What Does a Pre-employment Drug-screen Test for?

What Does a Pre-employment Drug-screen Test for?

Applying for a new job is always a stressful business, and for some positions, it’s even more stressful than others.

While many employers are happy with a quick phone call and a look at a resume, some are a little more thorough and may even require a clean drug test as a condition of employment. These tests screen for controlled substances, and for abuse of prescription medication – they do not screen for alcohol, so you don’t need to worry if you’ve had a glass of wine or two at dinner the night before.

The most common way to test for the presence of these substances is to take a urine sample.

The most widespread form of pre-employment drug screen test is the 5-panel test – but for employment in safety-dependent positions such as a law enforcement officer or a teacher, a ten-panel drug screen test might be a condition of employment.

The 5-panel drug test screens for the most commonly abused illicit substances: heroin, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines. 

10-panel drug test

As the name might suggest, the 10-panel drug screen tests for ten of the most common drugs in the USA, including the 5 most commonly abused prescription drugs and the 5 most commonly abused illicit drugs. The drugs screened for include:

  1. Amphetamines
  2. Cannabis
  3. Cocaine
  4. Opioids
  5. Barbiturates
  6. Benzodiazepines

The window of opportunity for these drug tests showing positive results depends on the drug – for example, opioids will stop showing up three days after the most recent use, whereas cannabis can be detected up to 30 days after the last use depending on the frequency and level of use up to that point.

The objective of the pre-employment drug screen test is to test for controlled substances in the subject’s urine, if the 5-panel test is used, or additionally for evidence of abuse of prescription medications if the 10-panel test is used. Most commonly, the 5-panel test is used, but you may be required to take a 10-panel test if you are applying for a safety-dependent job such as a police worker or local government official.

The results of these tests are kept confidentially under the same laws as any other medical information, and the details of the results will very rarely be shared with a non-medical professional – for example, the hiring manager will be very unlikely to find out anything more than whether you pass or fail.

So there you have it – all you need to know about pre-employment drug screen tests.