How accurate is drug testing?

How accurate is drug testing on our roads and in our workplace? Credit Highway Patrol Images

If you’ve been stopped to undertake drug testing on the roads by police, or you are required to undergo drug testing in your workplace, you may have wondered how accurate the testing really is? Is it possible to fail testing when you’ve had no drugs?

The accuracy of roadside drug testing in NSW was called into question last in a high profile case involving NRL star Josh Reynolds. He was randomly stopped and asked to undergo roadside drug testing, which returned a positive result.

According to a report on ABC News, he was then taken to a police station for another test, which it’s claimed was negative. This second test has been sent to a laboratory for further examination, with no charges laid until the result of the second test has been confirmed.

Confidence in the drug testing process

If you are stopped by NSW Police, or police in any state or territory in Australia, it’s important to note that you can be confident in the drug testing process.

In the case of Josh Reynolds, the NWS Police has followed the process to the letter. If any driver in NSW records a non-negative initial result, they are asked to undergo a second test, in a mobile drug bus or police station. The second sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis, whether it is positive or negative, and the driver issued with a direction not to drive for 24 hours as a precaution. Only if the laboratory analysis is positive will the driver be issued with a court attendance notice.

So, it’s the analysis in a laboratory that decides the fate of the driver, not the roadside drug test.

Workplace drug testing

The checks and balances that Integrity Sampling uses in its drug testing is reasonably similar to that of the NSW Police.

When an initial drug screen indicates a non-negative result, a secondary sample is taken and sent to an independent laboratory for testing. It’s this test result that will confirm whether the employee has recorded a positive or negative result, not the initial test. Importantly, however, after the initial non-negative result, the employer can ensure the employee is safe by removing him or her from the work area to a safe place.

Is the initial drug testing accurate?

So, by now you should have confidence in the process that is used on roadsides and in workplaces in Australia, but should you be confident in the equipment used to analyse the initial drug tests?

While it’s difficult for us to comment on all drug testing systems used in Australia, if Integrity Sampling is conducting the testing you can be confident in the initial testing. That’s because Integrity Sampling uses the Drager DrugTest 5000 oral fluid analyser for all our workplace drug testing around Australia (we recommend oral or saliva testing over urine testing, but that’s another story!).

The Drager DrugTest 5000 device is verified and compliant to AS/NZS 4760:2019 Appendix C and has an accuracy of more than 99%. All well and good if you record a negative result, but not such good news if you’ve recorded a non-negative result for your initial sample!

Even with this high level of accuracy, however, the process ensures fairness by backing up the initial testing with a more thorough analysis. Afterall, even 1 out of 100 incorrect results – or 1 out of 1000 – is not accurate enough.


How accurate is drug testing on our roads and in our workplace? Credit Highway Patrol Images

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

Leave a comment