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Most Common Drug Test for Employment In Use by Employers

What is the Most Common Drug Test for Employment?

Searching for a new job can be an exciting and stressful process. On one hand, a new job means new possibilities and opportunities, but the application and interview process can include several nerve-wracking steps. And for some positions, one of the mandatory steps in the hiring process may mean taking a drug test

While pre-employment drug screenings are a common practice for both public and private employers, many applicants find themselves with questions and uncertainties about the process. Thankfully, drug screenings are a simple and straightforward process. If you’re curious about what type of drug test you’ll be taking and what type of drug test do most employers use, the answer is most likely a urine test as it is the most common drug test for pre-employment

What Type of Drug Test Do Employers Use?

Urinalysis is the most common drug test for employment. This is the only type of drug test accepted for federally mandated drug screenings, and many private employers opt to use this type of test as well because of its simplicity and quick result turnaround time.

While urinalysis is the most common, there are several other types of drug tests employers may use to test for drugs. These include:

  • Hair Testing: This form of drug test can detect a trace amount of drugs in the system for up to 90 days. However, it’s only capable of detecting prior use, unlike urine tests which show current use.

  • Saliva Testing: Oral fluid testing is able to detect recent drug-use - even if the person consumed the drug only 1-4 hours prior to the test, unlike other methods that require the body to process the drug more thoroughly before it can be detected.

If you’re wondering what type of drug test for pre-employment your new employer uses, you can ask your HR contact at the company. 

What Drugs Will Employers Test For?

For the most common pre-employment drug tests, employers order a standard, five-panel test. This panel is able to detect the five most commonly abused street drugs: 

  • Marijuana (including its byproduct, hashish) 
  • Cocaine
  • PCP
  • Amphetamines (including speed, ecstasy, crank, and methamphetamines)
  • Opiates (including heroin, opium, and codeine)

In some cases, employers may elect to test for a wider variety of drugs with a 10 panel drug test. In addition to testing for everything in the 5 panel drug test, this screening will detect:

  • Barbiturates (including phenobarbital, butalbital, and downers)
  • Benzodiazepines (BZO) (including Xanax, Valium, and Librium)
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone (quaaludes)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)

If you are currently taking any prescription medications, supplements, or herbal remedies, you should notify the lab prior to the test to avoid failing the screening outright.

How are Employment Drug Tests Conducted?

Employment drug testing procedures will vary slightly depending on the type of test being conducted and your employer. Typically, you’ll be required to visit a designated testing site chosen by the employer, but you may be able to select one from a list of approved locations. In some cases, drug tests can be conducted at the place of employment - this is especially common for employers in the medical field.

Each type of the most common drug tests for employment has its own standard procedures:

  • Urinalysis: You’ll be required to provide a urine sample in a container given to you by the lab. Specific precautions are in place to prevent samples from being switched or tampered with.

  • Hair Follicle Test: A sample of 100 hairs, cut close to the scalp are collected from a discrete area. If the hair on your scalp isn’t long enough to be tested, hair may be collected from the chest or arms.

  • Mouth Swab Drug Test: A swab of saliva is collected from the inside of the cheek. 
  • The SAMHSA Accuracy Guidelines

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has mandatory guidelines in place for federal drug testing to ensure accuracy and integrity in the testing process. While private employers aren’t required to follow these guidelines, many of them elect to do so. 

    To comply with these guidelines, employment drug testing must occur in an administration-approved lab. You’ll be required to remove your coat and bags, wash your hands, and wipe your genital area with a provided wipe. The toilet water in the testing area is usually dyed blue and the water is turned off. The technicians at the lab will document every step of the testing process, including the handling and storage of each sample. 

    After collection, the samples are split in two. One half is used to conduct the initial test. If a positive result is detected, the other half of the sample will be used to conduct further testing. 

    subject to additional testing to minimize the chances of a false-positive. Both results need to match for a conclusive test. 

    Who Pays for Employment Drug Testing?

    The employer requesting the drug test is typically the one who pays for it according to SAMHSA. In some cases, the time it takes you to complete a drug test is also considered hours worked, and is compensated by your employer after the hiring process is complete if your job is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This should be true regardless of the type of drug test by company

    The Bottom Line

    When facing a pre-employment drug screening, you’ll most likely find that it will be a urine test conducted in an administration-approved lab that follows SAMHSA guidelines since it is the most common drug test for employment

    If you have more questions about your drug test for employment, contact us today to find the information you need!