Drug Test for Job: 8 Important Things You Should Know | Complete Guide

Drug Test for Job


Passing a drug test for a job is a crucial step to fetch entry into an organization. There are various reasons to conduct the drug test before an interview or alcohol screening test for the job.

The employment hiring process, company’s policies, terms and conditions, or the drug testing laws may compel the organizations to screen the employees before giving them an entry into their premises.

Sometimes, corporations may even conduct drug tests for employees who rejoined after a specific duration.

But waiting for the results of the pre-job drug testing can be a stressful period for both, the employer as well as the prospective employee.

There are certain factors that affect pre-job drug testing results.

But before knowing what these factors are, let us look into the details of the reasons for conducting the pre-employment drug tests.

Why Conduct a Drug Test Before Hiring?

A person consuming alcohol or drugs becomes imbalanced, and during this time, they lose control of their mind.

Clearly, a person in such situations cannot work to the best of their capabilities.

Research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that individuals lose their productivity due to prolonged use of drugs.

Hence, the drug test for a job is crucial to avert minimized efficiency levels of individuals and work-related accidents.

Secondly, various positions related to the federal government compel employees to take the pre-employment drug test.

These job posts include transportation workers, bus and truck drivers, airline pilots, railway workers, etc.

The reports of NIDA show that the costs related to drug abuse, alcohol, and tobacco usage sum up to over $740 billion per year.

There are various statistics of NIDA that substantiate the reasons for performing drug testing before hiring.

Firstly, consuming drugs is likely to increase workplace injury by five times.

Secondly, substance abuse is one of the reasons that lead to 2.5 times more absences of employees.

Thirdly, substance abuse is likely to increase the rate of workplace accidents by 3.5 more times.

Lastly, approximately 50% of the claims of a workplace are related to drug abuse.

Also Read: I Accepted a Job Offer but Got Another Interview, What to Do?

Passing the Drug Test

In some organizations, clearing the drug test is one of the main requirements to get the job role. The medical doctors look for traces of drugs or alcohol in your system.

The results for the test are negative if no such traces are found.

There are several drugs, which can be identified in the human system, even after a period of several weeks.

But if you’re not satisfied with the drug test, then you can get yourself re-tested at a lab. Since this is your personal choice, the expenses and efforts to choose a lab of your choice are on you.

Different drugs have the capability to get identified for different durations.

For example, alcohol can be identified for a period of one to two days, and marijuana, if taken in a small quantity can be identified for up to a week.

However, if taken in larger quantities it may be identifiable for several weeks.

Legal Marijuana Statute

thcIn some states, smoking, buying, or dealing with marijuana is legal. But the usage of marijuana depends on two purposes.

Some states allow it only for medical purposes, but some states allow it for both medical and recreational purposes.

However, the federal government declares any activity related to this drug as illegal. In this constant fight between the state and the federal laws, the federal law prevails.

Due to this, even in the states where marijuana is legal, employers can test their prospective employees before hiring them.

In case the employee tests positive, the employer has the right to terminate their employment.

This right of the employer is termed as “at-will employment”, which means that the employer can hire or dismiss anyone according to the company’s norms.

The exceptions to this right include race, gender, cultural differences, etc.

However, there are some states which have different laws in this regard. These laws protect employees who use marijuana medicinally.

As of 2020, more than one-third of Americans reside in states where smoking marijuana is a legal activity.

Drug Testing Laws

Different states have different requirements related to drug testing laws. These requirements are about the limits which describe the period and procedure of drug testing.

Some industries are governed by various federal or state drug testing laws. In these sectors, drug test before the interview is crucial to get the job.

The employer should conduct the screening procedure equally. This means they should conduct the same testing process for all the employees of the same post.

Substance Abuse in The Workplace

Some company’s terms and conditions state that a drug test is compulsory for the job. The company informs employees of this in the job offer letter.

This is because there are several state and federal laws related to substance abuse in the workplace. These laws permit the employer to fire any individual, in case they violate the policies of the company.

Turnaround Time (TAT)

testing for drugsVarious factors affect the turnaround time for pre-employment drug screening. Not only the type of drug test but also the type of drug taken by the user fluctuates its value.

The nature of the result can also expand or truncate the turn around time of the drug test.

Negative Test

A negative test shows that the prospective employee had not consumed drugs or alcohol.

The employer can get the negative result of the prospective employee in lesser time as it takes just three to four days.

Positive Test

A positive result states that the person had taken drugs or alcohol. It consists of several complexities and hence, the time taken to fetch the results is greater than in the negative test.

