What is a 4 Panel Drug Test?

In light of the current status of marijuana in the United States, the 4 panel drug test is becoming very popular for US employers. To understand the 4 panel drug test, we must first understand the 5 panel drug test.

The 5 panel drug test has become the standard employment drug test in the United States. This is largely because the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the 5 panel drug test for transportation regulated employers.

The 5 panel drug test contains testing for:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines (+Methamphetamines, MDMA & MDA)
  • Opioids (including 6AM or Heroin, Codeine, Morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone & hydromorphone)


This 5 panel drug test can be for DOT regulated drug testing or Non-Regulated drug testing. For the Non-Regulated version it is often referred to as a 5 Panel DOT Like drug test.

The 4 panel drug test eliminates marijuana from the panel.

Why Do We Need a 4 Panel Drug Test?

Marijuana has become legal in many areas of the US, either for medical purposes or recreational use of marijuana. Many states have implemented Anti-Discrimination Employee Protection Laws. These are laws that protect the employee that uses marijuana off duty. An example of this type of law is as follows:

Employer may not discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon either of the following:”

  1. The person’s status as a cardholder; or
  2. A registered qualifying patient’s positive drug test for marijuana components or metabolites, unless the patient used, possessed, or was impaired by marijuana on the premises of the place of employment or during the hours of employment; or
  3. The use of a legal substance off duty

So, in many Non-Regulated situations, an employer can face liability for taking adverse action against an employee for a positive marijuana drug test. Additional States are passing laws that actually restrict marijuana testing or make marijuana testing outright illegal. In six states employers need to be particularly careful: California, Washington, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey and New York.

For these reasons above many Non-Regulated employers are dripping marijuana from there drug test panel and now using the 4 panel drug test.

What Drugs are in the 4 Panel Drug Test?

So basically the 4 panel drug test or four panel drug test is similar to the 5 panel drug test, but marijuana is eliminated from the drug testing panel. So, for the 4 panel drug test we are screening for the following drugs:

  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines (+Methamphetamines, MDMA & MDA)
  • Opioids (including 6AM or Heroin, Codeine, Morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone & hydromorphone)

There can be some variations, for example some employers prefer to test for Benzodiazepines instead of for Phencyclidine (PCP). Any variations beyond what we call the standard 4 panel drug test listed above must be discussed with your Lab or third party administrator for drug testing.

Learn more about common drug testing panels.

Is marijuana testing legal for employers?

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