What is the difference between a Drug Test VS Drug Screening?




Drug Test (Lab Based)

EX. Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp, ECT.

Drug Screening (Over the Counter)

Ex. Walmart, Walgreens, ECT.

Much more accurate

Less accurate

More expensive (Around $200)

Cost around $10

Takes longer time (1 to 7 days)

Takes minutes

Can be done only in Labs

Can be done anywhere

Test kits are not available in pharmacy

Test kits are available in pharmacy

The confirmatory test is not required

The confirmatory test is required in Labs




  • The lab drug test is done by experts in the drug testing field and they have in-depth knowledge while delivering the test result.
  • Lab drug testing offers their own cut-offs and threshold levels of each drug.  This will enable the employer to defend their argument in the court of law.
  • Lab test are highly accurate, but in reality, no test can be 100% accurate.  There is always a possibility of a false positive or false negative result in some cases, as some unknown factors might influence the test result (such as medication drugs, food habits, etc.).
  • Court and Law Enforcement agencies accept only Lab Test Results that are approved by the federal agencies and strictly follow SAMHSA guidelines.  Besides, the test result's empirical data is admissible in the court.  Rapid drug test or instant drug test results are not acceptable in the courts unless employers submit the confirmatory test results from the approved labs.
  • Despite the inherent drawbacks, the lab test is still considered the best option by the courts, federal agencies, and employers.


  • Certain odd drugs are not included in the drug testing panels.  Employers are to pay extra for detecting these drugs.
  • The lab test is not 100% fool-proof.  There is always a possibility of cheating and adulteration during the test.
  • The time factor is one of the disadvantages in a lab-based test.  The waiting time ranges from 24 hours to 72 hours and some cases might take longer.

Pros and Cons of Instant Drug Test (Over the counter)


  • In this test method, the sample is collected onsite, tested in a few minutes.  For example, onsite urine drug test takes just a few minutes.  No time is lost either for hiring or random check process.  Saving time means saving money.
  • The test result gives the type of drug used and the quantity of the drug used.  It is up to the employer to decide the quantitative threshold for considering the result as positive or negative.
  • The instant urine drug test is becoming popular these days and many employers prefer instant urine drug tests.
  • Most of the instant drug tests are as accurate as the lab-based tests.
  • The instant drug test is less expensive.  The cost ranges from $10 (minimum).  The cost varies according to the type of drug and procedure adopted.
  • Instant drug kits are available all over the market including Walmart and online.


Despite all the advantages the instant drug test offers, it does have its own demerits.  The employer needs to keep in mind the following things while going for an instant drug test.

  • The workplace should have trained and experienced persons to handle the instant drug test.  The test needs to keep a strict vigil on the cheaters.
  • Instant drug test offers a limited choice of drug test panels, so all the drugs and their derivates can't be detected in this test.
  • The instant drug test can be justified in the case of potential employees who are going to take up sensitive positions at the workplace.  Such positions or jobs require exclusive lab-based tests.
  • Agencies like FDA and DOT prefer lab-based test than instant drug test.
  • Instant drug tests can’t disclose the drugs that have been abused for a long time whereas

    lab-based drug tests can detect the duration of drug abuse in the past).


If you need a drug test, no matter where you are, call Coastal Drug Testing TODAY! With over 20,000 SAMHSA certified locations nationwide, our labs are always nearby. Call (800) 221-4291 and/or visit us at https://coastaldrugtesting.com/ to walk into a lab TODAY.

And Remember,

“When You Need A Test, Choose The Best”


Learn About Drug Testing (Lab Based) VS Drug Screening (Over the Counter) and what the pro's VS the cons are. Click the link for a FULL BREAKDOWN