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5th January 2023

Do All Employment Drug Tests Test for Alcohol and Cannabis?

The types of employment drug tests that indicate drug or alcohol presentance include urine drug tests, blood drug tests, hair drug tests, breath alcohol tests, saliva drug screens, and sweat drug screens.


Employers who conduct drug tests usually use a five-panel test, which includes amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP (phencyclidine). While drug testing practices are now changing in places that legalized marijuana, the majority of Fortune 500 companies still require that their employee review processes include drug tests that search for cocaine, PCP, opiates, amphetamines and marijuana (in certain states), all of which can disqualify a job candidate. In addition to pre-employment drug screens, some employers also require candidates to consent to random post-hire drug tests if an employer suspects that a candidate may use substances, on or off the job, where substance use may impact safety in the workplace and performance.

Employers can conduct drug tests as part of the pre-employment hiring process and also can screen employees for drug and alcohol use in specific circumstances. Usually, employers prefer that their employees should undergo drug test training. That way, these employees can conduct drug testing for the company when required according to the relevant protocols. Companies also may be allowed to test employees for drug and alcohol use while they are employed, depending on state laws. Urine tests can also be used as part of random testing programs for current employees, as well as when employers have a reasonable suspicion an employee might use illicit drugs.

Implications across state lines

In Ohio, by contrast, applicants may only be tested on advance notice and following the making of a job offer, and employees can be tested only if they are a new recruit, there is a reasonable suspicion that drug use is occurring, following an incident, or as part of a follow-up following participation in a drug treatment program. If the business tests for drug use, it is more likely to be as part of a pre-employment review process, and will be required once an employer has offered a prospective employee the job, pending drug test results. A traditional drug test, usually done via a urine sample in search of marijuana use, does not necessarily show whether an employee is currently under the influence.

What is actually tested for?

So, do employment drug tests test for alcohol? In fact, most drugs that come out of the tests do not show if an employee is currently under the influence, as they show just a past use. This kind of testing can look at previous drug use over the last several hours, as long as a period of one or two days. One-time use can be detected only over a brief timeframe, while longer-term drug use may be detected over an extended timeframe.

For instance, people working in the trucking, airline, or mass transportation industries, and those contracting with the Defense Department or NASA, might have to screen at least some employees for alcohol and drug use. Job applicants or employees for positions like airline pilots, bus drivers, rail employees, taxi drivers, and truck drivers are regulated by corrections departments and are required to follow a federal law that requires applicants to submit to and submit to urine tests before they can work. Most employers use urinalysis to check for five to six specific substances, including THC, the highest-inducing component of marijuana, but it is possible that saliva or hair can be tested, too.

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