Demystifying Drug Testing Panels: How to Choose the Right Drug Test Panel and Specimen Type for Your Workplace

Drug testing is an essential component of maintaining safety and productivity in the workplace.

However, navigating all the various types of drug testing panels and specimen options can be overwhelming. Let’s demystify this process and help you choose the right specimen type and drug test panel for your workplace.

Understanding Drug Testing Panels

Drug testing panels refer to the specific drugs or classes of drugs that a test will identify. The 5 and 10 panel drug tests are the most common panels used in workplace testing. The 5 panel screens for the five most abused substances: marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids (heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone) and PCP. Employers often choose this panel because it provides a much more comprehensive overview of potential substance abuse among their employees. The 10 panel test adds Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Methaqualone, Methadone, and Propoxyphene. With the opioid epidemic many employers are opting for the expanded 10 Panel test. Some employers are also now adding Fentanyl to the testing panel as well since it has become such a widespread problem.

Choosing the Right Specimen Type

Urine Testing

Urine testing is the most widely used method for drug screening because of its ease of collection and the relatively long detection window. A drug test using urine can detect recent drug use within the past few days up to a week, depending on the substance. The urine drug screen is a very reliable test, but it is more susceptible to an individual cheating the test. In some states, employers may not be able to test for marijuana or they may be required to test using saliva/oral fluid if testing for marijuana. One example would be California.

Saliva Testing

Saliva testing offers the advantage of non-invasiveness and it is difficult to cheat since it is always directly observed. However, the detection window for this is relatively short compared to urine testing. It typically ranges from almost immediately up to 1-2 days. This provides a great indicator of more recent use and may be a good choice for reasonable suspicion or post-accident testing.

Hair Testing

Hair testing provides a much longer detection window compared to urine or saliva. This makes it more suited for identifying habitual or longer term drug use over an extended period. However, it may not detect more recent drug use as effectively as it may take up to 10 days to be detectable in hair but it will look back up to 90 days.

Considerations for Workplace Drug Testing

When choosing the right panel or specimen type for your workplace drug testing program, consider factors like the detection window, ease of collection, state or federal laws, and your specific goals.

Demystifying drug testing panels is essential for any employer looking to establish effective workplace drug testing programs. By understanding the different panels and specimen types available, you can choose the right approach. All specimen types have been found to provide reliable, legally defensible results so make the choice based on your company goals and priorities as well as applicable regulations.

Learn more about choosing the Best Drug Test Specimen Type for your drug testing program.

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