Companies can screen drug applicants through urine, saliva, and blood tests. Tests can also be tailored to screen for other substances. Regulated employers must comply with governing regulations when establishing their drug screening policies. Employers often make job offers contingent on passing a pre-employment drug test. They may also conduct random drug testing on existing employees.


Pre-employment drug tests help employers save time by screening applicants likely to use illegal drugs and prescription medications that can affect their job performance. In addition, these tests can also identify employees who have developed substance abuse problems that could be affecting their productivity and safety.

According to occupational studies, employee drug abuse costs employers more than $80 billion annually in lost production, absenteeism, accidents, theft, health care costs, workers’ compensation claims, and legal liabilities. The best way to prevent these costly consequences is to proactively invest in drug testing programs based on urine, hair, saliva, or blood tests.

In addition to pre-employment testing, employers can conduct “reasonable suspicion” testing during employment by requesting a test when an employee shows symptoms of drug use or alcohol abuse.

Typically, these symptoms include physical signs such as slurred speech or an unsteady walk; behavioral signs such as unexplained changes in work performance, frequent errors, or withdrawal from engagement with coworkers and management; or psychological symptoms such as angry outbursts or inability to focus.

Most companies require job candidates to sign a consent form for drug testing before receiving an offer of employment. They can then choose to either have a test taken or rescind their employment offer.

Those who disagree with drug testing may face consequences, such as a revoked job offer or required participation in drug-abuse education.

Pre-Employment Drug Tests


Many employers in regulated industries include drug testing in their screening processes because it protects workers, customers and the company. For instance, transportation companies that hire truck drivers and other safety-sensitive employees must test those candidates before offering them jobs and regularly conduct random tests.

Adding pre-employment drug tests also protects the company from lawsuits brought by employees injured while at work because of an employer’s negligence. Whether the company uses a pre-employment or random drug test, the employees must be informed of its drug policy in writing and agree to it. They must also understand the consequences of refusing or returning an adulterated, diluted, or compromised sample.

If the company imposes a penalty for refusing or returning a tainted sample, it must be allowed to challenge that decision with an MRO. Employees should also know that the MRO might contact them directly instead of their human resources professional to discuss their results.

Lab test results typically return within several business days and specify which drugs or chemicals were found in the specimen sample.

Alternatively, on-site testing can offer results more quickly. The impact will be either positive or negative. In the case of a positive test, the MRO will specify which drugs or chemicals were detected in the sample and may also give details about how the laboratory verified the test.


Drug tests are based on biological samples (usually urine, saliva, sweat, hair or blood) that are subject to chemical analysis to reveal the presence of drugs used during the hours, days or weeks preceding the testing. These tests typically screen for illegal drugs and prescription medications that can be abused.

Some research has attempted to evaluate the predictive validity of pre-employment drug screening. The research methodologies used in these studies often introduce sources of error that reduce the accuracy and reliability of results. These errors include using a sample not representative of the population to which the results will be applied.

In addition, arbitrary decisions about what groups should be included or excluded from the study can lead to over- or underestimating the prevalence of drug usage in the overall population. Several research studies have found that employees using illicit drugs in the workplace are more likely to miss work, be late for work, change jobs frequently, or be involved in work-related accidents that result in workers’ compensation claims.

Many regulated industries and some private companies require that all job applicants agree to routine drug testing and that current employees submit to random or reasonable suspicion tests at the discretion of management.

Signs that may trigger “for-cause” drug testing include physical symptoms, such as slurred speech or unsteady gait; behavioral cues, such as a change in performance or withdrawal from engagement with colleagues and management; or psychological signs, such as unexplained irritability or an inability to focus on work.

Pre-Employment Drug Tests


Drug tests are an important part of any company’s hiring process. They can help reduce workplace accidents and turnover while increasing productivity. They are also a cost-effective way to screen employees for substance abuse.

Drug test costs vary depending on the type of test and how frequently they’re conducted. Some employers test for only one or two substances, while others want to include a wide range of drugs in their testing regimen. It’s also important to note that states may have laws regarding how and when you can test for certain medications.

Most companies will require applicants to agree to a drug screening policy when an offer is made. They should also clearly state that they will withdraw a job offer if applicants refuse to consent to the test.

Some companies will conduct random drug testing for current employees, particularly those in safety-sensitive positions. They might also test for reasonable suspicion or following workplace accidents to determine if drug use played a role in the incident. Urine drug tests are the most popular method of pre-employment drug screening.

These tests are quick and easy to administer. They reveal the levels of a broad range of drugs in an individual’s system, including marijuana, amphetamines/methamphetamines, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine. They can also screen for alcohol. These tests are less expensive than other types of pre-employment screening but do not provide information on current usage.


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