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SAMHSA Drug Testing: Lab Certification Explained

SAMHSA Drug Testing: Everything You Need To Know

SAMHSA stands for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. As part of its mandate to reduce substance abuse and better the lives of US citizens, SAMHSA has developed a protocol for drug testing that is used in labs across the United States. If you’re undergoing drug testing, work in the field, or are a health care professional whose professional work intersects with the SAMHSA standards, it’s important for you to know what SAMHSA testing is, how it is used, and how it can impact you. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about SAMHSA, SAMHSA certified laboratories, and how these standards are used in the course of drug testing.

What is a SAMHSA drug test?

SAMHSA drug testing is a drug test standard that involves what is commonly known as the SAMHSA 5: the 5 common drugs that are required to be tested for in all SAMHSA drug testing. The SAMHSA 5 are:


  • Cocaine — Coca and coca derived drugs, also known as “crack” cocaine. Recognized as a schedule 2 drug by the DEA, cocaine and its derivatives are notorious stimulants, used to stay awake for long durations, weight loss, and euphoria.

  • Amphetamines — Found as lab drugs, amphetamines are commonly encountered in ADHD medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall. This is a legal prescription drug, but it is illegal for recreational use.

  • Methamphetamine — Similar to amphetamines yet more intense, methamphetamines are created from over the counter cold medicines in illicit home labs. Methamphetamine creates intense energy and focus. Prolonged use destroys the ability to feel pleasure in addicts.


  • Opiates — often used as a painkiller in the form of prescription drugs such as Vicodin, opiates have numerous legitimate uses. But derivatives of opiates such as Heroin are intensely addictive.


  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) — the active ingredient in marijuana, this drug creates slight euphoria and relaxation. It is still a schedule 1 illegal drug on the DEA lists, even though it has now been legalized for medicinal and recreational use in many states.

  • Phencyclidine (PCP) — used as an animal tranquilizer, PCP or Angel Dust causes powerful hallucinations and is rated as a schedule 1 drug by the DEA.


These are the drugs that are included in a SAMHSA “5 panel” test (5 drugs tested for on a drug panel screening).

What does SAMHSA certification mean?

A SAMHSA certified laboratory  is a testing facility that is qualified to conduct SAMHSA compliant 5 panel drug testing. These labs are usually also CLIA compliant.


The agency has created its own National Laboratory Certification Program. Labs certified under this program can carry out standard SAMHSA 5 panel drug screening. These labs are inspected semiannually and are subject to quarterly performance proficiency testing. Further, all SAMHSA certified labs conduct all their own testing. They may not subcontract any portion of testing and are subject to rigorous chain-of-custody reviews for samples.

What is required by a lab to become certified?

In order to become SAMHSA certified, a lab must successfully test three rounds of PT samples and complete a lab inspection that occurs while the third round of PT samples are being tested by the lab. After that, the lab must undergo inspection three months after certification and submit itself to semiannual inspection.

Why use a SAMHSA certified lab?

A SAMHSA accredited laboratory, in addition to maintaining the rigorous security and quality standards detailed above, are constantly subjected to inspection, review and training. SAMHSA certification is an essential compliance marker when creating drug free workplace programs and the like. Working with a, SAMHSA certified lab brings a higher level of trust and confidence to any drug testing program.

What is HHS certified and how does it relate to SAMHSA?

SAMHSA works in tandem with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create and update its set of mandatory guidelines for certified labs that conduct drug testing. The HHS administers the Drug Free Workplace program and works in conjunction with SAMHSA to make sure that laboratory testing guidelines are up to date.


The SAMHSA website includes links to HHS mandatory guidelines for SAMHSA laboratory standards. These standards are also included in the inspection protocols for SAMHSA certified laboratories. However, also understanding how HHS guidelines work can help anyone running a drug testing program. We recommend that employers looking to set up a drug free workplace program should consult with an employment lawyer. Setting up a drug free workplace program protects a business and helps maintain the health and welfare of employees. To make the process easier, you can find an exhaustive list of SAMHSA drug testing locations here on the Countrywide Testing website.

Countrywide Testing

Our laboratory is also one of only 27 SAMHSA certified labs permitted to process drug tests on behalf of the United States government, which means our customers gain access to the same testing services trusted by law enforcement. Setting up a drug free workplace program and compliant testing protocol can be difficult, but this long-term investment is one of the best moves that you can make for your business and for your employees. Contact us today to discuss SAMHSA certified labs further, we’d love to help you with any questions about SAMHSA lab certification that you may still have.