Drug Tests Still Benefit Companies


Over the course of the past few years, several states have made changes to their drug laws. Marijuana as either medicinal or recreational is now legal in over thirty states, and just earlier this year Colorado pushed to decriminalize magic mushrooms. None of this makes employment drug tests less important. For companies in healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation, drug screening is a must to stay compliant with state boards, DOT, and other federal compliance laws, but any industry can benefit from screening potential candidates and current employees to mitigate risk. 

Types of Drug Tests

There are two base screens depending on which and how many drugs the employer wishes to test for. The 5 panel test looks for traces of amphetamines, THC, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP or angel dust. This is the most common drug screen and includes the most commonly abused drugs on the market. According to the 2018 World Drug Report, nearly 275 million people used just these five drugs worldwide in 2016 - 5.6% of the world population. They also reported 31 million of those suffered drug dependencies. 192 million alone are said to use marijuana regularly.

The 10 panel tests can include barbiturates, tranquilizers such as Xanax, methadone, steroids, inhalants such as aerosol cleaning supplies, MDMA, and hydrocodone, as well as the common 5. While these types of drugs are less common, some 21 million people worldwide are reported to have tried MDMA, also known as ecstasy, just in 2016, according to the World Drug Report. It might prove to be a good idea to include a few from this list in your drug screening panel. While the 5 and 10 panel tests are the most common pre-set standards, employers have control over which drugs to test for, which could vary from a 4 to 12 panel test.

Drug screening is offered through several different forms including hair and saliva samples, however the urine test is the most common. Most companies and clinics that offer employment drug screening have systems to combat false negatives and ways of cheating the system.

Legality of Drug Screening

Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreation has disrupted long standing drug screening approaches for businesses. In some states it’s no longer completely lawful for companies to request drug screening. According to SHRM, Nevada and New York will begin limiting the amount of pre-employment screenings, which could mean fewer companies in those states may engage in having a drug policy. Others are taking a firm stance on their drug policies in the midst of loosening state drug laws. Just days ago, the U.S. Navy released a new hemp use policy prohibiting the use of THC unless for medical reasons, and they can and will be subjected to drug screening. If they do test positive they could face an “Other than Honorable” discharge from their service. In California, the supreme court upheld a law stating that employers may refuse to hire a candidate for testing positive for THC, even if they have a medical reason. 

Benefits of Drug Screening

To some, drug tests may seem outdated or archaic. But drug screening is more than compliance, it’s about keeping your business, shareholders, and employees safe. Implementing a drug test policy as part of your onboarding process or continuous checks system mitigates risks involved with on the job accidents, and helps to keep your team members safe. 

Once you have a drug screening program in place, it’s important to talk with your employees and/or future hires about any positives on their drug screening. Some may be taking cannabis oil or prescriptions such as Xanax for medicinal purposes, and using that information to refuse hire, transfers, or promotions could put your company in some legal hot water. Understanding the reason behind positive drug screen results can help you make informed hiring decisions and keep you compliant. It can also create a space to talk with an existing employee about a problem that perhaps they didn’t feel comfortable talking about before, and point them to the help they may need.

With changing state laws regarding the legality of certain drugs, and what that means for employment drug screening programs, it’s important to stay current on what affects your company and what responsibility your company has to stay compliant.


Critical Research offers drug screening services and can help you navigate adding a drug screening program to your company policies. Our goal is to keep you compliant and help you make informed hiring decisions.