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Different Types of Drug Tests (Drug Panel Screens)

To deter substance use and abuse in the workplace, employers often choose to drug test their employees. Screening is done via panel drug tests, with the urine 5-panel drug test being the most popular.

Drug abuse and misuse is an ongoing problems in many parts of the world. In the United States in particular, national rates of substance abuse are at a historic high. Data from a 2020 NSDUH survey estimates that 59.3 million people over the age of 12 have used illicit drugs or misused prescription medication in the past year.

Different Types of Drug Tests

What is a Panel Drug Test?

Panel drug tests are designed to screen for different substances simultaneously. In this context, the term “panel” refers to a drug or family of drugs that may show up on the test. For instance, the panel ‘opiates’ would cover heroin, codeine, and morphine. Similarly, benzodiazepines would incorporate Xanax, Ativan, Librium, and Klonopin.

The number of panels on a test corresponds to the number of drugs that the test is capable of detecting. A 3-panel drug test, for example, will screen for 3 different substances, while an 8-panel drug test screens for 8 drugs. And so on.

Kinds of Drug Tests

There are lots of different types of drug tests on the market, each with its benefits and downsides. They range from single-panel tests all the way up to ultra-sensitive tests, capable of detecting 20-plus street drugs and prescription medication.

Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used drug tests.

4-panel Drug Test

A 4-panel drug test is one of the more basic methods of screening for drug use. It checks for the presence of 4 illicit drugs including:

  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines
  • THC or PCP

4-panel tests can be customized to suit the needs of specific clients. As marijuana becomes legalized in more states, some employers may choose to drop it from the list of substances that they test for. A 4-panel test in this case would screen for opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and PCP. Other organizations may opt to test for THC but exclude PCP from the screening. This may happen when an employer determines that marijuana is likely to present a bigger problem to their business.

4-panel drug screens are one of the most cost-effective methods of testing for drug use. They are commonly used by employers and sports organizations to verify that athletes are not abusing substances. This type of drug testing is typically conducted using a urine sample. However, you may also come across a hair or saliva 4-panel drug screen.

5-panel Drug Test

A 5-panel test is a drug screening procedure that is used to detect the presence of any one of five commonly abused classes of drugs.

The test checks for the most popular street drugs, including;

  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Opiates (codeine, heroin, morphine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP), or Angel Dust.

The 5-panel drug screen is the most common type of drug testing. It’s the go-to test for employers who want to ensure that their employees are not using illicit substances. If you run into some trouble with the law and drug testing is required, you’re also likely to come across this type of test. Further, the 5-panel test is the approved and recommended test for DOT drug screening.

The urine 5-panel drug test is commonly used since its inexpensive, and accurate, and it allows for a relatively long detection window. That being said, a 5-panel drug screen can also be conducted using a hair, saliva, or blood sample.

7-panel Drug Test

A 7-panel drug test screens for everything covered by a 5-panel test, plus two classes of prescription medication with a high potential for abuse. This test will pick up the use of;

  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • PCP
  • Barbiturates (veronal, medinal)
  • Benzodiazepine (xanax, klonopin, valium, ativan, librium)
  • THC
  • Opiates

Barbiturates are a family of prescription medication that is used in managing anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and as an anesthetic. Benzodiazepines, sometimes referred to as “benzos”, are used to treat alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and panic disorder. These medications are known for their anti-anxiety and sedative properties, an aspect that increases their potential for abuse and misuse.

Abuse of barbiturates and benzos can be destructive, especially if an employee holds a safety-sensitive position. Employers looking to create a safer work environment may opt for this test since it screens for both illicit and commonly abused prescription medication. 7-panel drug screening is done via urine tests, hair follicle, or saliva testing.

9-panel Drug Test

A typical 9-panel drug test is administered to detect the presence of select substances and metabolites including:

  • THC
  • Opiates
  • Methadone
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • PCP
  • Cocaine
  • Propoxyphene

In addition to the substances incorporated in a 7-panel test, a 9-panel drug screen also tests for Methadone and Propoxyphene. Methadone is a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. However, it presents a high risk of dependence if misused. Propoxyphene is a highly addictive pain reliever.

A 9-panel drug screen is an excellent option for employers looking to test for a broader group of illicit and prescription medications. Also, this type of testing may be administered by rehabs and treatment facilities to determine a patient’s history of drug use.

A 9-panel drug test can be conducted using urine, hair, or saliva samples. A urine drug test is often the preferred mode of testing since it’s a simple and affordable process.

10-panel Drug Test

What is a 10-panel drug test? A 10-panel drug screen analyzes a test sample for the metabolites and residues from the following recreational and prescription drugs.

