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The Basics of pre-employment drug test

Pre-employment drug test is one of the most commonly conducted drug tests. The employment drug testing is usually conducted whenever you receive a conditional offer of employment from an employer and you must have good results to start working. So, your resume was perfect, the interview was a bonus and your dream job depends on some background checks and drug tests. The thought of the drug testing is terrifying to most job seekers when a great job is on the line whether or not they use recreational drugs.

Why the drug tests?

Hiring addicts or drug users has a lot of detrimental negative impacts on employers and they use these tests to proactively protect themselves from these impacts. Well, not all employers are required to test their employees; though drug testing for employment is mandatory for federally-regulated employers whose employees work in safety sensitive positions and would affect the general public safety if they employ someone who is an addict or always work under the influence of a substance or drug. These safety sensitive positions include bus, truck and taxi drivers, airplane pilots, police, and railroad employees just to name a few.

Employers view the expense of the negative effects of drug abuse as a liability as well as safety and health hazard that ultimately lead to decreased productivity and low morale among employees.  The additional costs of health care claims have raised especially with short-term disabilities as a result of drug usage while in work are something most employers are not willing to compromise.

The basic reasons why employer conduct pre-employment drug testing

  • Avoid hiring illegal drug users.
  • Ensure a safe workplace for all employees.
  • Adhere to state laws or federal requirements.
  • Protection of the general public safety as well as instilling confidence among consumers.

Is drug testing legal?

No federal laws prohibit drug test for employment and in most cases, it is legal for employers to scrutinize employees to be for drug and substance use. However, in some states, random drug tests once employed are not legal if one does not possess a safety-sensitive job position. Under some certain conditions, a druggie might be considered qualified for a job post even with the drug results positive if they qualify to fit as an individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The different methods of administering a drug test?

With the drug tests, they involve a couple of body specimens that are chemically tested in a laboratory to test the presence of drug substance in the body. Depending on specific state laws, drug tests methods can be carried out so long as they provide anticipated results. Urine test stands out as the most preferred specimen for most drug usage. Breath too is common while testing for alcohol that was consumed a short while before the test. There is also blood, hair, sweat, oral fluids, nails depending on what the employer or state deems necessary.

Urine testing

This is the only method that is approved to assess drug presence for federally-mandated testing and has become prevalent among many employers due to its accrued benefits. The results of this test show either the availability or absence of the drug metabolites which indicate the drug residues within the body after the ‘highness’ of the drugs have worn off. It should be imperative that a positive result of the test doesn’t indicate that the person was currently under the influence of the drug during the test. Instead, it detects the measure of the drug within the last few days before the test was conducted.

Employers have highly preferred urine tests for illicit and prescription drug use testing, but for alcohol, they prefer other methods including the breath. This is because alcohol rapidly passes through the body to the kidney and out as urine very fast and if the test is not conducted immediately, the traces of alcohol cannot be found in the urine sample. Other than that, the test is cost effective since you can easily screen different drugs considering how generous urine specimen is.

Urine drug screening is on the other hand is used as a quick weed out selection criteria, which organizations use. It is rather cheap and efficient. With screening, the urine sample is basically tried of any chances of the parent drug or its metabolites and once you pass the drug screening, there is no need for further scrutiny with the drug tests. However, if you get a positive drug screen result, most employers opt to further take a drug test.

Oral fluids

Saliva or oral fluids collected from one’s mouth can be used to trace drugs or alcohol usage. This method of drug test is gaining popularity since it offers more readily and transparent results that are collected on-site. The oral fluids are easy to collect, harder to forge, and appropriate in identifying specific drug usage like marijuana, cocaine or meth.  Since drugs don’t remain long enough in oral fluids, this method becomes very reliable in assessing current and immediate drug use and impairment needed for employment purposes.

Hair testing

This is the ultimate test that employers use in order to avoid hiring lifestyle drug users. This is due to the fact that hair analysis has a much longer testing window outlining a rather comprehensive drug use history for a time frame of 3 months. Like oral fluid, it has minimal chances of adulteration and substitution. Similar to the urine test, hair testing is not preferred for current and immediate imperativeness and hence is not used to detect alcohol use in the body but rather specific drug or substances.

What Drugs are you Tested For?

The most common type of drug tests that employers request are the 5-panel and the 10-panel drug tests.

The 5-panel will screen the following drugs

  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Opiates like heroin morphine or codeine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidine or PCP

The 10-panel drug test will screen for

  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Opiates like heroin morphine or codeine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidine or PCP
  • Methadone
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Propoxyphene
  • Amphetamine

If an applicant is not on either of the drugs, they should pass the 5-panel without any problems. However, some marijuana use may run undetected if THC is removed. Also, with prescription pain medication like adderall, Novocaine, hydrocodone, penicillin or oxycodone the 5-panel should not be a problem.

However, for applicants with prescriptions that could lead to receiving a false-positive result, so long as your prescription was offered by a medically approved practitioner, you receive the exemption of the drug test you are testing for and that automatically qualifies you for the job you are applying for.

Is it possible to "beat" a Drug Test?

This remains as one of the most sought out questions among people trying hard to ace a drug test. So, is it really possible? Well, this depends on a couple of factors like;

  • The individual’s metabolism
  • How often drug was used
  • Drug concentration and dosage
  • Type of drug used
  • Drug test type
  • Sensitivity of the drug test

For most tests, it may be hard to undermine the results of an outcome, but since the most common drug test is a urine test, one can easily purchase Detox pills to ace the tests. Though most employers might be keen on the urine sample provided for testing, they will not find any traces of the parent drug material.


Depending on how the above factors, landing on your dream job shouldn’t be a great challenge for you to handle, rather being smart will definitely land get you hired. So it is upon the individual to keep off drugs whenever you are in the midst of job hunting if you are to fully pass the test without a shadow of doubt.


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