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Advocacy Tip: Drug Test Types

Drug Test Types

One of the most common reasons for a child’s removal from their parents is due to illegal drug use. In cases where drug use is a concern, CPS will require that parents receive some type of drug treatment and comply with drug testing. While there are several different ways in which to conduct drug testing, CPS utilizes three types of testing: Oral Swab testing, Urinalysis testing, and Hair Follicle testing.

Oral Swab Tests

Oral swab tests are completed by having the parent provide a saliva sample. An oral swab test will generally provide test results within a few minutes, but must be sent to the testing lab for processing and verification of the results. One of the downfalls of the oral swab test is that the accuracy of these tests can be unreliable and should be verified through an alternate test type. Additionally, the oral swab test is not the most cost-effective drug test available to CPS since it can be more expensive than a urine test. However, the oral swab test is easy to administer and can be used in situations where there is a concern that the parent is under the influence of an illegal substance (ex. at a parent-child visit). The detection period for an oral swab test is generally within 24 to 48 hours of drug use, but there are no nationally accepted standards for detection making the results highly dependent on the specific testing product used to administer the test.

Urinalysis Tests

Urinalysis tests are generally the least expensive and most commonly utilized form of the testing methods used by CPS. A urinalysis test requires that the parent provide a urine sample at a clinic approved by CPS. The urine sample collection is observed by trained medical staff and is then sent to the lab for processing and analysis. Test results from a urinalysis test usually takes a few days but is generally considered to provide more reliable test results. The detection period for a urinalysis test is usually within one week of drug use, though a positive result can be obtained if the drug use occurs on a regular or frequent basis. Urinalysis test results can sometimes be affected by the use of over-the-counter masking agents, attempts to dilute urine samples, or by the use of synthetic urine. For these reasons, urine samples are frequently tested for masking agents, pH levels, and temperature to verify the integrity of the sample provided.

Hair Tests

Hair follicle testing is several times more expensive than an oral swab or urinalysis test. For this reason, CPS requires a court order before hair follicle testing can be approved and paid for by the Department. A hair follicle test requires a sample of hair equal to the diameter of a pencil lead and 1.5 inches long. Hair follicle testing cannot be completed on a single hair. One of the main benefits of hair follicle testing is that it can detect substance use over a much longer period of time. Hair follicle tests are not generally affected by brief periods of abstinence from drug use and can provide a time frame for when drug use occurred if it has since been discontinued. The detection period for a hair follicle test can be several months. Hair follicle tests are considered to be the most reliable form of drug testing available to CPS since shampoos and “follicle cleansing” products are not effective in removing drug metabolites from the hair follicle. 


1. Name one benefit of each type of drug test used by CPS.

2. What is needed in order for CPS to obtain a hair follicle drug test from a parent?

3. What procedures and/or safeguards are in place to insure the validity of a urinalysis test? 


To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Leticia Hernandez at

Advocacy Tip: Drug Test Types