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What is the "SAMHSA Seven"?


Our Zero Tolerance SAMHSA Seven Urine Confirmation test might sound impressive, overwhelming, or complex, but it is actually a straightforward test. Just like our other mail in confirmation tests, all you need to do is mail your sample to us. This test follows SAMHSA guidelines and cut off levels, however, and this post will demystify some of the industry and technical terms we use in our product names and descriptions.


What is SAMHSA?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA leads public health efforts to assist and improve the nation’s behavioral health[1] and to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental health on all communities.

This agency works with several other federal departments to promote programs on mental health and substance and alcohol abuse. These programs include workplace safety programs and community outreach like drug testing, early intervention, and information programs for all ages. They also provide guidelines for drug-free workplaces and employer drug tests for safe working environments.


SAMHSA was officially established in 1998 by Congress as part of a reorganization of federal mental health services. Before 1998, organizations similar to SAMHSA existed, such as the Narcotics Division and the Division of Mental Hygiene from 1929 to 1943, the National Institute of Health in the 1960s and 70s before the federal government renamed the organization Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA) in 1973[2].

SAMHSA updated the Mandatory Guidelines for Workplace Drug Testing Programs for federally regulated employees. The first Mandatory Guidelines were created in 1987 by executive order. Since SAMHSA’s establishment, the Mandatory Guidelines for Workplace Drug Testing Programs have been updated several times, with the most recent in 2017. These guidelines define which drugs are included in the testing program, what cutoffs are used to determine a positive versus negative test result, and other criteria for testing and collection methods.


Many laboratories and other drug testing facilities such as medical facilities, the criminal justice system, and rehab facilities use SAMHSA’s guidelines for their drug testing needs, as SAMHSA used leading toxicologists’ research to determine their guidelines.

What are the seven drugs in a SAMHSA panel?

The first “panel” of drugs chosen to be tested for in the Mandatory Guidelines in 1987 were created with the help of the Federal Register, which still assists SAMHSA to this day. The first 5 drugs were amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP). This is also when the guidelines for specimen collection, drug cutoff levels, confirmations, laboratory certification methods, quality control procedures, and methods of reporting and reviewing results, and many other requirements were established[3].


SAMHSA now has formal and updated regulations for sample collection, laboratory testing requirements, guidances for federally regulated programs, and in 2018 SAMHSA updated the MRO (Medical Review Officers) guidelines. MROs are licensed physicians responsible for receiving and reviewing the laboratory results of drug testing[4].

In 2010, ecstasy and heroin were added to SAMHSA’s recommended testing panels, and in 2017 SAMHSA added two pain management treatment drugs to the test: Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. New testing criteria were also added for hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) that year. The full panel is informally referred to as the “SAMHSA Seven”[5].

SAMHSA is not only the governing body for laboratory certification and guidelines on testing samples, but also governs federal employment requirements for Zero Tolerance workplaces, such as the Department of Transportation. Organizations like the Department of Transportation have a Zero Tolerance policy for all drugs (and especially the SAMHSA Seven) because of the license class employees must have, and because their employees are responsible for the safety of the public, or handle dangerous substances that could affect the public or the environment.

 What is a SAMHSA zero tolerance drug test?

A SAMHSA Zero Tolerance drug test is one that tests for any level of all of the SAMHSA Seven drugs. Unlike other drug tests that only check for drugs from a certain level upward, zero tolerance tests count even 1 ng/mL as a presence. The only way to “pass” a Zero Tolerance drug test is to have zero amount of any of the SAMHSA Seven drugs in one’s system. A Zero Tolerance drug test technically has no positive or negative results, as all results will be given in an amount of that substance in the sample starting at 0 ng/mL.  


[1] “Behavioral health” is the scientific study of the emotions, behaviors and biology relating to a person's mental well-being, their ability to function in every day life and their concept of self. It is also the preferred term instead of ‘mental health’."

[2] Source 

[3] You can read SAMHSA’s updated MRO guidelines that contain the original date of the guidelines and original information in this PDF.

[4] Access and read SAMHSA’s guides here.

[5] Reported by ThermoFisher Scientific and this Hire Right blog post