  • THC
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Opiates
  • PCP
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methadone
  • Barbiturates
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)

A 10-panel drug screen will look for a combination of 5 illicit drugs and 5 prescription medications. It is mainly conducted using a urine sample. In some cases, a hair follicle test may be administered to detect drug use over a longer duration. In very rare circumstances, the specimen of choice may be saliva or blood.

The 10-panel non-DOT drug test is one of the most commonly used methods of drug screening. While the 5-panel test is typically the go-to test for workplace drug screening, the 10-panel test will be administered if more comprehensive testing is required. This type of testing is also used by law enforcement and the court system.

12-panel Drug Test

A 12-panel drug test is one of the more comprehensive methods of screenings available on the market. So what drugs are on a 12-panel test? A standard 12-panel drug screen will pick up the presence of;

  • PCP
  • Methadone
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cocaine
  • Oxycodone
  • Amphetamines
  • Methaqualone
  • THC
  • MDMA (Ecstasy/ Molly)
  • Opiates
  • Barbiturates
  • Propoxyphene

Urine is the most frequently used sample with regard to the 12-panel test. However, hair testing may also be conducted as it provides a longer detection window of up to 90 days. In some cases, 12-panel drug screens utilize saliva samples.

Some employers will opt for a 12-panel test thanks to the extensive list of substances it covers. This may especially be the case if the employee holds a safety-sensitive position. Sometimes, clinics, hospitals, or doctors’ offices may order a 12-panel test to ensure that their medical professionals are not abusing medication that is meant for patients.

Comparison chart for drugs detected by different panel drug tests

Substance detected by drug test 4-panel 5-panel 7-panel 9-panel 10-panel 12-panel

How Long Does It Take to Get Drug Test Results?

Following a drug screening, most people would prefer to get their results instantly. After all, the waiting period is often riddled with anxiety and stress. In some instances, instant results are a possibility. If you take a rapid test, such as the 10-panel urine drug test at Labcorp, you can typically expect negative results back in about 4 hours. However, a non-negative result will require further testing which may take 2-3 days.

For lab-based testing, negative results are usually out within 24 hours. In the event of a non-negative result, a confirmatory test is conducted adding to the wait time. Hair testing is a relatively long process and results are usually out within 5 to 10 days.

Regardless of the type of test, negative results are usually available in the shortest duration.

Why Do Employers Drug Test?

National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data shows that in 2020, 15.4% of American adults had a substance use disorder. This translates to 38.7 million people, which is a decent chunk of the working population.

In their efforts to create a drug-free work environment, employers turn to screening applicants and/or employees for substance abuse. Here are some of the reasons employers would want to screen drug-free employees. 

  • Reduced workplace accidents and mishaps

One of the primary reasons for workplace drug testing is to create a safer work environment. Employees who are under the influence are a danger to not only themselves but also other employees, customers, and everyone around them.

Drug testing can directly reduce the occurrence of accidents at work. This especially rings true for employees who operate heavy machinery or perform demanding tasks. 

  • Productivity

Money is the lifeblood of any business. If employees can get more done within a shorter time frame, the business will see an increase in profits.

Substance use does not go together with productivity. For starters, employees tend to miss work more often. And if they show up, they may be lethargic or downright counterproductive. 

  • Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance premiums are often quite high. However, some insurance firms will offer a discounted rate for employers who drug test their employees. A drug-free workplace is likely to have fewer accidents and injuries hence the lower premiums rate. 

  • Lower Costs

Drug abuse amongst employees will hit a business where it hurts – the finances. Increased workplace incidents will result in more workers’ compensation payouts. The business may also lose money due to declining productivity, lawsuit settlements, and cost associated with training new employees.

Drug Testing Policies of Big Employers in 2023

Job hunting is undoubtedly an arduous task. You’ll need to endlessly scroll through listings, update your resume and cover letter, send in applications, and go through multiple rounds of interviews and follow-ups. On top of that, you may have to contend with drug screening as an applicant and/ or as an employee. So, what can you expect from some of the big employers across industries?


Walmart employs a mind-blowing 2.3 million plus individuals. Pre-employment tests are mainly conducted for potential hires seeking to fill safety-sensitive positions. Walmart reserves the right to administer random, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion testing on their employees.


At FedEx, a urine pre-employment drug screen is part of the hiring process. The company also conducts post-accident screening and random testing every six months.


With a workforce of over a million people in the US alone, Amazon is undeniably one of the biggest employers globally. Here, applicants are typically required to take a saliva pre-employment drug test. Post-accident testing is also commonplace after a workplace incident.

