What You Need To Know About Pre-Employment Drug Screening

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Most companies and organizations in the United States require those job applicants who have undergone with pre-employment drug screening.

If you are planning to apply for a job (or have already applied for one), it’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare yourself, especially if you are taking a recreational drug such as weed.

Pre-employment drug screening varies among different companies in terms of the type of test and the drugs they test for. So it’s important to read the drug testing policy of the company you are planning to join.

Also, check the applicable state laws regarding pre-employment tests, so that you can get clear recognition of your rights.

What is a Pre-employment Drug Test?

When you first send in your job application, your prospective employer won’t communicate anything about a drug test.

It is not until your application has been conditionally accepted – the condition being a negative drug test – that you’ll be asked to submit to a drug screening.

Some states like Alabama and Minnesota have a law that a conditional employment offer has to be made before the employer can request a drug test.

A pre-employment drug test is done to ensure a safe workplace and protect the employer from legal problems in case of a drug-related safety incident.

If you pass your pre-employment drug test and get a job, you’ll encounter additional types of drug tests in the workplace. We’ll discuss these later.

DOT vs. Non-DOT Drug Testing

Urine test

You’ve probably heard about DOT and non-DOT drug tests and are wondering what they are and whether they apply to you.

The following video provides a quick summary of the difference between DOT and non-DOT drug testing. We’ve also explained the main differences below.

DOT drug testing is conducted under the federal authority of the Department of Transportation. Any employee who is regulated by the DOT must undergo pre-employment testing.

These include employees under the FAA, FTA (Federal Transit administration) and FRA (Federal Railroad Administration).

DOT employees are typically in sensitive positions, so drug testing is mandatory.

A DOT pre-employment drug test includes tests for common illicit drugs, including marijuana. Alcohol pre-employment testing is not required. It’s up to your direct employer to decide whether to conduct alcohol testing.

Note that, under federal law, medical marijuana is not recognized. If you test positive for THC, even if it is from medical marijuana, it’ll be treated as any other illegal drug.

Non-DOT testing is any other type of testing.

Unlike DOT testing, where the department of transportation sets out rules and regulations regarding the test, in non-DOT testing, only state laws and the employer drug testing policies apply.

Pre-employment Drug Testing: What to Expect

pre employment drug test

Before the drug test, many state laws stipulate that the employer must send you a conditional job offer. It is not a sure thing that you’ll be employed until the drug test results come in.

Some states also require the employer to send you their drug testing policy plus details on what kind of test will be conducted, when it will be done, and where it’ll be done.

You’ll receive an email or mail with a form or authorization to take to the collection center. In some cases, you have to collect the form physically from the employer.

You’ll be asked to take the form to a specific collection center where you’ll provide a sample. This can be urine, hair, blood, or saliva, depending on the type of test being conducted.

There are protocols in place to make sure you submit a legit sample. For instance, you may be asked to empty your pockets to make sure you are not carrying synthetic urine.

Once you provide a sample, it is taken to the lab for testing.

If the test is negative, the lab sends the results to your potential employer, who’ll then send you a full job offer.

If it is positive, the lab does a confirmatory test. If it is still positive, test results are sent to your prospective employer who will, presumably, rescind the job offer.

In some cases, a medical review officer may contact you if your test results are positive. They’ll ask if you take any prescription drugs that may have caused the positive test result.

If they confirm that the positive test was from a prescription drug (they’ll check with your prescribing physician), you may receive a negative test result.

Note: You must divulge any prescription drug use before the drug test.

This video neatly summarizes everything you should expect when you go for a pre-employment drug test.

What Do Pre-Employment Drug Tests Look For

Pre-Employment Drug Screening

The drugs included in a screening depend on a particular company’s policy. But most companies opt for a 5-panel or 10-panel test.

