Frequently Asked Questions

What is drug testing?

Drug testing is the evaluation of urine, blood, or other type of biological sample to determine if the subject has been using the drug or drugs in question. There are many circumstances that may lead to drug testing:

  • Pre-employment or random, work-related drug testing to identify on-the-job drug abuse
  • Drug testing for college or professional athletes
  • Post-accident drug testing – a vehicular or on-the-job accident which may have involved human error and resulted in casualties or property damage
  • Safety-related – if an employee’s job could lead to safety issues if judgement or physical ability were impaired

Drug testing is often done when applying for employment, especially for positions that may involve federal transportation, airline industries, railways, and other workplaces where public safety is of the utmost importance. However, workplace drug testing is now common in general for many U.S. employers to lessen the impact from drug abuse and lower productivity in the workplace.  Workplace drug screening is primarily limited to drugs with the potential for abuse, including some prescription drugs, and alcohol.

Sports drug testing may be required for college-level and professional athletes. Illegal recreational drugs, performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids, erythropoietin, diuretics, recombinant human growth factors, alcohol or other drugs may be required in sports testing.

Pre-employment workplace drug testing usually requires that the applicant give a urine sample, but may also infrequently require blood, saliva, sweat, or hair. In certain jobs, especially those that require a high level of safety, employees may be subject to random drug screening, as well.

 

Random drug screening may be used in instances of workplace accidents, and if the employer has suspicion that the employee is abusing drugs. Random drug testing may occur without cause for suspicion depending upon company policy.

Why is urine testing the most frequently used method for drug testing?

Businesses drug test their applicants and employees to minimize their exposure to the risks of workforce drug use. While all drug test specimen types – urine, oral fluid and hair – have their advantages, urine drug testing is by far the most flexible and customizable. With hundreds of different combinations of illicit and other commonly abused drugs, order codes and cutoff levels, there’s a urine drug test panel for almost any testing reason.

How long does it take get workplace drug testing results?

Results from workplace drug testing are fairly quick and can usually be received in a few days. An employer may also request to have the test done with a rapid test that can provide results on the same day. Negative results are usually received within 24 hours; however, a positive screen will require further testing that may take a few days up to one week. If the initial screen is negative, a medical review officer (MRO) will contact the employer with the results. If a positive result occurs, a MRO will contact the applicant for further questioning. It is important to notify the laboratory or MRO of any medications currently in use, including prescription, over-the-counter or herbal medications. The applicant may have to provide proof of a valid prescription for prescription medications.

What happens during workplace drug testing?

An applicant is notified that pre-employment workplace drug testing will need to take place as part of the application process, and may have to present to the laboratory within a specified time frame, for example within 24 hours, to lessen the chance that drugs in their system will be excreted and undetectable. Applicants are directed to a specific laboratory to submit a sample for drug screening (usually urine). Once at the facility, the applicant must submit a sample at the discretion of the laboratory personnel and in keeping with their standard policies. Hair, blood, sweat, or saliva samples may also be used in pre-employment drug screening, although this is not common practice.

During the laboratory evaluation, strict chain-of-custody practices and standards are followed to prevent adulteration of the sample. This legal procedure requires documentation of each person who handles the specimen through the entire phase of testing. Certain laboratory procedures may require direct visual observation while the specimen is being voided.

Employers may use a standard five-panel test of “street drugs” that includes marijuana (THC), cocaine, PCP, opiates (e.g., codeine, morphine) and amphetamines (e.g., methamphetamine). Some employers may elect a nine- or ten-panel drug test that also includes various prescription drugs, such as oxycodone, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or propoxyphene. Alcohol may also be screened for in the sample. Other more recent drugs of abuse, such as MDMA (ecstacy) may be included. Which drug test is used is dependent upon the private employer, federal requirements, or other workplace guidelines that may be in place.

How long can drugs be detected in the body with a drug test?

Many variables may affect the amount of time that a drug remains detectable in the urine or other biological samples, including a drug’s half-life, the subject’s state of hydration and fluid balance, frequency of use, route of administration, cut-off concentration used by the testing lab to detect the drug, and many other variables. Each person and circumstance is different, and the best way to avoid detection of an abusable drug is to not use the drug.

General guidelines are available for detection times. Many drugs stay in the system from 2 to 4 days, although chronic use of marijuana can stay in the system for 3 to 4 weeks or even longer after the last use. Drugs with a long half-life, such as diazepam, may also stay in the system for a prolonged period of time. Drugs can be detected in hair samples up to six months, although urine samples are used for most workplace drug screening tests. Examples of drugs that can be detected in hair-testing include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines.

