Standard Drug Testing Cut-Off Levels from our SAMHSA Certified Labs

This blog post shows several charts of drug testing cutoff levels so please scroll down to view all. These charts include Non-DOT testing with urine, hair and oral fluid as well as DOT regulated testing. 

Drug testing can detect the presence of drugs and drug metabolites by using cutoff levels to determine if a specimen tests positive or negative for use of specific types of drugs.  Cutoff levels come from industry best practices and guidelines established by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) a part of the U.S. Department Health & Human Services (DHHS).  The cutoff levels provided by SAMHSA are commonly called Federal or DOT drug testing cutoff levels. 

Current (as of July 2021) Federal or DOT drug testing cutoff levels are listed at the bottom of this blog page. 

In this article we will cover:

Drug test initial screening level vs. confirmation level (typically GC/MS) 

In workplace drug testing, the industry standard process involves two-tiered testing – an initial screen on one portion of the specimen, followed by a confirmatory test on a second portion of the original specimen. The initial test is designed to separate negative specimens from further consideration. This initial screen is conducted with immunoassay screening. After excluding negative specimens, the  purpose is to detect any presence of that category of drugs in the specimen  The confirmatory test uses definitive methods, such as chromatography-mass spectrometry (e.g., GC-MS, LC-MS/MS), that specifically identify and quantify the drug/metabolite in the specimen.

If the initial screening drug test level is at or above the cutoff level, the specimen goes on the confirmation testing, this can take a few days longer for a final result.

Only when a drug or drug metabolite is identified at a concentration equal to or above the confirmation test cutoff level is a specimen reported by the laboratory as positive.

It is possible that with a negative drug test some drug metabolite is present. The cutoff levels are designed to give the donor taking the drug test every benefit of the doubt and to rule our second-hand smoke and over the counter medications.  With the GC/MS confirmation testing there is no false positive. 

What does ng/mL and pg/mg mean on your drug screen?

The professionals at the laboratory are able to determine if a drug is present in a specimen – urine, oral fluid or hair. They always use strict guidelines with each individual specimen and make sure that they follow applicable regulations.  

The cutoff levels for urine and oral fluid specimen testing are expressed in nanograms (ng) per milliliter (mL), while the cutoff for hair specimen testing is picogram’s per milligram.

Non-DOT drug testing cutoff levels

Non-DOT testing means drug testing not regulated by the Federal Government of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). This is the majority of private businesses in the United States.

Most non-regulated employers mirror the cutoff levels established by the Federal government.  For some non-DOT employers there may be customization in  their drug testing panels to be more sensitive to certain drugs based upon their program needs and unique workforce.  Special consideration and specific request is needed for cutoff levels inconsistent with Federal regulations and costs of these drug test may increase.

Lab-based urine drug test common cutoff levels, also called DOT-Like

Drug Screen cutoff Confirmation cutoff
Amphetamines 500 ng/mL 250 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites 150 ng/mL 100 ng/mL
Marijuana metabolites  50 ng/mL  15 ng/mL 
MDA-analogues  500 ng/mL  250 ng/mL 
Opiates 2000 ng/mL 2000 ng/mL
6-Acetylmorphine (6-AM) 10 ng/mL  10 ng/mL 
Opiates (semi-synthetic)  300 ng/mL  100 ng/mL 
Oxycodones  100 ng/mL  100 ng/mL 
Phencyclidine (PCP) 25 ng/mL  25 ng/mL 

Urine specimen 5-panel drug test cutoff levels

Drug Screen cutoff Confirmation cutoff
Amphetamines 1000 ng/mL 500 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites 300 ng/mL 150 ng/mL
Marijuana metabolites 50 ng/mL 15 ng/mL
Opiates 2000 ng/mL 2000 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)  25 ng/mL 25 ng/mL

