Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Illicit drug use can always make you an undesirable candidate for most jobs, but it can put lives of other people at stake if you are applying for jobs that require operating heavy machinery. Statistics show that drug abuse cost employers more than $81 billion a year. It is for this reason only that employers make pre-employment drug test a necessary requirement before offering you a job.

What Is in Pre-Employment Drug Testing?

Pre-employment drug testing is usually required to screen an applicant for drugs like cocaine, cannabis, heroin, and other drugs prohibited by law.

Most employers usually request two types of drug screens – the 10-panel drug test and the 5-panel drug test.

  • The 5-panel drug test detects cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamine, marijuana, and opiates such as codeine, heroin, and morphine.
  • On the other hand, the 10-panel test screens for amphetamine, cocaine, phencyclidine, methamphetamine, methadone, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, propoxyphene, marijuana, and opiates such as codeine, heroin, and morphine.

Test Types

There are different types of tests used to detect the use of illicit drugs. Here are the most common tests included in pre employment drug testing.

  • Urine tests: A urine test does not cost much –you can get a test done for $7-$50. You can perform it at home, but you will need lab verification as well. It helps detect use of illicit drug in the last 7 days of test. These tests are usually temperature tested to maintain sample integrity.
  • Saliva tests: These tests are relatively more expensive as compared to urine tests and cost between $15 and $75. Considered a relative un-intrusive, these tests can detect drug use in the past few days. Like urine tests, you can conduct these at home but will require lab processing as well. These tests are more commonly used for detection of opiates and methamphetamine and are less reliable for cannabinoids and THC.
  • Hair tests: They are a lot more expensive ($100-$150) as compared to urine and saliva tests, but their detection time is usually quite impressive. It has a higher chance of testing positive as compared to a urine test. On the upside, the results do not get affected even if someone has not used drugs in the last few days or so. It is important to use a long hair for testing because opiates may not be available on a short segment of hair. For accurate results, it is important to use a sample of hair about 1.5 inches in length. Hair tests are usually effective for detection of ecstasy, cannabis, opiates, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, phencyclidine, and barbiturates.
  • Blood tests: A blood test is the most expensive option and is the most intrusive method of testing. It is also the most accurate way of detecting drug use. However, it is the least common method used for pre-employment drug testing.

Approximate Time that Different Drugs Stay in Your Body






1-3 days

90 days

12 hours


3-5 days

90 days

1-3 days


2-5 days for moderate users; 7-10 days for people with kidney disorders

90 days

2-10 days


7-10 days for heavy users; 22 minutes for infrequent users

90 days

2-3 days


3-7 days for one-time use; up to 30 days for regular users

90 days

1-3 days


2-3 days

90 days

1-4 days


7-10 days

90 days

24 hours


1 day

90 days

1-2 days


4-6 weeks for chronic users

90 days

6-48 hours

A number of factors determine how long different drugs stay in your system. For instance, your metabolism rate, the way you used the drug, how much you consumed, and the type of drug you used will have an impact on the staying periods of a drug stays in your body. The type of the test used for detection and the sensitivity of the test will also have an impact on results.

What to Do in the Days Before Drug Test?

You may want to do a number of things before going for pre employment drug testing to get accurate results.

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages several days before going for a test. The contaminants will stay in your body if you do not stop using them several days before your test.
  • Be sure to inform the people at the testing facility about any OTC or prescription drugs that you may be using. Tell them about any vitamin supplements you are taking. Understand that over 250 OTC and prescription medications and foods can make you to test positive.
  • Avoid exposure to toxic environment or it will affect your test results. Even second-hand smoke can sometimes cause a positive test result.
  • Drink plenty of water prior to the test day. Water will always help flush out any toxins in your body. It is, however, important to drink water continuously – never try to drink too much all at once. Sip on water throughout the day for better effects.
  • Engage in physical activities and exercise hard at least a week before your test. Aerobic exercises work extremely well to improve your metabolism that will help detoxify your body. Avoid doing any heavy exercise when there are only 24 hours left in pre-employment drug testing.
  • Stick to a healthy diet plan. Eliminate any greasy foods, high fat foods, and junk foods from your diet because they can slow down your metabolism and affect the detoxification process. Instead, eat food rich in carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Similarly, you should also avoid quick metabolism boosters, such as sugar, coffee, and products like Red Bull.
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