Pre-Employment Drug Testing

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Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Pre-employment drug testing is becoming more common in recent times as employers are encouraged to provide a drug-free environment in the workplace.

Employment drug testing has become a necessary requirement for most companies. A majority of the Fortune 500 companies conduct employee background checks with drug abuse being part of the tests. The labor department of US is of the view that drug use in the work place costs employers around USD 100 billion per year. It also amounts to lost work time, health care expenses, and compensation to workers.

Pre-employment drug testing is very important for the employer as it helps to develop a productive and healthy workforce which ultimately increases profit. It keeps the work place environment drug free and monitors drug and alcohol abuse in the work place. Many companies have started random drug testing in the workplace, which is a good way to catch hold of the drug user.

It is the duty of employers to make sure that they provide a hazard-free environment, and the best way to identify this problem is to aggressively screen out drug abusers before they become potential employees. Employers can carry out a test to screen job applicants for drug addiction as long as it is in line with federal and state laws.

Drug screening laws are different in every state. In some states, employers are required to test applicants only when they are formally offered a position conditional to a negative drug test. Other states do not follow this requirement. It is advisable to refer to the department of labor state laws to know more about matters of employment in your state.


  • Employers have a documented drug testing policy which requires job applicants to be free from drugs.
  • According to law, it is necessary to inform the job applicant in a written form before the applicant may be tested and under what conditions.
  • Before hiring, written notices are given to the job applicant that a drug test is required. This can be done through a specific form, or the employment application form.
  • The written policy should be specific on the type of drug testing which will be carried out, and also hand over the list of the medications which may produce a positive result.
  • According to certain state laws, job applicants should be given an offer letter stating that the offer is conditional on the basis of completing a drug test with a negative result.
  • There should not be discrimination between the applicants. The same drug testing program should be followed for all applicants.

What Drugs are Tested?

Urine drug testing is the most common way of drug screening among the employers as it is inexpensive, reliable, and non-intrusive. A urine sample of the applicant is obtained and sent to the laboratory for further analysis. The result of the urine test is usually available within 24 to 48 hours. Other methods such as blood test, breath test, hair drug test, and saliva testing are also used.

What Drugs are Tested?

The five panel test called ‘Five-Screen’ is the most common employment drug test. It screens for street drugs including marijuana, cocaine, PCP (Phencyclidine), and opiates such as morphine, codeine, heroin, and amphetamines.

Sometimes, a ‘Ten-Screen’ test is used to identify drugs which are legally used and possessed. The drugs include methaqualone (quaaludes), barbiturates (phenobarbital), benzodiazepines (tranquilizers―valium, librium, xanax), and methadone.

Although it differs from individual to individual, most drugs are present in the human system for 2 to 4 days. However, other expensive drug tests or hair testing can identify drug usage for up to 90 days. Employers insist on taking a urine test within a specific timeline so that the user does not delay till the drugs have left the system.

What Happens if the Test Results are Positive?

Drug testing programs have an independent physician to check all the test results. If the drug test is positive, the physician contacts the applicant to find out any medical reason behind the test result. In such cases, candidates have the right to decide whether to re-test their sample in a laboratory of their choice.

There can be times when the test result is negative but shows abnormal findings which indicates that the candidate may have attempted to tamper with the result by drinking excessive water. In this case, the results are examined again and another sample is required to be tested.

Pre-employment drug testing has an important role to promote a healthy and safe workplace environment. Even though drug testing is essential, it should be approached with caution, and implemented in a transparent way.

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