5 Things You Should Know About Drug Testing

By far, the most common method used for pre-employment drug screens is a urine test. Here are 5 things you should know about this kind of drug test:

  • Urine tests can detect a variety of drugs.

One of the reasons urine tests are so widely used is they can detect a wide range of substances including the following:

    • amphetamines
    • cocaine
    • methamphetamine
    • barbiturates
    • benzodiazepines
    • marijuana
    • opioids
    • phencyclidine (PCP)
    • alcohol
  • nicotine

You can work with your drug testing provider to select the best drug panel for your organization.

  • There are two kinds of urine tests.

Urine drug screens come in two varieties: the immunoassay (IA) test and the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MC) test. IA tests are more common because they are faster and less expensive to run, but they can occasionally return false positives. GC-MC tests are more reliable overall and can be used to detect a wider range of drugs, but they are considerably more expensive to run. GC-MC tests are often requested as follow-up tests to verify positive IA results. 

Both types of tests show results in nanograms per milliliter and require the levels to be above defined cutoffs in order to register a positive result. Urinalysis is overall remarkably accurate which is why it is considered the gold standard.  

Though urinalysis is the most affordable method of drug testing, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is less accurate. Urine drug tests are extremely reliable, which is one reason they are considered the gold standard for testing. 

  • It’s not easy to say the length of time a urine test can detect drugs.

Urine testing doesn’t only detect the presence of the substance, it also detects metabolites of the parent drug, which expands the window for detection. Lots of variables can affect the length of time that a urine test can detect the presence of drugs and their metabolites including body mass, hydration, the acidity of the urine, the type of drug, and the frequency of drug usage. While alcohol can only be picked up in urine for 7-12 hours after usage, evidence of long-acting barbiturates and benzodiazepines can remain in the urine for 20 to 30 days. That said, most substances will remain in urine for 2-3 days.

  • It’s hard to fake a urine test.

Contrary to what you might read online, it’s not easy to cheat on a urine test. The most common method is to over hydrate prior to a test. Yes, this will likely result in drug levels that fall below the cut offs for a positive result. However, everything else in the urine will also be diluted; this is called a dilute sample and will usually trigger a repeat test.  

  • Drug testing reduces drug use.

Data consistently shows that strong and consistent drug testing policies effectively deter drug use. Workplace drug testing reduces absenteeism, prevents accidents, cuts down on turnover, and improves productivity. 

Now is a great time to strengthen your corporate drug testing program.