Tuesday January 8, 2019

By Andrew Ward


Testing for cannabis compounds in the body has its options. From the standard urine test to the lesser used blood and hair screenings, each type of drug test poses hurdles for consumers and administers alike.

In recent years, the saliva test has begun to emerge a bit more. With advancing technology, saliva drug tests provide immediate answers with minimally invasive efforts. As such, they have become popular in testing everyone from job applicants to drug users.

If ever posed with a saliva test for cannabis, here’s what you need to know.

What is a Saliva Drug Test and How Does it Work?

Sometimes called a mouth swab or oral fluid test, the saliva test has increased in popularity as cannabis has expanded into the mainstream. The tests are able to be administered on-site without a medical professional needed and have results determined right away. Additionally, saliva tests are difficult to alter or tamper with.

Police cars stopping someone for a saliva drug test
Police are using saliva tests more and more during suspicious traffic stops. photo credit
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Unlike the standard urine test, saliva tests screen for different compounds in a person’s body. A urine test screens for the metabolite THC-COOH. On the other hand, saliva tests screen for THC. Instead of testing for it in the body, like blood or urine would, saliva tests rely solely on the inside of the mouth. Supporters of saliva tests believe they provide greater accuracy. On the other hand, others cite its ease to pass regardless of usage. Outside of work and school testing, saliva tests are used for roadside drug tests, which has led to its own debate. While proponents of saliva tests support their supposed improved accuracy, they give testers a much narrower window to screen a subject.

In most cases, saliva tests can only pick up THC within the last 24 hours. Otherwise, the THC has already metabolized into the body. In some cases, tests can screen for anywhere between three days and up to a week.

With such a short window to work with, even heavy cannabis consumers can pass a saliva test. In theory, one would only have to hold off from consuming for a day. As such, saliva tests drastically cut down on how long someone would need to abstain compared to a hair or blood test. That said, it should come as no surprise that the saliva test is the preferred choice for plenty of consumers if the time ever comes for a screening.

Passing a Saliva Test

Unless given a test by surprise, it is rather easy to pass a saliva screening for cannabis – at least for now. Here are some of the more recommended measures one can take to pass:

Don’t Smoke for a Day (or Week)

With a short window of time to work with, saliva tests have to find recently consumed THC in the lining of the mouth. Otherwise, it’s lost into the body and won’t show up as a positive result.

That’s why a good ‘ol tolerance break is the best way to pass. It is believed that 24 hours should be enough. Those not wanting to chance it are recommended to abstain from consuming cannabis for a week or so. Everyone is different though, so factor in how much you consume. If you’re a heavier user, it may be wise to go a few extra days before having any. Sure, the break may not be entirely necessary, but who wants to face the consequences if the test turns up positive?

Somone holding a cannabis pipe with weed in it
If you want to pass your saliva drug test, it's best to take a break from consuming cannabis.

While refraining from use is the ultimate solution, some may need to consume for one reason or another. Since tests search for saliva on the lining of the mouth, an edible is the best option if you have to consume. Which leads to the next point.

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Clean Your Mouth Thoroughly

Before submitting a sample for a saliva drug test, be sure to rid your mouth of any remaining food particles that linger. This include morsels stuck in your teeth as well as any remnants of a drink that may coat your mouth. Be sure to floss, brush and rinse repeatedly in the lead-up to your test – and for general oral care while we’re at it.

Going a step further, rinse with mouthwash or an antiseptic. Listerine and hydrogen peroxide are both viable options. The latter is especially useful if the test is administered with little to no notice.

Keep in mind that only cleaning your teeth will have lasting effects. Antiseptics, if effective, will only alter your saliva for roughly 30 minutes. If using this method, apply as close to the test as possible.

Swish Out the THC

Going the route some do with urine tests, drinks can flush the body of its cannabis traces. However, the liquid is used differently when attempting to pass a saliva test. Instead of flushing the body with copious amounts of fluid, it’s a bit more methodical in this case.

A glass of water used to dilute saliva in the mouth
Swishing your mouth with water will help to keep your saliva diluted. photo credit

Rather than gulping down glasses, one should swish the water as they would a mouthwash. Repeat the process often. Some suggest adding ice as well.

Use Caution with CBD

Consider this more a tip for urine tests, but it can also apply to saliva as well. While CBD isn’t tested by most, it still runs a risk in saliva and other drug tests. Despite having only trace amounts of THC, products high in CBD may have enough THC in them to produce a positive result. Though this is unlikely to happen, one may want to hold off on cannabidiol as well until the screening has been conducted.

Final Thoughts

Saliva tests are on the rise. They are capable of detecting THC in the lining of mouths but only within a short time frame. As such, they are rather simple to pass. A short break from consuming cannabis is ideal, though other options work as well.

If given a choice (which, let’s be honest, is rare), a cannabis consumer should almost always pick the saliva test. Unlike the other screenings, passing a saliva test mostly involves rinsing your mouth and taking a short break from consuming. Meanwhile, the others can call for large amounts of liquids, chemicals in the hair and potentially even carrying someone else’s urine if the situation gets particularly bad.

Avoid the hubbub and just hold off from smoking. Otherwise, the process begins to get a bit more complicated. Keep it simple and return to smoking after getting swabbed.

Have you ever been subject to a saliva drug test? Share your experience and tips for passing in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon (license)

Andrew Ward Andrew Ward

Andrew Ward is a Brooklyn-based cannabis writer and creative. His work has appeared on Benzinga, High Times, PROHBTD and several other publications and brand blogs. He has covered the cannabis space for over three years, and has written professionally since 2011. His first book, "Cannabis Jobs," was released in October 2019. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn to stay up to date.

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