Canterbury laboratory introducing new drug-testing alternative to urine samples

A Canterbury laboratory is heralding the introduction of an easier and more efficient drug-testing alternative to urine samples.

It's the first time a New Zealand laboratory has offered the tests.

The saliva drug test - essentially a mouth swab - is now available across the country.

"Saliva testing is another tool in the toolbox for organisations and employers for looking at people who are potentially impaired or at risk of impairment in the workplace," says toxicologist Grant Moore.

The oral test can replace traditional urine tests to detect recent drug use.

Canterbury Health Laboratories says employers can have their own swab kits to use on-site, before sending samples away to analyse.

Saliva tests measure a shorter time frame of drug use so are better to detect drug use at work, not recreational use.

"Those instances where people maybe are smoking cannabis at the weekend and employers who are comfortable with that and don't want to pick up weekend use," Moore says.

Drug-testing is now common practice in many industries like construction, forestry and ports.

"We do random drug-testing on our sites in our offices and we do pre-employment drug-testing and we also bring dogs around on an irregular basis," Naylor Love CEO Rich Herd says.

But this construction company says it's not interested in a moral judgement, so saliva tests are a good option.

"We don't take a moral view on what people do on their weekends but we have to be very, very careful about what people are doing prior coming to work," Herd adds.

Herd says they will look at saliva testing but also say urine testing has its advantages.

"We've got to be fair to our people and the fact that we do our drug testing through a third party agency is very very important," he says.

"It gives the individual employee confidence that what we're doing is fair and it also doesn't put the pressure on our own people on how the test has been carried out."

The cost per saliva test is around $100.