To avert any unreasonable delays, the individual should inform the Medical Review Officer (MRO) about their medications. Sometimes, they may be legally prescribed drugs or medicines that contain such drugs.

In such cases, the result may exhibit a false positive test.

Moreover, the individual may solicit for a second test, which further expands the time of the screening procedure.

The MRO tends to use gas chromatography or mass spectrometry to conduct the second drug test for the job. In the case of a positive test, the employer may get the results within four to five days.

However, this is not a fixed period and it can heighten due to any fluctuations. Sometimes, the individual may not cooperate with screening methods or may not be punctual while visiting the lab.

The lab can identify various drugs according to their past usage, like:

  • Barbiturates – past one to three weeks
  • Phencyclidine – past one to two weeks
  • Amphetamines – past two to three days
  • Opiates and cocaine – past two to three days

Checking Process

There are two types of drug checking procedures – a five-panel test or a ten-panel test. Usually, the five-panel test is used.

The five-panel drug screening process checks for various drugs like opiates, cocaine, PCP, etc.

The ten-panel drug test screens for other drugs like alcohol, methadone, propoxyphene, methaqualone, etc.

Generally, in the case of ten-panel testing, the time taken extends by a day or more. The turnaround time to know the result increases if the test is positive in both types.

Also Read: How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Types Of Drug Tests

drug testingHair Drug Test

The hair testing method can be used to do the pre-screening for the drug test because it is easier than the other types of tests.

In the hair drug testing procedure, the MRO takes a hundred strands of hair to test.

One of the most special attributes of this testing method is that it can identify the traces of drugs smoked prior to 90 days of the test.

Hence, if an individual has taken a drug many times, then the chances of tracing increases.

Usually, the hair drug test takes longer to provide the result and can track the usage of various drugs like opiates, PNP, etc.

You can get your result after a hair test in approximately 5 to 10 days.

However, some companies require the results within two days. But the duration of shipping takes more than two days and hence, increases the time from 5 to 10 days.

Breath Alcohol Test

Various pieces of equipment help to conduct breath alcohol tests.

A breathalyzer is the most commonly used equipment. The main aim of the breathalyzer tests is to determine the level of alcohol in the blood.

One shortcoming of this testing procedure is that it helps to know only the current traces of alcohol. This is because the equipment can track one ounce of alcohol in the blood for one hour.

Saliva Test

The saliva test is also known as the oral fluid test. The medical professionals may test for the drugs with the help of the individual’s saliva.

The test can detect drugs taken by the individual in the last 7 to 21 hours.

Saliva tests can replace urine tests due to various issues related to the urine test. For example, the individual may not provide a suitable amount of urine to the MRO.

Blood Drug Test

A blood test is the least utilized type of drug testing method. It can identify the traces of drugs consumed by the individuals only two days prior to the day of testing.

The blood test is useful to detect traces of various drugs like nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

The time that is taken to declare the results of the blood test is approximately 2 days. However, in case the results are positive, the time may increase to five days or more.

Urine Drug Test

This is the quickest and most common type of drug testing process. The labs take approximately 2 days to give the results to the employer.

However, one more day adds up in case the specimen is transferred to the testing facility from the lab.

In the case of negative testing, you can get your results within three days. But, if the testing is positive, then the urine testing process may take up to four or five days.

Let us look at the process in detail along with the reasons for the delays.

First of all, the individual provides their sample, either from the workplace or at the clinic. The sample is then transferred from this area to the testing facility.

This procedure takes approximately one day and it may get delayed due to weather or other dynamic trends of the environment.

Once the sample reaches the clinical testing facility, the testing process starts, and it takes place between Monday and Friday.

The medical professionals can complete the urine test even in a day and the MRO then informs the results to the employer.

But, this is possible only if the testing is negative. In case some traces of illegal drugs are found in the sample, it undergoes a second test.

The second test is more extensive and takes approximately 7 business days. In this test, authorities check the particular drug and its quantity consumed by the individual.

They further report the results to the MRO, who talks with the individual.

Now, the time taken to create the final result depends on the individual. The time truncates in case the individual reports which drug or medication he consumed to the officer.

But, it increases if the individual does not visit the clinic at the proper time.

Moreover, the prospective employee should make sure to give their sample on a Monday.

In an alternative case, the authorities wait for next Monday to initiate the testing procedure, which delays the testing process.

Hence, the result depends entirely on the type of testing and the individual.

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