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Types of Drug Testing Available to Employers

By July 10, 2023July 19th, 2023Drug Testing, HR, Workplace Safety

Drug Testing Equipment

MarathonHR has long advocated for the importance of drug testing in the workplace, both for new hires and as an ongoing condition of employment. Not only does substance use affect a business’s productivity; it creates significant safety concerns and liabilities.

Types of Drug Tests Available
There are several drug tests available that use different types of biological samples.

  • Saliva drug testing. Saliva drug testing is performed using a mouth swab. These tests are considered more cost-effective and less personally invasive than other types of drug tests. Saliva drug testing is nearly 100% accurate at detecting a variety of substances, if performed correctly, and is most effective for identifying recent use of substances such as marijuana.
  • Urine drug testing. Urine tests are very commonly used to detect alcohol, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, opiates/opioids, cocaine and marijuana (THC). Urine tests require the employee to supply a urine sample in a cup.
  • Hair follicle drug testing. A hair sample can be helpful in identifying long-term substance use. During this test, a small amount of hair is removed from the head using scissors. The sample is then analyzed for signs of drug use during the 90 days preceding the test. It’s effective at detecting use of both legal and illegal drugs.

Testing is also possible using blood, breath and sweat samples.

Differences Between 5-, 7- and 10-Panel Drug Tests
A 5-panel drug test can use saliva, urine, or blood samples. This test looks for the presence of five drugs: marijuana/cannabis (THC), cocaine, opiates, amphetamines (including methamphetamine), and phencyclidine (PCP).

A 7-panel drug test might be used if there is concern that an employee is abusing certain prescription drugs. These drugs, although legal, may impair an employee’s ability to do their job. In addition to the drugs included in the 5-panel test, the 7-panel test also looks for the presence of barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

A 10-panel drug test detects five illicit drugs and five often-misused prescription drugs. In addition to the seven drugs included in the 7-panel test, it also looks for the presence of these drugs: methadone, methaqualone (also known as quaaludes) and propoxyphene. While you can use blood or saliva for a 10-panel drug test, they are usually performed using a urine sample.

Some people try to cheat on a drug test by using someone else’s urine, adulterating their urine or by dyeing or bleaching hair, for example. Employers who have concerns about fake test results may employ routine or random drug testing to follow up at later dates but must be careful to adhere to policies which are truly “random.”

Benefits of Saliva Tests
MarathonHR typically recommends saliva-based drug testing. There are several benefits to using a mouth swab drug test over other types of drug-screening processes, including urine tests and hair analysis, such as:

  • Noninvasiveness
  • Cost efficiency
  • Fast results
  • Convenience

It’s also more difficult to tamper with or cheat on results from a saliva test.

MarathonHR can manage and refer out an array of pre-employment drug screening services for our clients as well as rescreening services for existing employees. Please call us to discuss a workplace drug screening policy for your business.

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