Pre-employment Drug Screening (5 Methods That You Must Know)

A man and a doctor discussing the pre-employment drug screening

Before any candidates can be officially hired, many companies will require them to pass a pre-employment drug test. All applicants offered employment must submit to testing for several illicit substances.

With varying state and federal laws surrounding drug testing, knowing what you need for a successful pre-employment screening can be challenging. 

After conducting an in-depth exploration of the subject matter, I will provide you with all the necessary knowledge concerning this process.

Quick Summary

  • Employers commonly request testing for amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine; however, they can also ask to screen for additional substances.
  • Pre-employment drug tests can be an excellent tool to uphold workplace safety and enhance employee productivity while cutting down on potential accidents or costly turnover.
  • Testing methods such as urine, saliva, hair, and blood are all options for testing; however, the most commonly used one is urine.

What Is A Pre-Employment Drug Test?

A doctor holding a urine sample for pre-employment drug test

A pre-employment drug test is designed to uncover potential substance abuse on the part of a job candidate.

It may also be conducted for workers returning from an injury or leave of absence. Employers usually require prospective employees to take this type of screening before making them a formal offer.

Common drugs included in these tests are:

  • Methamphetamines (meth, speed, crank, ecstasy)
  • THC (cannabinoids, marijuana, hash)
  • Cocaine (coke, crack)
  • Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust)

Employers must take the appropriate measures to guarantee that their drug-free policy or drug testing programs follow all applicable local, state, and federal laws.

Employers should consult with a knowledgeable attorney to accomplish this goal effectively and efficiently.

Drug Testing Types

Blood and urine sample for drug testingRestrictive rules and regulations make it difficult for employers nationwide to conduct drug tests on job applicants.

These stringent guidelines dictate when drug testing procedures can be conducted and what type of test is allowed.

Companies have many drug and alcohol testing options they can choose from — be it to test only for specific substances or to examine a wider range.

Their pre-employment drug tests may involve the following:

  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Hair
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Breath

Why Should Employers Require Pre-Employment Drug Testing?

Employer and applicant discussing the pre-employment drug testingEmployers should require pre-employment drug testing because companies prioritize workplace safety, so administering pre-employment drug tests can reduce the likelihood of substance misuse.

To further discourage illicit drug use, employers should note on job applications that an offer may hinge upon a successful drug test result.

By leveraging this preventative measure, companies can help ensure their workplaces remain safe and secure for all employees.

Pre-employment drug testing is essential for jobs that expose workers to hazardous environments.

It can help curb the number of costly Workers’ Compensation claims due to substance misuse and promote a safe and secure working atmosphere. 

To guarantee the safety of their workplace, employers often conduct additional drug testing procedures and assessments.

1. Random Drug Testing

Random drug testing effectively deters current employees from using illicit substances. This practice entails a random selection of personnel and the implementation of tests on just a selected few individuals.

2. Periodic Drug Testing

Employers can ensure a safe and compliant work environment through periodic drug testing.

This is especially true in industries like manufacturing and transportation, where employees must be free of any illegal substances that could affect their performance or decision-making ability.

3. Post-Accident Drug Testing

By including post-accident testing in their drug screening policies, employers can conduct tests on employees involved in workplace accidents and determine if substance use might be the underlying cause of the incident.

Companies must establish transparent criteria to determine when such tests should be administered to ensure that post-accident drug testing is conducted effectively and consistently.

4. Reasonable Suspicion Testing

Doctor holding a jar of urine for drug testing

Employers should conduct reasonable suspicion tests when they have substantial proof that their employees are using drugs.

Specific evidence, such as direct seizures of drug use or employees displaying acute signs of impairment noted by colleagues or a supervisor, may necessitate for-cause drug tests.

Employers might conduct a reasonable suspicion test on an employee for various reasons, such as:

  • Illicit substances found at the worksite
  • Difficulty performing routine tasks
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Disorientation

5. Return-to-Duty Drug Tests

When an employee has violated a company’s drug and alcohol policy or returned with a positive test result for illegal substances, employers may require them to undergo return-to-duty testing. 

This assessment is conducted after the worker has finished their rehabilitation program as part of their continued employment status.

