How the Pre-Employment Drug Testing is Done

Pre-employment drug testing is not an uncommon practice for many employers across the United States. Private companies have the power to set their own drug testing standards while federal institutions are set and regulated by law. Employers might drug test for a variety of reasons including: reducing workplace health risks, increasing employee production, and reducing liability. The type and degree of drug testing varies from job to job.  Some occupations take using illegal drugs more serious than others. For example: A police officer and school bus driver would be tested more vigorously than an accountant.

There are 5 different types of pre-employment drug testing. Potential employees can be tested by blood, hair, saliva or urine. Urine tests tend to use pre-screen and include confirmatory (GS/MS) secondary testing as well. 

Blood Tests

Blood is drawn from the body and tested for drugs. The problem with these tests is that they are costly, and there is a short detection time window. The drugs do not stay in the blood long after the effects have worn off.

Hair Tests

A professional licensed nurse or physician cuts strands of hair close to the scalp. The hair is tested to detect metabolites for drugs. Drugs can be detected from as early as 5 days to up to 3 months.

Saliva Tests

A swab of saliva is taken from the mouth and tested for drugs. These tests are inexpensive and easy to administer, but they also have a short detection window of a few days.

Urine Tests

Urine tests are the most commonly used drug testing method. They are less expensive than some tests, and they have a longer detection window of more than 30 days for heavy drug use. This kind of test can vary by cutoff level. Some jobs might test urine at a lower cutoff level.

Whichever testing method an employer chooses or is required to use, they must test fairly and indiscriminately to all potential employees. Every employee should go through the same exact process as every other employee. Every potential employee or current employee should have the same exact odds of being selected for drug testing. Employees that are medically required to take certain prescription drugs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. You have the right to refuse a pre-employment drug test, but that does not shield you from the potential consequences, such as not getting the job.

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