What to Know About Mouth Swab Drug Tests

A mouth swab drug test is a screening tool that takes a saliva sample to detect certain substances in your system.

Mouth swab drug tests are used in various settings, such as workplaces and rehabilitation facilities. Mouth swab drug tests are more cost-effective and less invasive than other drug tests, like samples of someone's hair, urine, blood, or sweat.

This article will explain how mouth swab drug tests work, what substances they can detect, how long it takes to get results, and more.

mouth swab drug test
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How Does It Work?

A mouth swab drug test uses a long Q-tip with a sponge-like material to collect your saliva sample. The mouth swab drug test is done by sweeping the inside of the cheek or underneath the tongue. Either yourself or a test administrator will perform the swab.

A mouth swab drug test is brief, lasting only one to three minutes. Additionally, you do not need to prepare for the test in any way. You are typically asked not to eat or drink anything around 10 minutes before the test.

What Does It Test For?

Mouth swab drug tests can detect a variety of different substances, including:

If you or a loved one may be struggling with substance use disorder or addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. You are not alone.

How Long Does It Take to Get Results?

How long test results take from a mouth swab drug test will depend on the type of swab used. For example, some mouth swab drug tests will require lab analysis. Other drug test results can be interpreted on-site.

If your mouth swab drug test needs to be sent to a lab, you can expect results within 24 hours. For mouth swab drug tests that can be interpreted on-site, results can occur within minutes.

How Accurate Is a Mouth Swab Drug Test?

If the mouth swab drug test is performed correctly, the test has an accuracy of 97.5%. That said, the type of drug being tested for and the last use of that substance will contribute to whether someone gets a positive reading.

For example, codeine, an opiate, can be detected via a saliva test one to four days after taking the last dose.

Research has shown the following factors contribute to how likely a drug will be detected via a mouth swab drug test:

  • The amount of the substance consumed
  • How the substance was consumed (orally, intravenously, etc.)
  • The frequency of substance usage
  • Any adulterants present (substances added to a product)
  • Any interferants present

Benefits of Mouth Swab Drug Tests Over Other Types

There are several benefits to using a mouth swab drug test over other types of drug-screening processes. These benefits include:

  • It's non-invasive
  • It's more cost-effective
  • It can detect current usage
  • You'll get fast results
  • It's more difficult to tamper with results
  • It's quick and convenient


Mouth swab drug tests are a drug screening tool that uses saliva to detect various substances in your system. These tests are painless and quick, sometimes delivering results in minutes. Mouth swab tests are usually best for detecting recent drug use. Mouth swab drug tests are typically used to detect alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opioids, and more.

A Word From Verywell

Some workplaces require drug screenings for employment. A mouth swab drug test is less invasive and cost-effective than other types of drug screening like collecting blood or saliva samples. If you are struggling with substance use, know you are not alone. Reach out to a healthcare provider to discuss resources and get help. Addiction is a disease and not your fault.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How far back can a mouth swab test detect drugs?

    How far back a mouth swab test can detect drugs will depend on the substance in question. For example, marijuana can be detected via a mouth swab test 24 hours after use, but MDMA is undetectable 24 hours after use if it is the onsite American Drug Test-style test. The LC/MS/MS method is very sensitive and can further detect THC, THCA, and MDMA. Other factors will contribute, including frequency of drug use, how the drug was used, and the amount consumed.

  • What drugs can be detected with a mouth swab test?

    A variety of drugs can be detected using a mouth swab test. These substances include alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, THC (marijuana), methamphetamine, opioids, and phencyclidine (PCP).

  • How accurate are mouth swab drug tests?

    Mouth swab drug tests are highly accurate. If a mouth swab drug test is administered correctly, this type of drug test has an accuracy of 97.5%.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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