6. Follow-up Drug Tests

Patient and doctor discussing a follow-up drug testIf an employee has transgressed the drug-free workplace policy or exhibited a positive result on their initial drug test, subsequent tests are required to ensure compliance.

Once an employee passes their return-to-duty drug test, a follow-up screening might be necessary. 

To ensure that the utmost benefit is gained from your company’s drug testing program, evaluating what components must be included for success is essential.

Every business has unique needs and objectives – so carefully consider which elements will help you achieve those goals.

The Importance of Drug Screening 

A close up shot of test tubes for drug screening

The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that more than 59 million people aged 12 or older reported using illegal drugs in the past year [1].

As reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

  • Drug use may represent a fivefold increase in workplace injury claims.
  • An alarming figure of up to 50 percent of workers’ compensation claims is due directly to substance abuse in the workplace [2].
  • Evidence suggests that impairments caused by substances can result in three and a half times more accidents.

What Are the Jobs That Conduct Drug Tests?

Many jobs conduct drug tests, especially those where safety is a primary concern. Some common sectors and positions that often require drug testing include:

  • Transportation: Truck drivers, bus drivers, pilots, and train operators.
  • Healthcare: Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
  • Law Enforcement and Public Safety: Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.
  • Construction and Manufacturing: Workers operating heavy machinery or in safety-sensitive environments.
  • Government and Military: Various positions in federal, state, and local government, including military personnel.
  • Education: Some educational institutions may require drug testing for teachers and staff.
  • Corporate Positions: Certain corporate jobs, especially those involving high security or sensitive information.
  • Retail and Hospitality: Some companies in these sectors conduct drug tests, particularly for managerial or security-sensitive roles.

5 Most Common Drug Tests for Employment

Within the United States, employers that conduct pre-employment drug testing use urine, hair, breath alcohol tests, and blood or saliva tests to do so.

1. Urinalysis Screening

A doctor holding a jar of urine for urinalysis screeningCompanies that utilize employment drug testing services most commonly employ urine screening, which is fast, cost-effective, and provides accurate results. 

This testing method can detect an array of substances, including methamphetamines, opioids, PCP, cocaine, cannabis, and benzodiazepines, without any invasive procedure. Depending on the circumstance, these tests may occur at your premises or offsite.

All applicants must provide a urine sample, which will be initially screened for drugs. If the initial screen displays any traces of drug use, an additional confirmation test will then occur before the results are reported to the employer.

Urine testing is a helpful tool for employers who wish to prevent the usage of illegal drugs at work, whether through random testing programs or when there are reasonable suspicions. 

The results can prove whether an employee has recently used prohibited substances in the workplace.

2. Hair Testing

Hair testing is a powerful drug detection tool that can reveal substance consumption up to three months before the actual test date. While hair tests effectively detect past drug use, they cannot detect any traces of alcohol.

To take this test, a technician will obtain a sample of the patient’s hair. The lab can detect opioids, PCP, amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and cannabis in the sample. Hair styling products or dyes won’t affect the results of the analysis.

You’ll get your negative outcomes within 24 hours and confirmed positive ones after 72 hours; this double confirmation process significantly reduces any chances for false-positive results.

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3. Saliva Testing

A close up shot of a doctor getting a saliva sampleEmployers are increasingly turning to saliva testing since participants can’t alter or tamper with the results, as their activities can be monitored throughout the collection process.

Collecting the specimen onsite reduces the time and expenses associated with other testing methods. Use the collection tool to swipe inside an applicant’s or employee’s mouth for accurate results in no time.

Saliva tests offer employers the advantage of being less intrusive than other forms of testing, with a detection window extending from 7 to 21 hours. 

This is especially beneficial if an employee cannot provide a sufficiently adequate urine sample, as it helps avoid any potential complications or issues.

4. Blood Screening

To detect any potential illegal drug or alcohol consumption, certain employers take blood samples from applicants and current employees with the aid of an accredited phlebotomist. This sample is then delivered to a laboratory for analysis.

With a blood test, the levels and types of drugs or alcohol in an employee’s or applicant’s system can be determined with high precision. 

However, this approach is costly and intrusive, which explains why employers don’t usually resort to it. It should also be noted that its detection window lasts only a few hours.

