Workplace Drug Testing: What You Need to Know

Drug screening protocols are common among employers, both for pre-employment purposes and for randomized workplace safety checks. In some cases, these checks are mandated by federal law, such as for employers regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In other cases, employers run these checks of their own accord, as part of the due diligence process.

Here are a few key details to know about workplace drug testing before implementing a pre-employment screening or random employee testing policy within your organization.

  • Drug screening can save money: Why do employers test their workers for drugs? According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, drug use and drug abuse cost employers an estimated $81 billion every year. These costs can take many forms, from lost productivity to employee absenteeism to injuries or fatalities on the job.

Pre-employment screening that incorporates drug testing can help employers to spot candidates who use or abuse drugs before they are hired, preventing these risks. Ongoing random drug testing is valuable for maintaining a safe, productive, and drug-free workplace.

  • Not all drug testing is the same: There is more than one substance that can impair a worker’s judgment, performance, and ability to perform their job. Most drug tests have multiple “panels,” which means that they test for multiple substances in a person’s system. At, our drug screening solutions start at the five-panel level (amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP) and range up to a 10-panel test, which adds testing for barbiturates, benzodiazepine, methadone, propoxyphene, methaqualone, and ecstasy.

Drug tests can be conducted in different ways with the most common options using saliva or urine, and the less common ones using blood or hair. Oral and urine tests are the easiest, most accessible, and most affordable options, but they also have shorter detection periods than blood or hair tests.

  • There are legal and ethical questions: One of the things that employers need to consider for drug screening is legality. There are certain industries in which the law compels employers to conduct pre-employment screening for drug use. Employers that have a choice should recognize some of the potential legal or ethical considerations.

For instance, the ever-growing trend of marijuana legalization has generated debate about whether employers should test for that drug. While marijuana may be legal for recreational use in some states, it can still impair a person’s reaction time and overall quality of work. Employers are generally not barred from disqualifying a candidate or firing an employee based on a drug test that indicates marijuana usage. With that said, employers should always check their state and local laws to make sure there are no relevant statutes involving drug testing at work.

Most importantly, as an employer, you need to treat drug screening protocols as you treat other background checks, which means 1) notifying candidates ahead of time that you will require a pre-employment drug test, 2) requiring the same level of drug testing for all candidates vying for the same position, and 3) using a reputable entity to conduct your drug screenings.

If you need help implementing a pre-employment screening drug test at your workplace, contact today for assistance.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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