As a consequence of escalating monetary losses due to alcohol-related accidents and “sick days,” an
increasing number of employers throughout the United States have implemented random alcohol and drug tests as part
of their employee drug and alcohol screening programs.
Since companies and organizations want the most “bang for their buck,” many of them are considering using
saliva alcohol tests and, as a result, are asking the following question: “How Long can Alcohol be Detected by a
Some Basic Characteristics of Saliva Drug Tests
Traces of drugs, drug metabolites, and alcohol can be detected in saliva. Saliva is easy to collect: a swab of
the inner cheek is the most common way.
Saliva tests are more difficult to adulterate or substitute, and collection is less invasive than with hair or
Since drugs and drug metabolites do not remain in saliva as long as they do in urine, however, the saliva method
shows more possibilities in detecting current use and impairment.
Saliva alcohol tests detect the presence of alcohol in the saliva, and are a relatively good approximation of
blood alcohol content (BAC).
Due to the fact that the concentration of alcohol in saliva is very likely to be similar to the BAC that is in
the blood, saliva is a preferred alcohol testing method.
Saliva Tests have the following characteristics:
- They are slightly more expensive than urine testing, but less than hair or blood testing.
- They are a relatively non-intrusive method of drug testing.
- They are becoming more common compared to the other methods of testing.
- They are easy to administer but require lab processing for accuracy.
- They detect use primarily within the past day or so.
- They can detect more recent drug use than other testing methods.
- They have no nationally accepted cutoff concentrations or standards for detection. This makes the results
more dependent on the specific product employed and could make results less-reliable and/or acceptable for
- They are more reliable for the detection of methamphetamine and opiates and less reliable for THC or
Saliva Drug Tests Pros
- They provide samples that are acquired under direct observation.
- They present a minimal risk of tampering.
- They spare patients the discomfort of repeated vein punctures.
- They are non-invasive.
- They present no risk of infection, thrombosis, or anemia.
- They present lower total testing costs since no special staff training is required for collection.
- They provide for samples that can be collected easily in almost any environment.
- They can detect alcohol use.
- They reflect recent drug use.
- They provide a relatively short window of detection, approximately 10 to 24 hours.
Saliva Drug Tests Cons
- They present some detection limitation since drugs and drug metabolites do not remain in the saliva as long
as they do in the urine.
- They are less efficient than other testing methods in detecting marijuana use.
Conclusion: How Long can Alcohol be Detected by a Saliva Test?
As articulated above, an increasing number of employers throughout the United States have established random
alcohol and drug tests as part of their employee alcohol and drug screening procedures.
Furthermore, many of these companies and organizations are considering the pros and cons of saliva alcohol tests
and, as a result, are asking the following question: “how long can alcohol be detected by a saliva test”? In
summary, the answer to this question is as follows: “approximately 10 to 24 hours.