Drug Test Panels

Drug testing programs in the workplace, in some schools and in hospitals are specifically designed to detect the presence of illicit drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, and other illicit substances. Drug screening is an effective deterrent and prevention of drug use and abuse as part of comprehensive drug-free school, hospital and workplace programs. In most cases non-federal workplaces also implement drug testing programs.

There are various grounds to conduct drug testing which may include: random drug testing, pre-employment drug testing, post-accident drug screening, reasonable suspicion/cause drug testing, follow-up drug testing, and return to duty testing. The usual test involves collecting urine samples to test for the five most common and basic drugs which are:

  • Cocaine (cocaine, crack, benzoylecognine)
  • Cannabinoids (marijuana, hash, THC)
  • Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
  • Amphetamines (amphetamines, methamphetamines, speed) – does not include MDMA/MDA/MDE
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the required drug testing is for these 5 specific categories of drugs which are referred to as SAMHSA 5 or NIDA-5. In this case, a 5 panel drug test is the best option. This is basically a urine drug test that checks for the presence of the aforementioned 5 drug categories.

There are workplaces or circumstances that may require an expanded test which includes other drug types and specific drugs in the drug testing process. These expanded drug tests may include:

  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • Hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin)
  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax,Valium, Rohypno Librium, Serax)
  • Barbiturates (Phenobarbital, Secobarbitol, Butalbital)
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)
  • Methadone
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon compounds)
  • Ethanol (Alcohol, Etg)

Because of the different requirements of workplaces, most drug testing companies offer not only the basic 5 panel drug screening but also drug test panels of up to 12 panel drug testing kits.

Additional illicit substances which may be unusual but could be tested are:

  • Tryptamines (AMT, Psilocybin, DMT,5-MeO-DiPT, DPT,)
  • LSD
  • Inhalants (Xylene,Toluene,  Benzene)
  • Phenethylamines (MDMA, Mescaline, MDA, 2C-B,2C-T-7, MDE, 2C-T-7)

Drug Test Types

The five main types of drug tests are: urine, saliva, blood, hair and sweat.

Urine Drug Test

A urine drug test is the most common and least expensive drug test method. It is quite intrusive and collection of sample requires care so as not to invalidate the sample. This test can be done at home but reading of the result is best left to a credible laboratory. Though the window of detection can be over a week, it is possible to affect the result by abstaining from use of drugs for a time before the drug test.

Saliva Drug Test

This test is more expensive than a urine test but it is a non-intrusive method of testing. It can detect more recent drugs used by a donor than any other drug testing method. Though it has no accepted cutoff concentrations or accepted standards, this test is more reliable for the detection of opiates and methamphetamine but less reliable for detecting marijuana.

Blood Drug Test

This test is the most expensive as well as the most invasive method of drug testing. As a consequence, blood drug testing is the most accurate yet the least common method of testing.

Hair Follicle Drug Test

Hair drug testing is relatively non-invasive and more expensive than urinalysis drug tests. Its detection period can last for months (and even a year) as long as the hair is left uncut. There is no truth that a single strand of hair is sufficient for a hair test as what is required is a bunch of hair about 1.5 inches long with the diameter of a regular pencil. The test result is not affected by abstinence from drugs. It is also possible to determine when a person started and stopped using drugs. Shampooing the hair will not remove drug metabolites from the hair follicle.

Sweat Drug Test

This drug test is quite intrusive as it requires the person being tested to wear a patch for a period of time. This test is quite uncommon and its accuracy is contentious. Continuous use of drugs while the patch is worn will result to a positive reading while a single use a week before wearing the patch will typically have a negative drug test result.

Drug Test Panels

There are no standards regarding the type or classification of drugs included in a drug test kit. The only constant is the 5 panel drug test as this adheres to SAMHSA 5.

A 4 panel drug test may test for PCP, opiates, THC and cocaine but it could also test for ecstasy, oxycodone, methadone and benzodiazepines.  What matters the most is that a 4 panel drug test screens for 4 drugs.

Our 12 panel drug test kit may screen for:

  • 7 Illicit Drugs
    • Cocaine
    • Marijuana
    • Opiates and heroin
    • Ecstasy
    • Methamphetamine
    • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • 5 Prescription Drugs
    • Barbiturates
    • Tricyclic antidepressants
    • Methadone
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Oxycodone

Drug Test Cut-Off For Drugs Detected by SAMHSA 5-Panel Drug Testing


Confirming Test
(GC / MS)
Cannabis50 ng/ml15 ng/ml
Cocaine300 ng/ml150 ng/ml
Opiates2000 ng/ml2000 ng/ml (morphine)
2000 (codeine)
Amphetamines1000 ng/ml500 ng/ml
PCP25 ng/ml25 ng/ml
Note: Cannabis is detected through Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid while cocaine is detected by the metabolite Benzoylecgonine. Positive confirmation testing for Methamphetamine requires both 500ng/ml of methamphetamine and 200ng/ml of amphetamine.

Detection Period of SAMHSA 5-Panel Drug Testing


Shortest Detectability – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Longest Detectability
Alcohol12 hrs6-12 hrsUnknown6-24 hrs (5 days with EtG)n/a
Amphetamine12 hrs3 daysUnknown1-4 daysup to 90 days
BarbituratesunknownunknownUnknown1-21 daysunknown
BenzodiazepinesunknownunknownUnknown1-42 daysunknown
Cannabis (smoked–single use)1-3 days12-24 hrsUnknown1-3 days0 to 90 days
Cannabis (smoked–regular use)1-2 weeks12-24 hrsUnknown15-50 daysup to 90 days
Cannabis (oral–single use)2-7 daysunknownUnknownunknown
Cocaineunknown1 dayUnknown4-5 daysup to 90 days
Codeine/Morphineunknown12-36 hrsUnknown2-4 daysup to 90 days
HeroinunknownunknownUnknown2-4 daysup to 90 days
MDMA (Ecstasy)1 – 3 days3 daysUnknown1-5 daysup to 90 days
Methamphetamine1-3 daysunknownUnknown3-5 daysup to 90 days
PCP1-3 days3 daysunknown3-7 daysup to 90 days

Drug test panels offered by drug testing companies should be in compliance with the requirements and stipulations of SAMHSA and the DOT.