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Saliva (Mouth Swab) Drug Tests & Detection Times

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 23, 2019

Saliva drug testing produces quick results and can be administered immediately after drug use, unlike most urine tests. Learn more about saliva detection times, how mouth swabs work, and why drug tests are important for sobriety and addiction treatment.

If you’ve ever had a saliva drug test or mouth swab, you may have wondered how long drugs can be detected with this test. The detection period varies according to several factors, including age, a general state of health, weight, metabolic rate, and tolerance level.

A mouth swab may be used to detect drug use immediately after use and up to four days later—most urine tests can’t detect drug use for the first four hours. Saliva tests produce quicker results and can also be self-administered.

Saliva Drug Test Detection Times

The following are saliva detection times for some commonly abused drugs:

  • Alcohol: detected almost immediately, disappears in 12 hours
  • Amphetamine: detected in five to 10 minutes, disappears in 72 hours
  • Methamphetamine: detected in five to 10 minutes, disappears in 72 hours
  • Cocaine: detected in five to 10 minutes, disappears in 24 hours
  • Opiates: detected in one hour, disappears in 7-21 hours
  • Marijuana: detected in one hour, disappears in 12 hours

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The mouth swab drug test works simply and efficiently. First, you insert the swab applicator or sponge in the mouth, completely saturating it. The sponge has to stay in the mouth for up to three minutes. Most tests have an indicator that lets you know when the sample has been collected (such as a color change at the handle end of the applicator).

After you complete the test, you cap the test and wait to read it. Results are typically available within 10 minutes.

Why Drug Tests?

Drug tests are used for a number of reasons. Authorities use them to detect drug use in suspects or those who have committed a crime. Employers use them to test for illicit drug use in new and existing employees.

In treatment, drug testing can be used to help ensure you achieve your treatment goals. The best rehab centers foster a close connection between program participants and the therapists and staff.

However, the number one goal of rehab centers is to make sure you have the best chance at success in long-term sobriety, which may require drug testing.

The Impact Of Addiction

Addiction can have vast health consequences, including both short- and long-term effects. A major concern of drug use is overdose, which can cause a lowered heart rate, shallow breathing, loss of consciousness, seizures, stroke, coma, and even death.

When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, your life becomes about the substance: seeking it, taking it, and maintaining supply. This compulsion can get in the way of your life, affecting your personal relationships, finances, work, school, obligations, and more.

What Can You Do To Overcome Addiction?

The best recourse for addiction is treatment. Decades of research have uncovered safe and effective methods for overcoming addiction.

We now treat addiction as a disease of the mind, targeting not just the physical consequences, but also the effects on your mental and emotional health.

Many rehab centers offer holistic treatment to address the health of the mind, body, and spirit. Long-term recovery requires you to not only address the symptoms of addiction but to also implement lifestyle changes that improve your overall health and well-being.

Effective Treatment Methods

Treatment varies from one rehab center to the next. The best treatment is customized or tailored to your individual needs. Well-rounded treatment requires a combination of evidence-based and holistic care options.

The following methods can be used in combination with others for a holistic approach:

Gender-specific treatment for men: addresses needs specific to men
Gender-specific treatment for women: addresses needs specific to women
Cognitive-behavioral therapy: teaches individuals to develop healthy lifestyle habits
Dialectical behavioral therapy: helps individuals recognize their capabilities, enhance their motivation, and use both to structure a substance-free lifestyle
Alternative therapies: undertake a new approach to healing to build confidence and connect with nature, art, music, or other active or creative endeavors
Counseling: tailored to individual need, and can include one-on-one, family, and group
Aftercare: the best rehab centers will help you set a plan for after rehab to continue your recovery efforts

Learn More About Addiction Treatment

Addiction to drugs or alcohol can quickly become the driving force in your life. With the right treatment, you can take back control. Contact us today to learn more about addiction, how it’s treated, and what the best recovery options are for you.

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