Difference Between A Drug Screen and A Drug Test (With Table)

Although the terms “drug screen” and “drug test” are frequently used synonymously, they are not equivalent. Both techniques are designed explicitly for substance remnants in your bloodstream to see if you have been using banned drugs.

The main distinction is that a drug test is far more precise than a drug screen (though it takes longer and costs more). It’s crucial to know the difference between the two, so you can plan to pass with no problem!

Drug Screen vs Drug Test

The main difference between a drug screen and a drug test is that drug screening can be done to analyse the availability of drugs in the body but for confirmation, it is followed by a drug test as a drug screen can only detect a limited number of drugs.

Drug Screen vs Drug Test

A person does drug screening to rule out the presence of alcohol or drug use illegally. The sample can be collected by blood, urine, hair, or saliva to figure out the presence of alcohol or drug consumption by authorised organisations. 

A drug test is a technical term for examining the specimen like urine, hair, sweat, blood, saliva to detect the presence or absence of metabolites. Drug testing is done on high-performing athletes who take steroids before their performance.

Comparison Table Between A Drug Screen and A Drug Test

Parameter of comparisonA drug screenA drug test
DefinitionThe body samples are taken to analyse the presence of any drug or alcohol in the body which is taken illegally.It is done as a follow up procedure of drug screening to confirm the presence of drugs in the body.
Time takenThe results of the drug screen are rapid and may take upto few minutes to an hour.The drug test results take about four days to week to show up.
AccuracyAs the results are quick it has less accuracy and may give false positives sometimes.The drug tests are used as the confirmatory test to detect the presence of any illegal drug in the body.
ReliabilityDrug screen can identify a few drugs only.Drug test is so accurate with the detection of drugs that it does not require confirmation.
Sample collectedThe sample taken to check the presence of drugs in the body is from blood, breath alcohol test, and saliva in the drug screen.The sample can be collected from urine, blood, sweat, and saliva in drug tests.

What is A Drug Screen? 

When you take drugs and get high, the drug breaks down into the body in its simpler metabolites which are nothing but the chemical components of that drug.

Drug screening can be done by a person hired via the process of applications, and only he can screen out or conduct tests on suspected people. The state has given the permit to test for illegal consumption of drugs or alcohol in an office area.

So, whenever you get a chance to undergo a drug screening, these remnants of metabolites can be detected easily.

The drug screening can be done anywhere and anytime by collecting the sample of blood, urine, saliva, and the authorised person can detect the presence of the drug in the body.

The positive test indicates that you have recently been under any medication or might have taken it, and to confirm it, the sample is sent to the lab for a drug test. 

What is A Drug Test?

A drug test is a formal way of conducting tests by collecting samples from the person to collect the evidence on substance abuse. This testing is carried out in the following manner:

  • Students, athletes, and inhabitants are just a few examples of how drug testing is done. 
  • Individuals who are about to pertain or hold specific types of job professions (e.g., aviators, truck drivers)
  • Individuals who had a car accident, a watercraft accident, or a workplace accident in the influence of drugs.
  • Individuals who have tried suicide in a controversial means
  • The one under probation or any therapy as sentenced by the Court.
  • Individuals who are enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program or being under rehabilitation 

In drug tests the sample taken from blood, urine, saliva mostly and is used to detect the presence of drugs in the body and it might take up to four to seven days to show up the results.

Although it is prohibited by the law, and it is mandatory for all athletes for employers to go under drug tests.

The drug tests are used as confirmatory tests as many screenings do not detect the LSD, GHB, opioids easily and then the role of drug test increases.

Main Differences Between A Drug Screen and A Drug Test

  1. The drug screen gives results quickly, which may not be as accurate as you can get the confirmatory results from drug tests, and it has a greater level of accuracy. 
  2. The drug screening can be done by any person, whether an officer, employer, etc., to analyse the presence of drug or alcohol in the blood as it gives results in a few minutes. At the same time, drug tests take time to provide accurate results.
  3. The drug screening showing positive results requires confirmation from the drug test not to give false findings as it is illegal, and the suspect can be fined by law. 
  4. The samples are collected by an assigned person undercharge and can perform the drug screening anytime. Drug tests are conducted under the law to find illegal consumption of drugs by athletes or any professional.
  5. The drug screening does not have any legal purpose, whereas the drug tests serve the legal procedures. It follows law and order, and it is done to forbid the intake of drugs or alcohol.


The drug screening is budget-friendly, and a nearby drugstore can quickly do it. Most people, like officials, parents, coaches, etc., prefer to use drug screening before going for the drug test, which is quite costly.

Likewise, the amount you are paying for drug screening, you can not get the accuracy as from the drug testing because drug screen gives results quickly, which leads to false results. 

This is why one needs to go to the lab and give a sample to avoid false positives and get accurate results. So, you can opt for any of them according to your budget.