Urine specimen 9-panel drug test cutoff levels

Drug Screen cutoff Confirmation cutoff
Amphetamines 1000 ng/mL 500 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites 300 ng/mL 150 ng/mL
Marijuana metabolites 50 ng/mL 15 ng/mL
Opiates 2000 ng/mL 2000 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)  25 ng/mL 25 ng/mL
Barbiturates 300 ng/mL 300 ng/mL
Benzodiazepines 300 ng/mL 200 ng/mL
Methadone 300 ng/mL 200 ng/mL
Propoxyphene 300 ng/mL 200 ng/mL

Instant urine drug test common cutoff levels 

Drug Screen cutoff
Amphetamines 1000 ng/mL
Methamphetamines 1000 ng/mL
Cocaine/metabolite 300 ng/mL
THC/metabolite  50 ng/mL 
Opiates 2000 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)  25 ng/mL

Oral fluid drug test common cutoff levels 

Drug Screen cutoff Confirmation cutoff
Amphetamine 150 ng/mL 120 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites  15 ng/mL  6 ng/mL 
Marijuana  3 ng/mL  1.5 ng/mL 
Methamphetamines 120 ng/mL 120 ng/mL
Opiates  30 ng/mL  30 ng/mL 
Oxycodones 30 ng/mL  30 ng/mL 
Phencyclidine (PCP)  3 ng/mL 1.5 ng/mL

Hair drug test common cutoff levels 

Drug Screen cutoff Confirmation cutoff
Methamphetamines  500 pg/mg 500 pg/mg
MDMA  500 pg/mg  500 pg/mg 
Amphetamine 500 pg/mg  500 pg/mg 
Cocaine/metabolites 500 pg/mg 500 pg/mg
Benzoylecgonine 500 pg/mg  500 pg/mg 
Marijuana metabolite  1.0 pg/mg  0.1 pg/mg 
Opiates (MOR &/OR HYM) 200 pg/mg 200 pg/mg
Opiates (COD &/OR HYC)  200 pg/mg  200 pg/mg 
6‐Acetylmorphine (6‐AM)  200 pg/mg  200 pg/mg 
Oxycodone 200 pg/mg  200 pg/mg 
Oxymorphone 200 pg/mg  200 pg/mg 
Phencyclidine (PCP)  300 pg/mg 300 pg/mg

Federal or DOT Cutoff Levels 

This is a five-panel drug test often called DOT or SAMHSA 5 panel, it does test for more than 5 metabolites as shown. As specified in DOT regulations 49 CFR part 40, Section 40.87; the following substances will be tested for: (subject to change if the regulation changes)

DOT 5 PANEL DRUG TEST – EFFECTIVE 01/01/2018

  Initial Test Analyte Initial test cutoff Confirmatory analyte Confirmatory test cutoff concentration
1 Marijuana Metabolites (THCA) 50 ng/m THCA 15 ng/mL
2 Cocaine Metabolite (Benzoylecgonine) 150 ng/mL Benzoylecgonine 100 ng/mL
3 Phencyclidine (PCP) 25 ng/mL Phencyclidine (PCP) 25 ng/mL
4 Amphetamine      
  Amphetamine 500 ng/m Amphetamine 250 ng/mL
  Methamphetamine 500 ng/mL Methamphetamine 250 ng/mL
  MDMA/MDA 500 ng/mL MDMA/MDA 250 ng/mL
5 Opioids      
  Codeine/Morphine 2000 ng/mL Codeine/Morphine 2000 ng/mL
  6-Acetylmorphine (6AM or Heroin) 10 ng/mL 6-Acetylmorphine (6AM or Heroin) 10 ng/mL
  Hydrocodone 300 ng/mL Hydrocodone 100 ng/mL
  Hydromorphone 300 ng/mL Oxymorphone 100 ng/mL
  Oxymorphone 100 ng/mL Oxymorphone 100 ng/mL
  Oxycodone 100 ng/mL Oxycodone 100 ng/mL

More information on drug test cutoff levels:

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