5. Breath Alcohol Tests

Employers may use breath alcohol tests to detect any impairment due to alcohol on the job. A breathalyzer machine is generally used for this process, which reveals the current level of alcohol in your system.

“There are also a few federal laws that employers should know that apply to employment drug testing in general. State laws on employment drug tests vary widely.”
Matthew J. Rodgers, Employment Background Screening Expert

Pre-Employment Drug Testing Methods and Procedure

A doctor holding different test tubes for pre-employment drug testing

Many employers seek to identify the following five substances in pre-employment drug tests:

  • Amphetamines, including methamphetamines (meth, crank, ecstasy, speed)
  • Cocaine (crack, coke)
  • Marijuana/THC (weed, cannabinoids, hashish, marijuana)
  • Phencyclidine (angel dust, PCP)
  • Opiates (morphine, codeine, opium, heroin)

Employers may request drug tests through sweat, urine, saliva, or blood samples to detect substances beyond the five most common narcotics.

Three phases are typically included in the testing process:

  1. Gathering and screening samples to identify any possible drugs present.
  2. Upon a positive result from the initial screen, confirmation will be required with an assessment by a medical review officer.
  3. Within one to three days, the job applicant and employer will receive results from the selected drugs.

Who is Legally Qualified to Administer Drug Tests for Pre-Employment Screening?

A legally qualified person who administered a drug tests for pre-employment screeningThose who are legally qualified to administer drug tests for pre-employment screening are urgent care clinicians.

Unfortunately, most people lack the expertise to support employers in creating drug test policies that follow state and federal laws.

Without this knowledge, it is difficult for organizations to adhere to the proper regulations. 

Occupational health providers best administer pre-employment drug testing procedures with the qualifications to serve this purpose.


What Drug Test Is Most Common For Pre-Employment?

The drug test that is most common for pre-employment is a urine test. Urinalysis is a cost-effective and highly accurate testing method, making it an ideal choice for those seeking quick results.

What Drugs Show Up In A Drug Urine Test?

Drugs that show up in a drug urine test are amphetamines, including crystal meth and ecstasy; cocaine, such as crack and coke; marijuana/THC, also known as weed or cannabinoids; Angel Dust (PCP); plus opiates like Morphine, Codeine, opium, and heroin.

What Happens If I Refuse To Undergo Pre-Employment Drug Testing?

If you refuse pre-employment drug testing, the company will retract its conditional job offer. Likewise, if an employee refuses a random or warranted substance screening, they will be immediately let go from the organization.

What Happens If I Test Positive On A Pre-Employment Drug Test As An Applicant?

If you test positive on a pre-employment drug test as an applicant, your sample will first undergo an initial screening; if the results are positive, a confirmation test will then be conducted. Once the confirmation testing is complete and yields a positive result, it gets referred to our medical review officer for further examination of both the chain of custody and its outcomes.

Do Detox Drinks Work For Opiates?

Yes, detox drinks work for opiates, and they can help you pass a drug screening test. A detox drink can help pass a drug test for opiates by flushing toxins from your system and diluting urine samples for up to 5 hours after consuming them.

Do Drug Tests Screen for OxyContin?

Yes, drug tests can screen for OxyContin (oxycodone). Standard drug tests, especially those designed to detect opioids, typically include oxycodone as one of the substances they test for. This is particularly true in comprehensive drug screening panels used in medical, legal, or employment contexts.

Prepare For Your Pre-Employment Drug Screening

Employers often demand pre-employment drug screenings, and how you prepare yourself for this trial will vary depending on how much time is available to prepare and your status as a drug user. 

That is why I highly recommend you check out Clear Choice Rescue Cleanse. Rescue Cleanse formula activates crucial mechanisms in your body that flush out and eliminate toxins.

You’ll frequently be peeing for a couple of hours, which may expel the most visible pollutants from your system. By drinking this detox drink, your body will be cleansed out in roughly an hour. 

This purportedly enhances the odds of passing drug tests. Afterward, you enter a period called the clear zone which should last up to five hours; however, it’s recommended that you plan for any potential drug test four hours after consumption to remain safe.



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