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Published on Dec 15th, 2016

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA, is the federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services that leads the advancement of the behavioral health of the general public. Its mission is to decrease the effect of mental illness and substance abuse across the nation.

SAMHSA is tasked to improve not only the availability of quality prevention, but also the treatment and rehabilitation of affected individuals so as to decrease the number of illnesses, disabilities, death and economic impact to the whole nation as a result of mental illnesses and illicit substance use/abuse.

As a means to monitor drug use and abuse in the workplace, the SAMHSA 5 drug test is the base for such testing. Also called NIDA 5, the SAMHSA 5 indicates testing five groups of drugs.

SAMHSA 5 Drug Testing

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration guidelines indicate that businesses or companies that employ individuals to handle safety-sensitive jobs, such as in the transportation industry, should have a drug testing system in place. This program must test for five specified drug categories that are referred to as SAMHSA 5.

SAMHSA 5 indicates testing for five drug categories such as:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Opiates
  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Types of Drug Tests

There are various types of drug test: urine, saliva, and hair follicle drug tests are the most common. This is just right because in all federally regulated programs relating to drug tests, urine samples are the only one approved for collection.Due to the stipulations of the federal government regarding drug testing, most drug testing companies offer a basic drug test that checks for drugs in 5 categories.

In some instances, expanded drug screening for the following drugs are requested:

  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ethanol (Alcohol)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone
  • Propoxyphene

Random Drug Screening

Studies and actual experiences demonstrate that random drug testing is the most effective for discouraging illicit substance use. Most employers do random drug testing employing a variable selection process.

Pre-mployment Drug Testing

Drug testing may also be done as a requisite for pre-employment. A drug free workplace will be more assured if passing a drug test is one of the conditions of hiring. In this instance, all potential employees will have to go through drug testing before being employed.

Annual Physical Drug Tests

Annual physical tests for employees may include drug and alcohol testing. However, this should be stipulated in the employee manual and contract because failure to do so could be construed as violation of his or her rights.

Reasonable Suspicion and For Cause Drug Tests

Reasonable suspicion and for-cause drug tests are options of an employer if an employee exhibits discernible signs of being unfit to work, or if he shows a pattern of unsafe work practices. These tests are not discriminatory, but will help establish safety in the workplace, thus benefiting not only the employer but employees as well.

Post Accident Drug Screening

To determine if an illicit substance or alcohol is a contributing factor to an accident in the workplace, post-accident drug testing for an involved employee or employees should be considered.

Post Treatment Drug Testing

Employees returning to work after completing a drug/alcohol rehabilitation program should undergo drug testing to ensure that they are still drug and alcohol free and to encourage them to remain drug-free.

Urine drug testing is the most reliable, quickest and easiest SAMHSA approved test.

SAMHSA 5 Cut-Off Levels and Detection Times

SAMHSA 5 cut-off levels for these drugs as specified:

The Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance works in reference and accordance with DOT’s 49 CFR Part 40.


Initial test analyte Initial test cutoff concentration Confirmatory test analyte Confirmatory test cutoff concentration Marijuana metabolites 50 ng/mL THCA 15 ng/mL Cocaine metabolites 150 ng/mL Benzoylecgonine 100 ng/mL Codeine/Morphine 2000 ng/mL Morphine 2000 ng/mL 6-Acetylmorphine 10 ng/mL 6-Acetylmorphine 10 ng/mL Phencyclidine 25 ng/mL Phencyclidine 25 ng/mL Amphetamines AMP/MAMP 500 ng/mL Amphetamine Methamphetamine 250 ng/mL MDMA6 500 ng/mL MDMA 250 ng/mL

Opiate metabolites



250 ng/mL



250 ng/mL

250 ng/mL


Drug Detection Times


Drug Detection Time Minimum Maximum Amphetamines/ Methamphetamines 4-6 hours 2-3 days Cocaine 2-6 hours 2-3 days Marijuana (THC) 1-3 hours 1-7 days Heroin (Opiates) 2-6 hours 2-3 days Phencyclidine (PCP) 4-6 hours 7-14 days


False Positive Drug Test Results

About 5-10% of drug testing cases lead to false-positive results. This can be attributed to medications taken by the donor. Some of these medications may include tricyclic antidepressants, cold medications, Vicks inhaler, some antidepressants, and the ADHD medication Adderall. Sustiva, a medication for HIV can register as marijuana, while quinolone can show up as opioids.

False Negative Drug Test Results

The fact is those standard drug tests occasionally miss registering oxycodone because most standard drug tests have a high false negative rate for this particular opioid. Oxycodone brands include Roxicodone, Oxycontin and Percolone. Traces of Oxycodone are also found in Tylox, Roxicet and Percocet. Fentanyl, methadone, Subutex, Ultram and Subutex are other opioids that could be missed by standard drug testing.

It is important to take a drug test that has been proven not only accurate, but safe as well.

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