From saliva to urine

Jamie Henderson

Ever since ESD implemented student drug testing in the 2019-2020 school year, hair sample testing has been the preferred mode of test as it is the most accurate and almost impossible to cheat, while also testing within a 90-day window according to In Out Labs. ESD, wanting to be understanding and inclusive, offered students who may have a medical condition or specific reason for not participating in hair testing, a saliva test option.

“The only alternative [to hair testing] that we really thought was feasible was saliva [testing],” Head of Upper School Henry Heil said. “We were worried about urine being too invasive.”

After a full calendar year of offering hair and saliva testing, it was concluded by the third-party testing group that saliva is very inaccurate, with constant false positives. The switch to urine testing this year was seen as a better option.

“We found a company that had a connection with ESD that knows some folks here, and we felt like the service was gonna be really personal and really professionally done so that it wouldn’t be invasive,” Heil said.

Urine testing goes back two to four days and is easier to cheat on by switching it out with someone else’s, but is an alternative to offer. The kids who were in the saliva pool were immediately redirected to urine testing. The saliva, now urine, pool has four students picked each week at random by a third party, so that they should be chosen around once a month.

 “I think that the majority of students at ESD who are in saliva testing know that within their families that they didn’t do drugs and that it isn’t an issue,” Margaret Shirey, a junior student in the urine testing group, said. “Hair seems very extreme, but for me, urine is very invasive.”

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