Harbor Freight

Applicants need not worry about pre-employment and random drug testing at Harbor Freight. However, in case of an accident or reasonable suspicion, you may need to undergo a drug screen.

How to Prepare for a Drug Test

Let’s explore some of the most commonly recommended natural remedies to pass a drug screen.

Cranberry juice

Cranberry juice is a natural diuretic. Put in layman’s terms, this substance will boost the rate at which water, salts, and toxins are eliminated from your body.

Consistently drinking cranberry juice in the hours leading up to your drug screening may help you pass a urine test. The frequent urination associated with this natural remedy will help drop the concentration of toxins in urine below the cut-off level. However, if you take too much cranberry juice you may overdilute your urine leading to suspicion around your sample.

Baking soda

Baking soda has proven most effective when trying to mask meth use. This common kitchen ingredient is an alkali. Therefore, when ingested, it’ll raise the pH of urine.

Meth and its residues are more easily secreted into acidic urine. Therefore, this increased pH will hinder its elimination process, making meth levels drop in the urine. This gives you a better shot of passing a urine drug screen. Drug Education Forum suggests the following methods:

Lemon water

Lemon water is one of the most commonly used natural detox remedies. Drinking a combination of lemon juice and water in the hours before a drug test will help you pee frequently and flush out toxins in your system.

If you have lower levels of THC, there is a good chance that the concentration will fall below the cut-off threshold.

Natural remedies can be a hit or a miss when it comes to helping you pass a drug test. To better your chances, you may want to consider proven solutions such as;

Toxin Rid Detox Programs

Toxin Rid detox programs are a triad of detox pills, dietary fiber, and liquid detox. Each of these products has its own ensemble of herbs, vitamins, and minerals, and they work together to flush drug metabolites from the body.

To get started, Toxin Rid will match you to the ideal product for your needs. You’ll need to provide a few details to help them determine your toxin levels, BMI, and how much time you have to prepare for your drug test. Depending on this information, you’ll be matched with a 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, 7-day, or 10-day detox program. The 1-day detox program is designed for light drug exposure, while the 10-day program will cleanse the body of heavy drug-induced toxicity.

And the best part? With Toxin Rid’s 100% money-back guarantee, you can try their products risk-free.

Detoxify Mega Clean

The Detoxify brand has been around for over 20 years now. Their range of time-tested products is designed to help flush toxins, including drug metabolites, from the body.

One of their bestsellers is the Detoxify Mega Clean, a herbal detox drink built to help you cleanse your digestive, circulatory, and urinary systems. As with other Detoxify products, Detoxify Mega Clean has a tried and true formula consisting of a blend of herbs, vitamins, fiber, and minerals. A combination of Milk Thistle Extract, Ginseng Root, Guarana Seed Extract, and Urva Ursi makes this product all the more potent.

When you shop directly from you’re eligible for their 100% satisfaction guarantee.


What is a 5-panel drug test?

A 5-panel drug screen is the most commonly administered test in the workplace. It screens for the presence of 5 of the most popular street drugs namely marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCP, and amphetamines. This type of test is also recommended for DOT drug screening.

Can CBD make you fail a drug test?

CBD products are frequently used to minimize stress, manage anxiety and depression, remedy chronic pain and insomnia, and even for smoke cessation. In its pure state, CBD contains less than 0.3% THC and does not show up on a drug test. However, a contaminated CBD product may result in a positive cannabis drug screen.

Can employers test for marijuana in states where it’s legal?

Yes. More and more states are legalizing the use of weed for medical and recreational purposes. However, cannabis remains an illicit drug at the federal level. Therefore, employers can test and even fire employees found to be using weed.

What can be detected in a urine test?

Urine tests are the most popular method of screening for drug use. A urine sample can detect the presence of most illicit and prescription medications including cocaine, marijuana, PCP, opiates, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, MDMA, methadone, methaqualone, propoxyphene, and fentanyl.

How long will drugs stay in my body?

Different drugs will remain in your system for varying durations. The detection window will depend on various factors including;

  • BMI
  • Route of administration
  • Frequency of use
  • Dosage
  • The drug’s half-life

Detection Times

The table below covers the estimated detection times for the most commonly abused drugs via a urine test.

Drug  Detection window in urine
Cocaine 2 to 4 days
Marijuana 3 to 30 days, depending on the frequency of use
Amphetamines 2 days
Phencyclidine 8 to 30 days, depending on the frequency of use
Benzodiazepine 3 days to 6 weeks
Methadone 3 days
Opioids 2 to 3 days
Barbiturates 2 to 21 days, depending on the type and dose
Methaqualone Up to 15 days
Propoxyphene Up to 2 days
MDMA Up to 2 days
Methamphetamine 2 days