A 5-panel test includes tests for:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine/Methamphetamine
  • Opiates like heroin, codeine, and morphine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • THC (Weed)

A 10-panel test includes tests for:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opiates
  • PCP
  • THC
  • Methadone
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Propoxyphene

What Type of Test Should I Expect?

Drug Test

Here are the different types of drug tests.

  • Urine
  • Blood
  • Saliva
  • Hair
  • Nails

A vast majority of employers require urine drug tests. A urine test can detect drug usage from a few days to a month ago.

Saliva and blood drug tests are used to detect short-term drug use, typically a few hours to a few days ago.

Hair and nail drug tests detect long-term usage from a month to six months ago.

The lab order form or the employer’s drug testing policy will indicate what type of test will be conducted.

What If I Refuse to take a Pre-Employment Drug Test?

pre-employment drug screening

You can certainly refuse to undergo a pre-employment drug test, but things will likely not work out in your favor.

Most companies have policies in place indicating that refusal to be tested is regarded similarly to a positive drug test, meaning you’ll likely not get the job.


What Happens If a Fail a Pre-Employment Drug Test?

pre-employment drug screening

Most companies have very clear policies in place explaining what happens if you fail a pre-employment drug test.

In almost all cases, the next step is the withdrawal of the job offer. If you were already an employee, you could sometimes be given a second chance and required to enter a program.

But with pre-employment testing, there’s usually no recourse. Some employers will also stipulate that you have to wait a certain period before applying for a job again.

Here’s a video explaining more on what happens if you get a positive test result.

Can I Beat a Pre-Employment Drug Test?

employee drug screen

Most drug testing companies will tell you that you can’t beat a drug test. They’ll say that they have sophisticated techniques for detecting cheating.

Labs indeed have ways to check if you’ve cheated. That doesn’t mean you cannot beat the drug test.


Urine Drug Tests

Urine test

If you have time, you can wait until the drug naturally gets out of your body. How long this takes depends on how heavy of a user you are and your body weight.

For THC, it takes 5-7 days for light users, a couple of weeks for moderate users, and a month for heavy users.

To speed up the detox, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet with high-fiber foods, and drink lots of water.

If you don’t have a lot of time, try detox pills such as Toxin Rid. These pills give ease to quicken up your body’s natural detox, helping get the drugs out of your body faster.

If you have only a day or a few hours, try a detox drink. Detox drinks work by temporarily masking the presence of drugs in your urine.

Hair Drug Test

drug test for employment

A hair drug test is harder to beat because of the difficulty of removing deposits of drug metabolites from your hair follicles.

You have to use a combination of special shampoos and homemade cleansers to scrub your hair clean. Note that DIY detoxes like the Macujo method can damage your hair and leave your scalp feeling raw. But they work for most people.

Learn about the most proven ways to beat a hair test.

Saliva Drug Test

pre-employment drug test

A quick rinse with mouthwash and drinking plenty of water increases your chances of passing a saliva drug test.

You can also try a saliva detox gum.



Other Types of Workplace Drug Tests

pre employment drug test

Hurray, you have passed the test and got a job. Now you can go back to enjoy your daily joints, right?

Not so fast.

Just because you are now an employee doesn’t mean the end of drug tests. There are other types of workplace drug tests you should be ready for.

Random drug test: Some companies request random drug tests, usually designed to deny employees time to cheat. A random drug test is harder to beat because you don’t have much time. If it is a urine test, a detox drink is the best option.

Reasonable suspicion test: If the employer suspects you may be under the influence, they may request a drug test.

Post-accident drug test: If you are involved in a workplace accident, the employer may require a drug test as part of the accident investigation.

Other instances where a drug test may be required include promotion to a senior position, where you move to a safety-sensitive position.

Policies for these drug tests are usually different from those of a pre-employment drug test. For instance, a positive test result does not always mean you lose your job.

Depending on the company’s policies, you may be required to go into a drug rehabilitation program.

If you work for a DOT agency, a positive test results in immediate removal from the safety-sensitive position but may not necessarily result in job loss.