Employment Drug Testing: Unveiling the Most Common Test Methods

Written by
Ron Sachs
Published on
July 20, 2023

Workplace safety can be enhanced through the implementation of preventive measures, and among them, pre-employment drug tests play a crucial role. For a range of jobs, particularly in the public safety, health and transportation industries, drug testing is an integral part of the hiring process. These tests help identify applicants who use illegal drugs or misuse prescription medications, and passing the test is often required to get the job. This article will explore the different types of drug tests commonly used for employment.


The most common drug test for employment

The most common type of pre-employment drug testing is the urine test. This test is typically carried out after a conditional job offer has been extended, and the reason urine tests are so popular is because they can detect signs of past drug use, even after the immediate effects of the drugs have faded.


Different types of pre-employment drug tests

Apart from urine, oral fluid and hair are the other primary types of specimens used for drug testing. The Department of Transportation (DOT) serves as the benchmark for many organizations, particularly for testing truck drivers and airplane pilots. As a result, the DOT's practices have become the de facto industry standard.

Urine test

Urine drug tests have the ability to identify the presence of the drug, its metabolites, or other biomarkers indicating its use or potential misuse. Labb’s UA Series urine rapid test cups provide immediate screening results for up to 18 drugs, along with specimen validity assessment. These tests are incredibly flexible, allowing users to customize the panel configuration according to their specific needs on the spot.

Labb also offers the UA Flex Series, which are conventional laboratory drug tests that provide a seamless experience for ordering, customizing, managing, tracking, and reporting through Labb Station’s paperless eCCF network drug testing program.

Oral fluid test

Saliva or oral fluid testing is great for catching very recent use, unlike urine tests that need time for the drugs to pass through the system. And due to the narrow detection window, ranging from a few minutes to approximately 48 hours, oral tests are more likely to identify chronic daily users.

Labb’s OR Series drug test swabs deliver immediate screening results for up to 14 different drugs. These swabs also feature a built-in specimen volume indicator, which ensures accurate measurements during testing.

Hair test

Hair testing is a very straightforward and non-invasive method for detecting drug use over an extended period. It is particularly effective in identifying regular use of substances like cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates, which may no longer be detectable in urine after just a few days.

It’s also extremely challenging for regular users to prepare and manipulate the results, so employers who advertise hair testing tend to discourage drug-using applicants from even applying in the first place.


What drugs should employers test for?

When it comes to drug testing for hiring purposes, employers can choose from a variety of options. Some tests only focus on the most commonly used substances, while others cast a wider net to detect a broader range of drugs.

One of the popular choices among employers is the 5-panel basic test, which specifically looks for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamines, PCP, and opioids. So, depending on the needs and preferences of the employer, different types of drug tests can be employed to ensure a thorough screening process.


How are drug tests typically conducted?

Drug tests can be carried out using a range of methods and settings that usually depend on the unique requirements and preferences of the administering organization or individual. Here are some common approaches to conducting drug tests:

Traditional clinics

Drug tests are often done in regular clinics like medical facilities or specialized testing centers. These places provide a professional and controlled environment to make sure that samples are collected accurately, and results are reliable. Trained professionals at these locations collect urine, blood, or saliva samples from people taking the test, which are subsequently sent to laboratories for thorough analysis.


Drug testing can also take place in hospitals, particularly when it is part of a broader medical evaluation. Hospitals have the necessary facilities and expertise to conduct comprehensive drug tests, especially for patients requiring immediate medical attention or individuals undergoing treatment programs. The great thing about testing in a hospital setting is that it offers the advantage of close coordination with healthcare professionals who can provide further guidance based on the test results.

All-in-one drug testing solutions

There has been a significant rise in the availability of comprehensive drug testing solutions in recent years. These solutions are specifically designed to simplify and enhance the drug testing process, and they come in the form of convenient kits that can be used at home, work, or any suitable location.

These kits typically include collection cups, test strips, or other devices for easily collecting and analyzing samples. One of the notable advantages of these kits is their ability to provide rapid results, enabling swift detection of drug use.

Labb Station, for example, provides fast and accurate results, similar to what a lab would provide, but in just a few minutes instead of days. With Labb Station, there is no risk of misinterpreting the results because it has a single tool that scans, reads, and reports the results instantly! This means clinics can quickly provide reliable results to their clients with confidence.

Why implement a pre-employment drug test?

Pre-employment drug testing is mandatory for law enforcement and government transportation industries, but even unrelated businesses can benefit from testing. Every employer wants to have a productive and safe workplace for their employees. When workers arrive under the influence of illegal drugs, the situation can quickly become hazardous.

Implementing drug testing is not only about the safety of employees but also about keeping customers safe. Industries such as trade and transport rely on workers who operate large machinery and tools around customers. Without proper drug testing, there is a higher risk of substance abuse in the workplace, which can lead to incidents involving customers. And these incidents not only harm customers but can also have costly legal consequences for businesses.


From collection to results, Labb Station simplifies the pre-employment drug testing process

Designed specifically for employment drug testing programs, Labb Station offers a comprehensive range of features to simplify collection management, testing operations, and results reporting. It stands out as the only all-in-one reader that delivers lab-quality results instantly!

Unlike traditional lab tests that can take several days or rapid tests that may introduce human error, Labb Station provides tamper-free results within minutes. This is perfect for drug testing professionals who prioritize fast, accurate, and reliable results. With a variety of test options, versatile configurations, and an intuitive interface, Labb Station is the ultimate drug testing solution.

Get started with Labb Station today and ensure reliable outcomes for your drug testing program.


Are pre-employment drug tests legal?

The legality of drug testing varies by state, so employers should consult legal counsel to ensure compliance with relevant regulations. General best practices include informing applicants in advance, using consistent drug testing for job applicants, and conducting tests at state-certified labs.

How long does it take to conduct pre-employment drug tests?

The time it takes to process pre-employment drug tests can differ based on the test type and the specific drugs being analyzed. When using urine drug tests, employers typically receive negative results within 1-2 business days after the testing lab receives the sample. Confirming positive results may take around 4-6 days due to the necessity of conducting multiple tests to validate drug use.

How quickly should I expect results on a pre-employment drug test?

In most cases, employers can expect to receive the results of an applicant’s pre-employment drug test within a few days. The time frame varies based on the specific type of test mandated, but rapid tests, which have certain limitations on what they detect, often provide results within 24 hours.

What if a job applicant refuses to undergo testing?

Many companies have provisions in their pre-employment drug testing policies or notifications that stipulate the consequences of such refusal. Typically, the refusal is regarded as a positive result, subjecting the applicant to the same criteria and procedures as an actual positive result.

Which prescription drugs can impact drug test results, and how is this handled?

Certain prescription drugs, including those that contain ibuprofen or ephedrine, have the potential to affect the accuracy of drug tests. That’s why companies typically request applicants to disclose any recent medication usage beforehand.