Is There a Difference Between a Drug Test and Drug Screen? 

Checking for drug use on employees or recruits is a common practice in the workplace. It is normal for you to undergo either a drug screen or a drug test whenever your employer requires it. 

This brings us to the terms drug test and drug screening. Most people use the terms interchangeably, because sincerely speaking, they both sound the same, right?

Is there a difference between a drug test and drug screen?

Yes, there is. A drug test is broad, complex, and conclusive while a drug screen is shallow, simple, and in most cases inconclusive. 

What Is The Difference Between A Drug Test and A Drug Screen? 

What is a Drug Test?

A drug test is a lengthy process of detecting possible drug use by an individual. The process takes between 1 to 7 days to complete and gives out the most conclusive results. 

It is a little bit costly! You will spend some bucks in the process. 

Different Types of Drug Tests

There are different types of drug tests that one can undergo. They include;

Urine test

Most standard drug tests use urine samples. When sick, your physician uses a sample of urine to test for diseases. At your workplace, your employer from time to time may require you to undergo a drug test. Urine will be the best option to go for. 

Urinalysis is a type of machine used to detect possible drug residues within your system. 

The wide range of drugs it detects include cocaine, alcohol, opiates, nicotine, marijuana, amphetamines, and methamphetamines. 

Saliva test

Oral fluids or saliva better-called mouth swab test. The test uses a saliva sample to check for possible drug use.

This type of drug testing is less invasive and also very simple. 

Hair drug test

Hair drug tests check for drug tests extending up to 90 days before. However, it fails to accurately detect the levels.

Drug Tests for Employment Purposes

Among the substances screened in this test include:

  • phencyclidine,
  • opiates, 
  • methamphetamines, 
  • cocaine, and 
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana

It is a common practice for employees or potential employees to go through drug tests. You might be asking yourself, why is this the case? 

Well, employers have their varied reasons for that. Maybe they want to get the best candidates for their demanding jobs. 

They know clearly that a person with a history of drug abuse will not be the best bet for such a demanding position. 

Another reason is that it may be one of their company policies. 

Drug Test Limits for Employers

Note that employers can only administer drug tests per the law. There are varied state laws that protect individuals against unfair harassment. 

It is critical that before you sign a contract with your potential employer, carefully go through their company drug test policy. 

What is a Drug Screen?

A drug screen is a quick activity usually performed on an employee or a family member with a drug abuse history. 

Drug screen is easy and quick and the results are out within minutes. It is the easiest way for the testers to know whether or not someone is using drugs. 

Most of the time, drug screens can be incorrect! The screen often fails to distinguish between marijuana and ibuprofen, opiates and poppy seeds, or cocaine and cold medicine. 

Experts recommend a conclusive drug test to be done on an individual whose drug screen sample returned positive. The aim is to just double-check. 

The result from the second test will now be taken as the final word. 

These are some of the questions people have regarding drug screening. 

Does Drug Screen Test for Alcohol?

Yes, standard drug screens can test for alcohol. However, in this case, rather than using urine samples, the drug screening utilizes breath tests. 

The tests often screen for multiple other substances including methamphetamines, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, PCP, opiates

Do Drug screens Test for Weed?

Yes, drug screens can test for weed. The Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) component in weed is detectable in urine samples stretching to days and up to several weeks. 

Drug Test vs. Drug Screen

As we have already known, drug tests and drug screens are two different things. However, they both check for drugs in your system. 

Let’s discuss this further.

One best way to differentiate drug tests from drug screens is timing. Drug tests take a relatively long time for the results to be out. This is usually between 1 to 7 days. Drug screening tests on the other hand take minutes to be out. 

This brings us to the second difference: cost. Because drug tests take relatively long periods, they are therefore proportionately costly. You will need approximately $200 to undergo a drug test. 

Drug screen is comparatively cheaper. With your $10, you are good to go. 

Finally, accuracy is another distinguishing factor. Drug tests are more accurate when compared to drug screens. Why is this so? Probably because of the longer time invested in drug tests than in drug screens. 


Now you know that a drug test and drug screen. While they perform the same task, they are two different things. 

The major distinguishing factors between the two are time, cost, and accuracy. 

Drug tests take longer timeframes, they are more costly, and the result is accurate. Drug screen is the exact opposite. Shorter timeframes, usually minutes, it is less costly, and it may fail the accuracy test. 

I hope the difference is now clear.