How long does it take get workplace drug testing results?

Results from workplace drug testing are fairly quick and can usually be received in a few days. An employer may also request to have the test done with a rapid test that can provide results on the same day. Negative results are usually received within 24 hours; however, a positive screen will require further testing that may take a few days up to one week. If the initial screen is negative, a medical review officer (MRO) will contact the employer with the results. If a positive result occurs, a MRO will contact the applicant for further questioning. It is important to notify the laboratory or MRO of any medications currently in use, including prescription, over-the-counter or herbal medications. The applicant may have to provide proof of a valid prescription for prescription medications.

What are the chances that a workplace drug test will result in a false positive or a false negative?

A concern for anyone undergoing drug testing is the possibility of a false positive result. Initial screening drugs tests may infrequently result in false positive results, although confirmatory (GC-MS) testing greatly lessens the chances of a false positive – reducing the risk to close to zero.4

It is important that a person undergoing drug testing complete an accurate history of all prescription, OTC, and herbal drug use prior to the time of the sample collection. Certain substances, over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs may result in false positives due to cross-reactivity with other substances, although many assays have been reformulated to avoid these possibilities. For example, poppy seeds and dextromethorphan have been reported to lead to a false positive result for opiates, and decongestants (ephedrine) have been implicated in causing false positives for amphetamines. The body metabolizes codeine to morphine and both substances may be found upon testing. On the other hand, if benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite of cocaine is detected, the subject cannot claim that the result is a false positive due to Novocaine administration, or any other “-caine” drug. Benzoylecgonine is only found in nature as a metabolite of cocaine, and there would no other valid reason for it to be present in a drug screen.  As previously mentioned, confirmatory testing with GC-MS will identify individual drugs or metabolites in a sample, and almost eliminate the chance for a false positive result.

Other abnormalities in the urine screen may indicate that results may be a false negative or that there was deliberate adulteration of the sample. For example, a low creatinine lab value can indicate that a urine sample was tampered with – either the subject diluted their urine by consuming excessive water just prior to testing, or water was added to the urine sample. Creatinine levels are often used in conjunction with specific gravity to determine if samples have been diluted. To help avoid this problem, the testing lab may color the water in their toilet blue to prevent the sample being diluted with water from the toilet.

Subjects may also attempt to add certain enzymes to the urine sample to affect stability, but this often changes the pH, which is also tested. The argument of inhalation of “passive” smoke from being in a room with people smoking marijuana is not valid, as the cut-off concentrations for lab analysis are set well above that which might occur for passive inhalation. All of these variables, and others, are looked at in the lab analysis, keeping one step ahead of those that attempt to foil drug tests.

Can a donor walk in without an appointment?

Yes. However, appointment scheduling is recommended as it will help to reduce wait times. A donor can schedule by calling FACTLabs and will be able to select a convenient date and time.

Do you offer on-site urine drug tests for events such as a job fair?

Yes. Performing collections at your place of business or job site offers benefits including simplified logistics and the convenience of not having to coordinate the collection process. Through our mobile, on-site collection service, we make it easier for you and your employees to provide specimens for testing.

Is a urine drug test approved for Department of Transportation testing?

Yes, urine testing is the only drug test type approved for federally-mandated drug testing. To follow standardized procedures established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the DOT, urine test results are evaluated by a Medical Review Officer after the urine specimens have been tested for five classes of drugs (amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates and phencyclidine) in a SAMHSA-certified laboratory. The DOT’s rule 49 CFR Part 40 describes required collection procedures for conducting workplace drug and alcohol testing for the federally regulated transportation industry.

What is Hair drug testing?

Hair testing analyzes a hair sample for parent drugs and their metabolites.  A hair specimen, collected from a donor’s head or body, is sent to the laboratory and is screened for illicit substances.

What drugs can Omega test for with hair?

Omega’s 5-panel hair test can detect cocaine, marijuana, opiates (codeine, morphine & 6-acetylmorphine,), amphetamines (methamphetamine, MDMA, MDA), and phencyclidine (PCP).  Omega’s Extended Opiates panel adds hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxycodone.

How effective is hair testing in detecting drug users?

Omega clients regularly report finding five times as many users compared to laboratory based urine testing programs.

What time period does hair testing cover?

The typical length of head hair tested is 1½ inches from the root end. Since the average growth rate of human head hair is approximately ½ inch (1.3 cm) per month a hair analysis covers an approximate 90 day time frame. This time frame is an approximation only since an individual’s actual hair growth rate may vary from the average.