staff to carry out testing, specially prepared collection areas or clinical waste disposal facilities, meaning a more efficient process overall. And, for organizations currently using third-party companies to carry out their testing, significant savings can be made by bringing drug testing in-house with the Intelligent Fingerprinting system.
Oral Fluid: While individual oral fluid tests are similarly priced to fingerprint test cartridges, the cost of the end-to-end process – including monitoring waiting periods, managing the test sample collection and then disposing of the biohazardous oral fluid drug test kits – can make overall oral fluid testing less attractive.

Reliability

Fingerprint: Intelligent Fingerprinting’s drug screening tests are comparable in terms of accuracy with other point-of-care drug screening tests including oral fluid-based tests. The process is clear and transparent, with no need for specially prepared collection areas or specialist training. The Intelligent Fingerprinting DSR-Plus reader indicates a positive or negative result on-screen for each drug in the test. For an unequivocal result, a fingerprint-based laboratory confirmation test is available to verify the initial screening results.
Oral Fluid: Those operating an oral fluid drug testing program need to be familiar with potential areas of inflexibility and interpretation involved in the process. It’s necessary, for example, to observe waiting periods of at least ten minutes before a test and to make sure that the person being tested hasn’t ingested anything during that time. Additionally, results often rely on the tester’s interpretation of result lines on the test, which can be difficult to read and potentially introduce uncertainty into the process.

Please note that in the USA, the Intelligent Fingerprinting Drug Screening System is available for forensic use only.

To find out more about the benefits of fingerprint drug screening and the differences between the types of drug test on the market, please contact me on paul.yates@intelligentfingerprinting.com

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