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Clin Chem. 2009 Nov;55(11):1910-31. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2008.108670. Epub 2009 Sep 10.

Oral fluid testing for drugs of abuse.

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  • 1Maastricht University, Neuropsychology & Psychopharmacology, Experimental Psychopharmacology Unit, Maastricht, The Netherlands.



Oral fluid (OF) is an exciting alternative matrix for monitoring drugs of abuse in workplace, clinical toxicology, criminal justice, and driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) programs. During the last 5 years, scientific and technological advances in OF collection, point-of-collection testing devices, and screening and confirmation methods were achieved. Guidelines were proposed for workplace OF testing by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, DUID testing by the European Union's Driving under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines (DRUID) program, and standardization of DUID research. Although OF testing is now commonplace in many monitoring programs, the greatest current limitation is the scarcity of controlled drug administration studies available to guide interpretation.


This review outlines OF testing advantages and limitations, and the progress in OF that has occurred during the last 5 years in collection, screening, confirmation, and interpretation of cannabinoids, opioids, amphetamines, cocaine, and benzodiazepines. We examine controlled drug administration studies, immunoassay and chromatographic methods, collection devices, point-of-collection testing device performance, and recent applications of OF testing.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration approval of OF testing was delayed because questions about drug OF disposition were not yet resolved, and collection device performance and testing assays required improvement. Here, we document the many advances achieved in the use of OF. Additional research is needed to identify new biomarkers, determine drug detection windows, characterize OF adulteration techniques, and evaluate analyte stability. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that OF offers multiple advantages as an alternative matrix for drug monitoring and has an important role in DUID, treatment, workplace, and criminal justice programs.

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