Drug Screen: Everything You Need to Know
A drug screen is something that someone applying for a certain position or role may undergo as a requirement to check for drug and alcohol use. 9 min read
A drug screen is something that someone applying for a certain position or role may undergo as a requirement to check for drug and alcohol use. Drug screening typically occurs prior to being hired or as a part of the negotiations of a job offer during the application process. Employees may be tested for drugs or alcohol in the workplace, where permitted by state law.
There are a number of job-related substance and alcohol tests used by organizations, and these types of drug tests that show if drugs and/or alcohol include blood tests, urine tests, hair tests, tests for breath alcohol, saliva testing, and even sweat drug screening.
What You Should Know About Pre-Employment Drug Testing
In some states, there are limits to when and how drug screening can be conducted. Getting hired can be based upon passing certain drug and/or alcohol examinations and analyses. Drug testing laws tend to vary by state and, although it depends on the case, the law may hold drug testing as a requirement.
Industries regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation have all of their state or federal drug testing requirements covered. There are many different types of tests that cover drug screening, but it is up to the person or organization that requires the testing to align the appropriate test with the end objective in mind. The following are some of the most popular tests used today.
Breath Alcohol Tests
The Breathalyzer, a device that tests for alcohol in the body, is used as to see the level or quantity of alcohol in the blood at the time of testing. Breath alcohol tests show the most current levels of intoxication, not the past use.
Blood Drug and Alcohol Tests
A blood drug test may be used when potential candidates or even employees are tested for illicit substances or illegal drugs. It measures the amount of the substance being tested in the blood at the very moment the blood is drawn. Drugs that are tested for employment purposes vary, but popular tests include cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, methamphetamines, and alcohol.
Hair Drug Tests
A hair drug test gives a 90-day "lookback" of drug use, and it doesn't indicate current substance levels, but only what was used in the past few months. A hair drug test cannot detect alcohol impairment or abuse. Hair can be screened for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and methamphetamines.
Mouth Swab Drug and Alcohol Tests
A saliva or oral fluids test is otherwise known as a mouth swab drug test. This type of screening involves taking saliva from inside the mouth. The saliva is then tested for use of drugs during some hours before testing and up to a couple of days before the screening. Saliva is easy to swab and evaluate, so this is considered a simple and less invasive type of testing.
Urine Drug and Alcohol Tests
Job candidates or current employees are screened for drug use, so a urine drug test is a most commonly used test, especially if this is done with some kind of frequency. A urine analysis shows any kind of drug residues that remain in the body for some time after the effects of the drug have made their way through the system and worn off. Drugs that are tested for employment purposes include:
Sometimes pre-employment reviews make urine drug testing a requirement, or it may be performed randomly by an employer, especially for certain job responsibilities or department roles. Standard urine drug testing panels range from five to 10 drugs.
Passing a Drug Test
Potential job candidates may be required to get tested for drug and alcohol use prior to completing the hiring process. It is also common for employees to undergo drug or alcohol screening in the workplace.
When Employers Drug Test
Employers may choose to perform a substance screening during the pre-employment candidate selection process and also may test current employees for substance use and/or abuse depending on the situation and the circumstances.
Company Drug and Alcohol Test Policies
Many companies choose to perform illegal drug use screenings for job applicants as a routine part of the employment hiring process for their organization. Depending on the state law, some employees may be screened for drug or alcohol use where permitted. Before signing any contracts, review all the fine print or look for a sample company drug test policy to learn the specifics of how, when, where, and what a company screens for when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
What's the Difference Between a Drug Test and a Drug Screen?
A drug test and a drug screen may sound like the same thing, but there is a pretty notable difference between the two. If there is confusion from the start regarding their differences, the consequences of this confusion can cost you time, money, and emotions. There is some confusion that surrounds the difference between a drug screen and a drug test, and the consequence can be devastating. The only for-certain way that a drug test will be passed with a synthetic urine called Quick Fix Synthetic Urine, which gives a 100 percent guarantee that you will pass a drug test when using this product.
A decent way to tell the difference between the two is that a screening is fast and a test takes time. Drug screening happens to be one of the most cost-effective ways to quickly review all samples taken.
Drug screens tend to be reactive, but that does not mean they are selective. This can often lend to the production of false positives when it comes to testing particular substances that are accepted every day but can trigger the test. Substances like poppy seeds, ibuprofen, and some sinus medications can give a false positive. A screening, for example, cannot distinguish what is ibuprofen and the drug's metabolite. Over 60 percent of screens that test positive for amphetamines are actually negative when a full drug test is performed. This means that out of every 10 people, six of them will screen positive for amphetamines use when the results are really negative.
Why do labs continue to do drug screenings if the results are somewhat faulty?
To put it short: budget. It would be too time-consuming and costly for labs to perform a test for substances on each and every testing sample that came their way. This cost would then be tacked onto the bill of the person who wants the test to be performed, who, in the end, could then decide the entire process is too costly and deem it unnecessary.
There are a few types of screens, and the on-site screening is one such method that's commonly used. This is a manually performed method and is popular with parole departments and hiring processes or similar situations that typically involve low-pay/hourly jobs. Usually, the party that wants the testing performed wants to save their own time, effort, and dollars, and isn't necessarily influenced by the potential results of the test.
