SAMHSA ( Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) states that as many as 7 percent of adults employed full time, and 9 percent employed part time in the United States use illegal drugs, yet preemployment testing (mostly done by urine in the US) detects far less that this.
The reason is that drug abusers are two fold:
1. Drug abusers can easily defeat urine-based testing, especially if they are sent to an offsite collection facility to donate urine.
2. Most urine tests are “5-panel” and based upon drug usage trends that are 30 years old. Prescription drug abuse, especially oxycodone (Percoset, Oxycontin) lead as the number on threat to workplace safety, exclusive of alcohol, and are NOT detected by SAMHSA’S / DOT’s 5-panel urine test.
Note: Don’t be mislead by laboratory claims that they can detect most instances of adulteration or substitution. This is patently false. Even SAMHSA acknowledges that the only method to successfully mitigate “beating the test” is via observed specimen collection.
What is preemployment workplace drug screening?
The most common, be lest effective way for companies to screen potential employees is through urine tests. Specimen are typically conducted at offsite urine collection centers and drug abusers have plenty of opportunity to stop along the way and purchase substances to adulterate or substitute their sample. Samples are then sent to an offsite an independent laboratory such as Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp. Urine tests supposedly provide results within 24 to 72 hours of when the test is taken, however delays are common.
The typical urine test includes testing of the following drugs: amphetamine and methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates (codeine and morphine – NOT oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone-Vicodin, or hydromorphone) and phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust). These tests typically only detect drug use within the past 72 hours.
The more extensive, and expensive, nine panel test includes all of these mentioned in the five panel test as well as tests for barbiturates (i.e. Amytal), benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanax or Klonopin), methadone and propoxyphene (Darvocet).
Although more commonly used for employees than as a pre-screening method, rapid result drugs tests that test all the drugs in the nine panel exam can also be purchased by companies to administer drug tests.
Oral Fluid, Hair, Sweat, And Blood
Other types of drug screening is available including oral fluid / saliva drug screening (on-site and lab-based), and oral fluid / saliva alcohol screens (on-site and lab-based). Hair testing is used as it can detect drug usage from as far as 90 days prior, however can only be done at a laboratory and can not detect recent drug usage (within the past seven days). Sweat testing is rarely used as it involves placing a patch on the body and it subject to concern about accuracy and tampering. Blood screen, the true “gold standard”, like oral fluid, detects recent drug abuse, however is far more expensive and invasive, they are unlikely to be used at most pre-employment drug screenings.