What Drug Panel Should I Choose?

So now that I’m drug testing my employees, how do I decide what to test them for?

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What Drug Panel Should I Choose?

Drug testing comes with a variety of options. After deciding to drug test, you need to know what drugs you should test for, how to test for them, and why. This guide walks you through the various drug panels, which drug panel might be best for you, and what specific drugs industries typically test for.

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Panel Drug Testing

Specific drug tests are often referred to as ‘panel drug tests’. Each specific drug tested equals one panel. For example, a 5 panel drug test examines a specimen for the presence of 5 different substances.

The most common drug test is a standard 5 panel urine drug test that examines a urine specimen for the presence of:

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

Going beyond the 5 panel urine drug test

Higher panel drug tests simply add more drugs, or panels, to be tested. While drug panels can be customized by employees, certain combinations of drugs make up panels more frequently than others. If you increase the number of panels tested from a 5 panel test, you are typically adding a new drug for each extra panel. Below you can find what drugs each extra panel adds on to the standard 5 drugs tested.

Six panel drug test:

A 6 panel drug test usually adds on benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs used to treat panic attacks, generalized anxiety, seizures, & alcohol withdrawal. Common benzodiazepines include Valium & Klonopin. While generally well-tolerated, common side effects of benzodiazepines, particularly if abused, include fatigue, dizziness, and weakness. Thus, if your employees are in an industry where alertness is key, such as working with heavy machinery, testing for benzodiazepine abuse is reasonable.

Seven panel drug test:

A 7 panel drug test usually adds on Benzodiazepines & Barbiturates. Barbiturates are a sedative-hypnotic drug, used to decrease anxiety and fight insomnia. Known commonly as ‘downers’, barbiturates affect the brain in a way similar to alcohol or sleeping bills. Barbiturates are frequently abused in suicide attempts and may cause death or coma – making them a dangerous class of drug. Barbiturates, if abused, can cause extreme drowsiness and confusion, and again, barbiturate abuse should be tested for in industries where safety is a primary concern.

Eight panel drug test:

An 8 panel drug test usually adds on Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates, & Quaaludes. Quaalude is a brand name for the drug methaqualone. Used recreationally as a muscle relaxant and aphrodisiac, methaqualone isn’t frequently abused in North America currently. Thus, in some ways, a company would be better served using a 7 panel drug test or going beyond 8 panels.

Nine panel drug test:

A 9 panel drug test usually adds on Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates, Quaaludes, & Propoxyphene. Propoxyphene, also known as Darvon, is a narcotic pain reliever. Propoxyphene is highly addictive, interacts dangerously with other drugs and alcohol and can cause the side effects of slowed heartbeat, confusion, fainting, and even seizures. Testing employees for Propoxyphene makes sense for two reasons. First, if an employee is in so much pain that they need a narcotic pain killer, that employee may not be in a safe position at work. Second, the dangerous side effects and addictive nature of the drug cannot be understated.

Ten panel drug test:

A 10 panel drug test usually adds on Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates, Quaaludes, Propoxyphene, & Methadone. Methadone can be abused as a pain reliever and can cause extreme exhaustion and numbness.

Eleven panel drug test:

An 11 panel drug test has a bit of a different lineup. It tests everything an 8 panel drug test does, but usually adds on Methadone, Oxycodone, & Tricyclic Antidepressants. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA’s) have lost popularity as prescribed anti-depressants in recent years – primarily due to their many side effects. TCA’s can cause moderate cognitive impairment, anxiety, and exhaustion.

Twelve panel drug test:

A 12 panel drug test usually tests everything a 10 panel drug test does, but adds on Percoset/Oxycodone and Ecstasy/MDMA. The 12 panel drug test essentially tests for additional opiates and painkillers that may not be detected in fewer panels. This fairly comprehensive drug test is utilized in industries that have great responsibility.

For a full list of typical drugs tested in specific number drug panels visit here.

What Panel Should I Choose?

If you don’t have any needs or legal requirements to test beyond these substances, a 5 panel urine drug test is a perfectly reasonable choice to serve as your company’s drug testing policy. In general, the 5 panel urine drug test looks for the presence of commonly abused street drugs, while larger panel drug tests search for abuse of prescription drugs and painkillers as well.
However, choosing the panel drug test that works best for your company depends on several factors: including what industry you’re in, what laws apply to your industry for drug testing, and corporate culture.

Industry-specific drug testing standards:

  • The DOT legally requires a 5 standard panel urine drug test for all drivers. The DOT requires drivers to take a pre-employment drug test, a random drug test yearly, and an annual drug test.
  • Mobile Health recommends that home health aides take an 8 panel drug test.
  • Construction and heavy machinery related industries frequently test 9 or more panels. The need for alertness in these industries is high and a normal side effect of abused prescription drugs is fatigue – a side effect that’s extremely dangerous in high-activity industries.
  • Civil servants are required to pass a five panel urine drug test, but in some states are now required to pass a ten panel drug test.
  • Employers who have, or want to establish a strict drug-free workplace policy may choose to require their employees to pass a comprehensive 12 panel drug test.

Corporate culture:

Companies who primarily employ wealthy, white-collar workers, may want to test their employees for designer drugs or drugs that are meant to improve focus, which have a much greater incidence of abuse in certain fields. For example, while cocaine was the most commonly abused drug among stockbrokers in the 1980’s, and is still abused in this occupation today, in recent times abuse of Ritalin, Adderall, & Provigil has skyrocketed.

Further, some companies may have a culture that doesn’t object to a typically tested drug. With expanding legalization of Marijuana and differing corporate outlooks on the drug, some companies might choose a four panel drug test, testing for everything in a typical 5 panel drug test, but excluding the THC panel.

What drugs can be tested

While the sky is not quite the limit when it comes to drug testing, a great number of drugs can be tested, including:

Marijuana, Cocaine, PCP, Amphetamine, Ecstasy, Methamphetamine, Opiates, Oxycodone, Methadone, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Buprenorphine, Tricyclic Antidepressants, Propoxyphene, Tramadol, Fentanyl, Sufentanil, Zolpidem, Carisoprodol, Meperidine, Antihistamines, Synthetic Cannabinoids, Designer Stimulants (Bath Salts), Dextromethorphan, Direct Ethanol Biomarkers, High Potency Opioids, Ketamine, Propofol Glucuronide, & Ritalin.

Alcohol can be tested as well, but due to its rapid clearance from urine and the bloodstream, usually is tested randomly or due to reasonable suspicion. Mobile Health offers Breath Alcohol Tests to detect the presence of alcohol.

How far back can drugs be detected?

This varies by the drug and testing medium. Drug tests can utilize urine, hair, blood, or saliva for testing. The choice of testing medium has an impact on how far back substances can be detected. In addition, the size, weight, health, level of hydration, and other factors can have an impact on how far back drug use can be detected – check out our blog article on drug detection periods.

How accurate are drug testing results?

Drug tests performed through Mobile Health’s services are SAMHSA and DOT certified, are reviewed by a Medical Review Officer and are collected according to anti-tampering specifications.

Want more information?

If you have further questions, please contact us.

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