The screening is given, and if the person passes, everything moves forward as planned. If the individual doesn't pass the screen, it prevents them from moving forward (i.e. getting the job, lines them up to be fired if they are already employed, or they return to jail). This is a bit controversial as if they tested positive for amphetamines due to the 60 percent chance the results of the test would read negative, as mentioned earlier.
One type of screening is used as a pre-testing session before a drug test. This is frequently request by large organizations and corporations. If the individual passes the screen, the results are processed and the testing is finished at this point. If he or she fails this first screening, they must proceed to take a drug test or another type of test for confirmation and further analysis.
Why Perform Drug Screening?
Depending on the place of employment or job type, using drugs can impact an employee's performance on the job, and worse, the lives of others around them. For jobs or responsibilities that require the operation of heavy machinery or the health/safety of others are at hand, employers should be even more prone to look out for illicit drug use.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that drug abuse costs companies approximately $81 billion each year. Using drugs also has an effect on productivity in the workplace; it can affect concentration, judgment, and even put the employer at risk if illegal substances are involved. To reduce this unnecessary risk pinned against employers, companies recommend lab testing for drugs.
What Drugs Should You Test For?
There are many kinds of drug screenings that employers use, but two of the most commonly requested types are the 5-panel and the 10-panel drug tests.
The 5-panel drug test screens for substances like:
- Opiates like morphine, codeine, and heroin
- Phencyclidine or PCP
- THC (marijuana)
The 10-panel drug test screens for:
- Opiates like morphine, codeine, and heroin
- Phencyclidine or PCP
If the person being tested isn't using drugs like heroin, cocaine, PCP, meth, or pot, it is assumed that they would automatically pass the 5-panel drug screening without a doubt. However, it's possible that marijuana use may or may not be detected, especially if the chemical, THC, has been removed. (This is common with marijuana for medicinal purposes.) Prescription pain medication and other prescribed substances like Adderall, novocaine, penicillin, hydrocodone, or oxycodone might be detected.
The 10-panel tests for more recreational drugs, but emphasizes the prescribed medications like Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and the occasional weight-loss drug. If you are using prescription medication, you'd need to discuss this prior to being screened.
Is it Possible to "Cheat" a Drug Test?
This question is one of the most popularly searched inquiries on major search engines because people want to be prepared for their job interview and pass without any obstacles. When the opportunity comes along for an appealing position, and it could be your job, you want to be extra prepared for any drug screenings.
Drugs stay in your system for a number of different factors:
- Drug dosage or concentration
- Type of drug
- Frequency of drug use
- Type of drug screening (and the sensitivity to the test)
Drug testing may include several types of specimens, such as:
From 30 days and up to six months, nail clippings and hair samples will show results depending on what is being tested and when.
In urine, drugs can often be detected for up to seven and sometimes around 10 days. Blood and saliva give results for immediate drug use, especially if the person being tested appears impaired at the time of the screening.
It is possible to "cheat" the test results of a urine drug screening by simply diluting the tested urine. Purchasing a certain synthetic urine or using an oxidizing agent to dissolve any detectable amounts in the urine would lend to these results. However, any employer with a drug testing system that's more or less comprehensive will be able to detect if the urine has been tampered with.
A closer look at the urine drug test
A urine drug test is a pain-free test that analyzes urine for certain illegal drugs and prescribed medications.The urine drug test usually looks for most of the drugs tested in the 5- and 10-panel drug test screenings. Alcohol can also be tested in some of these urine tests, but it's usually better detected through a breath test and not urine drug testing.
Testing drug use in urine may help a doctor detect potential reliance on certain substances or even abuse. If a drug screening reveals that the person tested may be misusing or relying on certain substances, doctors can help initiate a treatment plan. Having urine tested for drugs throughout a substance abuse treatment is particularly helpful to ensure that the treatment is working and that the person no longer relies on drugs.
The purposes behind drug testing urine
There are quite a few reasons why a urine drug test might be requested:
1.Your primary care physician may want to use this test if they are under the suspicion that you struggle or rely on drugs or alcohol.
2.An ER professional may request this test if you appear confused or your behavior seems strange and/or detrimental to yourself or others.
3.Many employers make it a requirement for potential job hires to have their urine tested simply as a precautionary before getting hired.
One major benefit of drug testing urine is that it can screen applicants to make sure people that require the ability to be alert and focused on the job will do so without any distractions that may put the safety of others or themselves at risk. Testing may also reduce accidents at the job site.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers test residents on a regular basis to ensure that people remain on a clean path and are staying sober. The tests can be performed in personal settings at home, for instance, if a relative wants to see if a loved one is using or abusing a substance like drugs or alcohol.
What Should an Employer Do?
Employers are eligible to perform randomized drug testing on a regular basis (or at the discretion and direction of reasonable reasoning). Employers may also request a "surprise" drug screen within a short time period so the applicant is unable to cheat the day of the test. They can also test the applicant in other ways or methods, similar to some noted above, so urine is not the only option and the applicant won't know what to be prepared for specifically.
When a hiring process is more streamlined, an employer is supplied with the documentation ready and accessible online. This means the results can also be viewed faster, and the person tested doesn't need to sit through the long, anxious waiting period for the results.
If you need more information or assistance about drug screening or have additional questions pertaining to your organization, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.