Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

A drug test or drug testing is defined as the evaluation of a urine, hair, blood or other types of biological samples which is used to determine if an individual has been using the drug or drugs in question.

A drug test is performed by a trained and certified collector at a collection site. The specimen collected typically could be a urine specimen, the collection of a hair specimen, the collection of a blood specimen or the collection of oral fluid/saliva.

The window of detection or often referred to as “lookback period” of urine drug test depends on several factors.  

Some of the factors impacting how long a drug will stay in your system are:

  • The amount of the drug taken
  • The frequency of the drug taken
  • The type of drug taken
  • An individual’s body metabolic rate and general health
  • The amount of fluids consumed since ingesting the drug
  • The amount of exercise since ingesting the drug
  • Other genetic variations that would impact an individual’s response to a specific drug

Below is a chart illustrating the most commonly abused drugs and their window of detection in a urine drug test.

  1. Amphetamines Approximately 1-3 days
  2. Methamphetamines Approximately 1-3 days
  3. Cocaine Approximately 2-3 days
  4. Cannabinoids (THC) Approximately 1-4 days (habitual chronic use: up to 30 days)
  5. Opiates Approximately 2-3 days
  6. Benzodiazepines Approximately 12 hours
    1. Ultra-short acting Approximately 1 day
    2. Short acting Approximately 2-4 days
    3. Intermediate acting/long acting Approximately 7 days
  7. Barbiturates
    1. Shorter acting Approximately 1-2 days
    2. Long acting Approximately 7 days
  8. Methadone Approximately 1-2 days
  9. Buprenorphine Approximately 1-3 days
  10. Tramadol Approximately 3-5 days
  11. Ketamine Approximately 3-5 days
  12. PCP Approximately 1-5 days 

A Medical Review Officer also commonly known as an MRO is a licensed physician who has been trained and certified in the process and procedures of drug testing analysis and who verifies and approves a certified laboratory drug test result. A drug test result is not official until the MRO has reviewed, verified and signed the result.

Once the hair has been analyzed by a certified laboratory, they will then be reviewed and then verified by a Medical Review Officer (licensed Physician) who will release the results. Generally, a negative hair drug test result is available in 2-3 days. A non-negative hair drug test is available in approximately 5 business days from when the specimen reaches the laboratory.

Urine cut-off levels are expressed in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or as a weight of drug per unit volume of urine. Hair cut-off levels are expressed in picograms per milligram (pg/mg) or as a weight of drug per unit weight of hair.

The most common drug test is a 5-panel drug test.  This is by far the most popular test and screens for the following drugs:

  1. Marijuana metabolites
  2. Cocaine metabolites
  3. Phencyclidine
  4. Opiates
  5. Amphetamines -amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA & MDA

A urine drug test has several stages that impact analysis and turn around time.  Listed below is a visual chart illustrating the life of a urine drug test.

The U.S. Department of Transportation only recognizes a five-panel urine drug test for all agencies regulated by DOT such as FMCSA, FAA, USCG, FRA, PHMSA and FTA for “safety sensitive” positions.  

Effective January 1, 2018 the DOT updated its 5 panel drug test.

The drugs tested in the “new” DOT 5 Panel drug test are as follows:

  1. Marijuana metabolites
  2. Cocaine metabolites
  3. Phencyclidine
  4. Opioids** – codeine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone & hydromorphone
  5. Amphetamines -amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA & MDA

**Some common names for the new semi-synthetic opioids include OxyContin®, Percodan®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®, Dilaudid®, and Exalgo®

DOT, 49 CFR Part 40 of the DOT drug and alcohol policy and compliance regulation requires that all persons covered in positions classified as safety sensitive must have a pre-employment drug test with a negative result on file, be a member of a DOT approved random pool/consortium and if the company has more than one employee in a safety sensitive position then a written drug and alcohol policy and supervisor training is required.

To review the DOT, 49 CFR Part 40 –  Click Here

A SAMHSA certified laboratory is the abbreviation utilized for laboratory certified and accredited by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the United States Government. There are several large and small laboratories that conduct drug testing analysis, some are not certified and should not be used for drug testing. Accredited Drug Testing only uses SAMHSA Certified Laboratories such as Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp and Alere.

A hair drug test is conducted when a certified hair collector follows strict chain of custody procedures whereby, the drug testing specialist will cut approximately 120 strands of hair (not really a lot), utilize a chain of custody procedure and send the hair to a certified laboratory for analysis. Drug testing centers require at least 1.5 inches of hair to perform this test and the hair generally needs to come from the head, however if the donor does not have head hair certain testing centers can use hair from chest, leg or arm pit.

Hair testing provides up to a 90-day detection window (lookback period) for repetitive drug use/abuse patterns.  This type of testing method will help identify habitual and periodic drug use.

If a donor does not have any body hair, then a hair test cannot be performed!