Drug Test Panels

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Published on Oct 13th, 2016

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


SUBSTANCE Initial Test Confirming Test Cannabis 50 ng/ml 15 ng/ml Cocaine 300 ng/ml 150 ng/ml Opiates 2000 ng/ml 2000 ng/ml (morphine) Amphetamines 1000 ng/ml 500 ng/ml PCP 25 ng/ml 25 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.


(GC / MS)

2000 (codeine)



Detection Period of SAMHSA 5-Panel Drug Testing


SUBSTANCE BLOOD SALIVA SWEAT URINE HAIR Shortest Detectability - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Longest Detectability Alcohol 12 hrs 6-12 hrs Unknown 6-24 hrs (5 days with EtG) n/a Amphetamine 12 hrs 3 days Unknown 1-4 days up to 90 days Barbiturates unknown unknown Unknown 1-21 days unknown Benzodiazepines unknown unknown Unknown 1-42 days unknown Cannabis (smoked--single use) 1-3 days 12-24 hrs Unknown 1-3 days 0 to 90 days Cannabis (smoked--regular use) 1-2 weeks 12-24 hrs Unknown 15-50 days up to 90 days Cannabis (oral--single use) 2-7 days unknown Unknown unknown Cocaine unknown 1 day Unknown 4-5 days up to 90 days Codeine/Morphine unknown 12-36 hrs Unknown 2-4 days up to 90 days Heroin unknown unknown Unknown 2-4 days up to 90 days MDMA (Ecstasy) 1 - 3 days 3 days Unknown 1-5 days up to 90 days Methamphetamine 1-3 days unknown Unknown 3-5 days up to 90 days PCP 1-3 days 3 days unknown 3-7 days up 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.

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