How Drug Testing Works

Drug testing with drug test kits of all types is a routine part of employment procedure in the workplace, due to federal safety regulations, as well as professional sports’ mandatory testing of athletes for performance-enhancing drugs. As it has become an increasingly pervasive part of modern life, more and more people have had to “run the gauntlet”, so to speak, which entails, usually, being subject to a “laboratory test” which collects and analyzes urine, sweat, blood, hair, saliva, and even fingernail clippings. Drug tests are officially divided into federally mandated and general workplace or home tests, and consist of several other “sub-types”of tests, including diagnostic screening, pre-employment, random, and post-incident tests.

Most people will be tested with what’s known as a NIDA 5 (National Institute on Drug Abuse) or SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) five panel test kit, consisting of a paper strip, which tests for “the big five” – cocaine, methamphetamine, THC, opiate, and PCP. If the test comes up positive, the sample is then sent to another lab for a GC/MS (Gas Chromography/Mass Spectrometry) analysis and “quantitative verification”. If the test comes out negative, it is reported negative and never sent on for GC/MS testing. Another common type of drug testing kit is hair follicle testing, or “follicle screen”, where the lab techs will take about 1 ½ inches of hair for a sample, standardized to a 90-day history. They can and will take a hair sample from anywhere on the body, if the head is shaved. These tests are much harder to fool than the NIDA 5 ones.

Also, random drug testing is a regular occurrence in a number of different work places – most notably those in industries such as construction, or any that involve operating heavy machinery or being in public service (anything from forklifts on up to airplanes). It is important for drug users (who wish to keep their jobs) to know that these random tests often happen on the spot, and you are required, in most cases, to go immediately to provide a urine or hair sample where, in many cases, the collector or tester remains in the presence of the test subject. Random testing also happens in the schools, on students participating in extra-curricular activities.

The important thing to remember here is that if you are well-informed, you need not suffer the consequences of a drug test – which can translate to losing your job and any extended insurance or unemployment benefits.  Saliva test kits generally cannot detect drug use beyond a few days. If there is enough suspicion that you have tampered with a sample, a “specific gravity” test kit can detect whether or not your sample is diluted, or you may have to wear a sweat patch or be scrutinized under some other method of drug testing.

Pre-employment screening services for businesses of all industries and sizes, from transportation to a healthcare, should be left to the professionals.  Conducting the essential and proper specific screening protocols required for each specific type of industry are essential to safeguard your customers, employees and business.  For pre-employment screening contact The Screening Source at

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