What Is The Sweat Patch Drug Test?

As drug testing of all kinds continue to emerge for better and more accurate results, different kinds of drug screens will be tried out. The current most popular and effective types of drug testing are urine, hair, and blood screening, but you may not know about a less commonly-used test: the sweat patch drug test. This method has been used for over 20 years, and is the favorite among some drug testing die-hards.

So what is this, exactly? How does it work, and how accurate is it? Are companies using it?

What The Sweat Patch Drug Test Is

When an employee is required to do a sweat patch drug test, they will be asked to wear a patch on their arm for 7-10 days. The sweat patch is held in place with a strong adhesive to ensure it stays put, and it is water-resistant for showers and swimming.

The sweat patch tests for marijuana/THC, cocaine, PCP, opiates, and amphetamines. If the employee uses any of these drugs while wearing the sweat patch, a bit of the drug or drug metabolite is absorbed into it.

While the sweat patch drug test is primarily used for individuals in child custody cases or in drug courts, many employers use this method for their employees as well—particularly for cases in which an employee is returning to work after a previous drug abuse offense.


The sweat patch drug test is difficult to tamper with. Common “cheats” that individuals may try with urine tests (such as drinking excess fluids or taking system cleansers) have no effect on a sweat patch. Furthermore, any attempts to remove and re-apply the sweat patch can be easily detected by a trained collector. For this reason, many employers prefer it.

The sweat patch also continuously monitors the duration of the entire week. Every instance of drug use will be recorded as long as the employee wears the sweat patch.

Results are ready very quickly—about two days—and as mentioned before, the patch stays securely on during showers, swimming, and workouts.

Many employers also like the fact that the sweat patch drug test is non-invasive, as opposed to a blood screening. It also eliminates some of the problems associated with urine drug testing—such as privacy concerns in observed urination, transport of noxious fluids, and possible transmission of disease.

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The biggest issue with the sweat patch drug test seems to be the possibility of false positives caused by environmental conditions, such as secondhand marijuana smoke.

Other concerns include “contamination from within” and false positives through skin storage.

Contamination from within can occur when the employee has drug residue on their skin before the sweat patch is applied. This can happen when the alcohol rub fails to remove the residue before the patch is applied.

False positives through skin storage is something that can happen with long-term drug users. The sweat patch can have an effect where it releases drug traces.

Other complaints have included improper adhering of the patch so that it’s not completely sealed to the skin, as well as incorrect applying and removal causing problems.

As a result of both the pros and cons of sweat patch drug testing, its overall approval and acceptance is up in the air. Some court cases will accept sweat patch drug test results into evidence, and some will not. Nonetheless, this is a type of drug screening that some companies use, and therefore it’s good to be aware of.

If you want to learn more about different types of drug screenings, check out New Era’s Compliant Drug And Alcohol Testing page. We are a DOT drug testing company providing programs and solutions to businesses that want or need to be DOT-compliant. If you have any questions about DOT drug compliance for employers, please feel free to contact us.