Whether you’re a recreational user, an addict, or a sober straight-edge, this statistic shows you’ll face this process some day. 56% of employers drug test in the United States.
You’ll want to approach the situation with education and ease. It’s a nerve-wracking process for everyone—regardless of use. Even sober people report feeling nervous due to the nature of drug tests (and also wondering if the poppy seed bagels they ate will throw things off).
Whether this is you or you’re an avid weekend partier, here’s what to expect with pre-employment drug testing to lessen your worries.
Why Do Employers Drug Test?
Some employers are legally required to drug test employees (think government jobs). Others claim to do it for the following reasons:
- To prevent substance abuse
- To avoid issues with productivity/absence
- To help employees who are suffering from addiction
- To maintain a safe work environment
- To avoid legal responsibility
- To follow state and federal laws
Drug use is often taboo and frowned upon in our society, most likely because they’re illegal. Before going in for your test, consider that legality doesn’t always equate to morality.
Regardless of your opinions about the matter, you’ll need to prepare to take a test if you want a job that requires one.
To prepare, you’ll need to know what type of drug test you’ll take.
Types of Drug Tests
There are a few types of drug tests: breath tests, mouth swabs, blood, hair, and urine.
Breath tests are breathalizers, typically screening for recent alcohol use.
Mouth swabs take a wipe of your mouth for saliva. This will show any drug use in the past two days.
In a blood test, a nurse or medical assistant draws your blood. This shows what drugs are in your system as well as how much is in you.
Hair tests are samples of 100 pieces of hair. It’s usually cut from your scalp unless you’re bald. Then it will be from somewhere else on your body.
At the lab, they look at your hair follicles close to the shaft to see your 90-day window of drug use.
Urinalysis is the most common type of drug test and is the method we’ll describe in the rest of this article.
Logistics of Pre-Employment Drug Testing
The employer will call you saying you’ve almost got the job. The last part of the process involves passing a drug test.
At this point, you usually must schedule a drug test with a certain facility within 48 hours. This window is short to keep users from having time to detox.
Bring a form of identification to the appointment. Inform the facility about any medications and supplements you take to ensure accuracy.
Once it’s time to pee in the cup, you’ll enter a bathroom after removing all outerwear (coats, hats, etc). It won’t have running water, and you can’t flush the toilet when you’re done.
These features are in place to keep people from altering their urine sample.
Additionally, some tests must have supervision. This means someone will be in the room with you. Not all facilities have this rule.
When you’re done with your sample, you’ll hand it to the official. They’ll inspect the temperature, color, smell, and amount to make sure everything seems legit.
Even though there’s a lot of methods in place to keep people from falsifying their test, there are still ways to work the system. If you’re concerned about whether or not you’ll pass a drug test, research different strategies to take. You’re not the first person to experience this.
Be aware that not every method suggested is fool-proof. Sure, a full-body cleanse might help you get some gunk out of your body (which all of us need). But it won’t get rid of long-term drug residue in your system.
Once you’ve completed the test, you’ll have to wait for results.
Your specimen goes to the lab and a few days later your potential employer will receive the results. Then they will tell you what they were.
The test reads “pass”, “fail”, or “inconclusive” (this happens with diluted urine). It doesn’t show what drugs are or aren’t in your system.
What Drugs Cause You to Fail a Test?
It depends on how many panels (drugs) get tested. Tests range from four panels to 12 panels. 10 and 12-panel tests are for law enforcement and probation cases.
If you’re curious and brave, call the testing facility to ask what panels they use.
Most jobs screen for four to seven panels. This can include amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP).
Whether or not marijuana comes up depends on your state’s legislation. Poppy seed bagels, on the other hand, can cause you to fail a test.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “oh #%$*! I’ve had those in my system!” Here’s a list to give you an idea of how long each drug stays around in your body after use:
- Amphetamines: 2-3 days
- Barbiturates: 1-3 weeks
- Benzodiazepines: 7-10 days
- Cocaine: 2-4 days
- Marijuana: casual use one week, chronic use several weeks
- Opiates: 1-3 days
- PCP: 1-2 weeks
- Poppy seeds: 1-2 days (depends on amount)
The research on the longevity of drugs in the body varies. These numbers are only offered as a suggestion of what the time frame may be.
Keep in mind that while we said legality doesn’t equate to morality, some drugs are extremely harmful to the mind and body when used in excess.
Do What You Can
No matter how much research and stressing you do before or after your pre-employment drug testing, it won’t change the results. You just have to do what you can.
Whether you ate the bagel or used illicit drugs, accept the fact that you can’t change the past. Show up for the test with preparation and confidence.
Consider visiting a spa less than three hours away or reading more healthy lifestyle tips on our online magazine to ease your mind.