Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Common Urine Drug Tests Utilized By Companies

Companies use different types of urine drug tests to screen for specific drugs.

Many companies require a pre-employment drug test from their prospective employees to ensure a drug-free workplace. Urine screening is the most common procedure used by employers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Not all urine drug tests are the same, however-- different tests and methodologies are specific to various types of screening.


A company will decide what type of urine test to use for pre-employment drug screening based on their specific needs. The basic type of urine drug test used by companies as a pre-employment screen is the 5-Panel Test, according to the Department of Labor. However, a company may choose to go with an 8-Panel or 10-Panel Test, depending on which drugs they are most concerned about at their specific workplace.


The different panel levels of urine drug tests provide companies the ability to either narrow or broaden the set of drugs they wish to test for. The 5-Panel Test is used to screen for use of amphetamines, cocaine, THC (marijuana), PCP (phencyclidine), and opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine). An 8-Panel Test, says the Department of Labor, may include barbiturates (or "downers"), benzodiazepines (diazepam, alprazolam), and methaqualone (Quaaludes). A 10-Panel Test may include screening for drugs such as methadone, steroids, and MDMA (Ecstasy).


When a urine sample is collected, usually by a nurse or other medical professional hired by the company, it is sent to a lab for analysis. There exist different options for testing the sample to identify drugs from the urine. The immunoassay method of urinalysis examines the activity of certain antibodies within the urine specimen to determine the presence of illegal drugs. Other methods used for detecting drugs in urine are chromatography and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, which is considered the most conclusive, accurate urine drug analysis, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Time Frame

No matter the type of urine drug test a company uses, the detection of illicit substances in urine has one major limitation-- time frame. Testing of urine is accurate for different substances for different intervals of time. Different drugs have different detection times in urine: marijuana (THC) is detectable between three days to several weeks, cocaine for two to ten days, amphetamines for only 48 hours, and alcohol for a mere one hour per 1.5 ounces consumed.


Urine drug tests are not limited to pre-employment screens. Along with pre-employment testing, additional drug screening may be ordered by a company by reasonable suspicion, after an accident on the job, and randomly (according to each company's specific policy). Another thing to consider about urine drug tests is that by federal law, states the Department of Labor, if a urine sample tests positive for a given illicit substance, a second (confirmation) test must be performed in the laboratory on the same specimen before the results are reported to the employing company.

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