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Researchers looking at oral fluid testing as more viable option for drug testing

Oral Fluid Testing at Forensic Fluids in Kalamazoo
Posted at 4:37 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 18:13:01-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Researchers are taking a closer look into the future of drug tests, specifically how they're administered.

The project is being run by Western Michigan University in partnership with a forensic fluids lab.

The lead researcher on the project said it's the largest and most wide ranging of its kind to date.

It will determine whether oral fluid testing is a more viable option than urine samples.

"Oral fluid collection has a number of advantages over urine collection," said Dr. Stephen Magura, the Research Director of Behavioral Sciences at WMU's Evaluation Center.

Dr. Magura said it's a more accurate way to measure whether someone has ingested any drugs or substances.

"Urines are not generally observed anymore; that is the collection, so you have to take steps to try to ensure that the urine you're getting is really from that person at that time, that it hasn't been tampered with in some way," said Dr. Magura.

Urine samples have become the traditional method of drug testing in clinical settings, pre-employment screenings and even national epidemiological studies.

In this specific study, researchers are hoping to show oral fluid testing is as valid to analyze drugs in somebody's system.

"It's not that there has never been any research comparing oral fluid and urine. There has been, but the samples have been small and they've often not tested for a wide range of drugs," said Dr. Magura.

Funded through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the study is looking at around 1,000 samples from 11 substance abuse treatment centers in seven different states.

They're testing for 423 types of drugs from different drug classes.

"You take a sample of their oral fluid, which consists mainly of saliva, but also as other components, and you test it using toxicological methods to determine what drugs are in their system," said Dr. Magura.

WMU researchers designed the study, arranged for data collection and are working with the Forensic Fluids Lab in Kalamazoo where samples are shipped.

"They do the laboratory analysis of both the urine samples and the oral fluid samples, give those test results back to us, and then we will analyze them and draw our conclusions," said Dr. Magura.

Researchers said they expect the study to be completed by August 2023. They said if it proves to be valid, it could potentially be added to this type of biological studies in National Epidemiological Studies.

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