At-Home Vs. Lab-Based Drug Testing: Similarities and Differences

Lab-Based Drug Testing

Drug testing helps us keep an eye on the health of family, friends, and employees who may be abusing substances. When it comes down to deciding how to get these tests done, there are two options: at-home testing or lab-based testing. As you might imagine, there are some key differences between the two choices and a few similarities.

Let’s take a look at what at-home and lab-based drug testing entail and a few things you will want to consider when deciding which one to use.

How Does At-Home Drug Testing Work?

Most at-home drug tests rely on urine or saliva to determine if certain drugs are in someone’s system. These test kits will either specially target one substance, like marijuana, or will test a whole range of them. When urine or saliva is placed on the test strips, compounds will react to specific metabolites in the bodily fluids, which would indicate drug use.

You can read more about at-home testing for marijuana here!

How Does Lab-Based Drug Testing Work?

Lab-based testing may use urine, saliva, or hair to determine drug use. The initial process is similar to at-home testing, as technicians will look for certain metabolites, but they will use high-tech machinery for a more in-depth analysis. Technicians can rely on gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to accurately identify specific substances and rule out others–leading to fewer false negatives/positives. Lab-based testing can also help determine how much of a certain substance is being used, which can be helpful when organizing a treatment plan.

Key Differences


Lab-based testing offers the most accurate results. With the help of technology and trained technicians, the chances of false positives or negatives are highly unlikely, and the findings will be much more comprehensive compared to an at-home test.

But that doesn’t mean at-home tests are unreliable. They can still provide accurate results, like the tests made by Lab-Away that have 99% reliability. Even though an at-home test might not hold up as evidence in a court of law, they’re a great option that can be further verified by taking more than one test.


At-home tests will provide results within about 10 minutes compared to lab-based testing, which can take multiple days (not including the time it could take to get a testing appointment). This is due to the more rigorous process of using machinery to test samples and having technicians verify and analyze results. So, if you’re someone who needs results as soon as possible, at-home testing is your best bet.


When it comes to the cost, lab-based testing will be more expensive than at-home testing. Labs can charge very large amounts of money for the testing of hair and in-depth analysis of bodily fluids. At-home tests, on the other hand, are easy to obtain and quite affordable in comparison.

Which Kind of Testing Is Better?

Determining which kind of testing is better comes down to accuracy, and lab-based testing, of course, provides the best results using high-tech equipment and trained professionals. With that being said, at-home testing is still a very reliable option that can give most people what they are looking for. Remember, the sooner tests are given, the sooner lifestyle changes can be made!

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