Article courtesy of Sarah Carey

Drug abuse is an issue that’s gaining a lot of attention as a health and safety risk in the workplace. Employers find it necessary to implement an effective (sometimes) zero-tolerance drug policy in the workplace. Both public and private employers find a 5-panel drug screen helpful in their drug screening programs. If you are an employer, you should know the different types of drug tests that your company can perform to ensure a drug-free environment.

What’s more, you should be familiar with drug testing procedures and resources that you can use. A 5-panel drug screen can help to check for five controlled substances.

The most commonly abused drugs include:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines/methamphetamine
  • PCP

A 5-panel drug screen is commonly used for workplace drug tests.

Urine drug testing

Urine drug testing is the most common procedure of drug testing that many employers use to ensure a drug-free environment. An employer can use a 5 panel drug screen to test for the five most commonly abused drugs. But if an employer needs to test for five more substances, a 10-panel drug test is used. Apart from helping employers preserve a drug-free environment, a urine drug test also helps to maintain safety at workplace and ensure implementation of company regulations.

Employers prefer using a urine drug test since it is not invasive and affordable. It is easy to obtain a specimen and does not make the employee uncomfortable. It is also reliable since traces of the controlled substance stays in the urine for a long time. However, a person may try to interfere with the urine specimen if they are guilty of drug abuse.

Blood Drug Test

A blood drug test can be used to screen for various substances when urine or other specimens are not ideal. Blood drug testing may be suitable when there are suspicions that an individual is actively under the influence of drugs. But it is not frequently used as it does not detect drug traces that stays in the body long after drug effects have worn off.

Although it provides reliable results, the main issue with this drug screening method is that it is the most intrusive. It is also costly.

Saliva Testing

Over the years, employers have used urine drug testing as a the primary sample for drug screening.

However, saliva drug testing has also become popular for various reasons. These include;

  • It is less invasive.
  • A saliva test has a short window of detection, so it can detect recent use.
  • Sample collection can easily be performed on site making the procedure efficient, quick and easy to administer.
  • It eliminates “shy bladder” situations.
  • Saliva testing is hard to cheat since it is directly observed.

Nevertheless, a saliva drug test also has its shortcomings, especially if you use a rapid test device.

Some studies suggest that for rapid (or instant) saliva drug screen process, the testing only detects very recently abused substances. For instance, you need to collect the specimen within 4-10 hours after smoking cannabis. A lab based saliva test, however, will detect marijuana use for up to 3 days.

Hair Follicle Testing

In the interest of accuracy, it’s not the follicle that’s tested. Hair is cut at the skin line, not plucked from the scalp. Hair drug screening has a wide detection window of up to 90 days for head hair.

A person can use, let’s say, cocaine, several weeks before the hair drug test and still test positive. However, the drug test does not detect recently abused drugs (most recent 5-7 days).

The test also requires you to use more than one strand of hair to get accurate results.

Hair drug testing can still detect drug abuse even when a person abstains for a few months or weeks with the objective of avoiding detection.

Though non-invasive, hair drug testing is a relatively expensive and lengthy process. Because it can detect habitual drug use, more and more employers use it for drug testing at the workplace.

Sweat Drug Screen

Sweat drug tests are not common in the workplace. The 5-panel drug screen can be used for the Sweat drug test to detect abuse of the 5 common street drugs. A sweat drug test is intrusive as it requires the subject to wear a sweat patch for a certain duration.

The sweat patch is generally used only under court order for zero tolerance situations.


These are the most commonly used drug tests that you need to be aware of if you are planning to make your workplace a drug-free environment. Study these options and then select the type of drug test that meets your requirements.