Employment Screening

What Drugs Do Employers Test For?

Drug testing supplies

As part of the application process, job applicants may be required to be screened for drug and alcohol use. Depending on state law and company policy, employers may do this prior to making a job offer or as a contingency for an offer. Employees may be tested for drugs or alcohol in the workplace, where permitted by state law.

There are a variety of employment-related drug and alcohol tests used by employers. The types of drug tests that show the presence of drugs or alcohol include urine drug tests, blood drug tests, hair drug tests, breath alcohol tests, saliva drug screens, and sweat drug screens.

Choosing a Drug Test

Different factors should be considered before deciding on the type of drug screen to implement in a workplace testing program:

  • Type of drug(s) used
  • Frequency of drug(s) used
  • Concentration or dosage of drug(s) used
  • Donor’s metabolism
  • Desired turnaround time for results

Types of Drugs


What Drugs Are You Testing For?

Two of the most common drug screens that employers are requesting are the 5-panel and the 10-panel drug tests.

The 5-panel drug test screens for the following:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine/Methamphetamine
  • Opiates such as heroin, codeine and morphine
  • Phencyclidine or PCP
  • THC (marijuana)

The 10-panel drug test includes:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opiates such as heroin, codeine and morphine
  • Phencyclidine or PCP
  • THC (marijuana)
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methadone
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines

Obviously if an applicant isn't using cocaine, heroin, meth, PCP, or pot, the assumption is that they should pass the 5-panel with no problem. However, some marijuana use may not be detected, if THC has been removed (as is common with medical marijuana). Also, prescription pain medication and other prescriptions such as adderall, penicillin, novocaine, hydrocodone or oxycodone could be detected.

The 10-panel includes more recreational drugs but also more prescription medications such as Xanax, Valium, Rohypnol, Ativan and some weight-loss drugs. 

Types of Drug Tests

There are many ways to screen for drugs of abuse. Keep in mind detection times and drug concentration cutoff levels will vary depending on the specimen being tested (urine, saliva, or hair).

Urine Drug Testing

Urine test cups and dip cards are traditional drug screening options. This testing method is affordable and easy to conduct. Employers who opt for urine testing typically select the most popular 5-panel, 10-panel, and 12-panel groupings; however, it is possible to test anywhere from 1-16 drugs of abuse with a single urine test. Urine test offers a broad range of industry applications.

Saliva Drug Testing

Mouth swab drug tests are non-invasive, instantaneous, and comprehensive. These tests are more accurate than ever before, and some varieties even include color indicators to show you when enough saliva is collected. Saliva drug tests are a staple among staffing and recruiting professionals looking to source new talent.

Hair Drug Testing

Hair drug tests combine the accuracy of laboratory testing with the privacy of home screening. A hair follicle exam provides the longest history of substance abuse; this testing method can detect drugs 90 days after they are used. Hair drug testing is preferred by educators and counselors, as well as probation and parole officers.

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