What Is Drug Screening And Is It Different Than Drug Testing

What Is Drug Screening? Purpose Of Drug Screening And Why It’s Important

Drug screening is a common protocol in the workplace for several reasons. Whether you’re already hired or looking for job prospects, it is essential to pass your drug screenings to get or maintain your career. What should you know about drug screening? Learn more through this post.

The typical hiring process goes like this: You submit a resume, go for an interview, and you’ll get a callback. After getting hired, you’ll go through a series of medical assessments to know if you’re physically and mentally fit for the position you’re applying for. One of these assessments is the drug screening test.

What Is Drug Screening?

Drug screening is a part of the initial medical assessment where lab professionals will collect blood, urine, saliva, or hair samples in order to determine traces of chemicals due to drug use. Drug screening is important for many workplaces for many reasons, including:

Occupational safety

Some types of occupations are dangerous when done under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For example, operating machinery, construction work, or those involving heavy lifting are unfit jobs for people who use illicit substances on the regular.

According to the CDC, drinking too much alcohol or using drugs when doing things that require skill can cause injuries such as burns, falls, motor crashes, and drowning. Companies don’t want to be liable for injury or death due to substance use while working.

Legal regulations

Another common reason why drug screening is done during the hiring process is because of the repercussions of drug use. Use of illicit substances such as opiates, cocaine, or meth is banned in all states, while marijuana use in most states is for medical purposes only. This implies that company owners should watch over their employees, making sure that none of them use any illegal substances, especially during work.

Being caught using drugs or alcohol in the workplace have potential offenses, both within your company and within your community law enforcement.

Conflict avoidance

Aside from health and safety concerns relating to substance use, drug screening is also essential in helping employers dodge the problems of someone abusing illicit substances in the workplace.

This is especially true for drug users, as they can eventually invite other coworkers to join their habit. As commonly known, drug abuse affects all aspects of a person’s life, including their work performance and personal dealings. Employers do not wish to be responsible as the workplace being the culprit of someone’s drug abuse problem.

Additionally, drug use is also associated with irrational behaviors that can potentially cause conflict in the workplace. These actions can lead to aggression and violence toward others.

What does drug screening mean for employers and employees alike? The reasons above emphasize its importance not just in the workplace harmony, but for the personal safety of each person on the job.

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How Does Drug Screening Take Place?

Drug screening often takes place in a hospital or a clinic setting. If you’re working or planning to work at a healthcare unit, this is usually done in the lab department of the facility. Otherwise, you may be asked to go to a hospital, clinic, or lab facility in order to have this test done. Below are the general steps of the drug screening process:

Step 1: Check-in at the lab facility

You will be asked to check-in at the lab facility to get your drug screening done. This is initially scheduled by yourself or your employer. Upon checking in, you will be asked to confirm your identity through your company ID, social security, and other personal documents.

Step 2: Extraction of samples

The second step is getting a sample or several samples of bodily fluids within the lab. Commonly, urine samples are enough, but in other instances, saliva, blood, or hair samples may be taken.

The process of extraction depends on the type of bodily fluid that needs sampling. If you are required to present a urine sample, you will have to go to a private bathroom to collect your urine by peeing in a sterilized cup. Blood samples are done through syringe extraction, saliva through a spit sample, and hair samples will be removed by the root.

In this process, the integrity of the sample is very important. There are methods that lab facilities do in order to prevent people from altering the sample, whether accidental or intentional even when people are provided their privacy. These may include:

  • Putting blue dye in the toilet
  • Stopping water supply
  • Providing sterilized materials
  • Asking people to wear a lab gown before taking a sample

Step 3: Sample screening

In case you’re wondering what does a drug screen test for, there are Federal guidelines that all companies follow when providing screening for its employees.

Commonly, the five illicit substances tested are:

  • THC (marijuana)
  • Cocaine (coke, crack)
  • Amphetamines (meth, ecstasy)
  • Opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine, opium)
  • Phencyclidine (angel dust, PCP)

Additionally, there are also higher-tier tests that employers can provide if they need stricter measures with their screening. Some substances in these 8-10 panel tests include:

  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Methaqualone
  • Methadone
  • Propoxyphene
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Hydrocodone
  • MDMA

When these substances are detected in an employee’s sample, a notice is provided to the employer and appropriate action will be taken.

The Difference Between Drug Screen And Drug Test

Although these two terms sound alike, drug screening and drug testing are different in the sense that they serve varying purposes.

Drug screening definition

Drug screening is usually part of the pre-employment process. It is quick, cost-effective, and usually covers the five illicit substances mandated to be screened by federal ordinances. Drug screening is usually done, yet not limited through a urinalysis since this is the simplest yet most accurate way to check all potential employees.

Drug testing definition

Drug testing is a more in-depth process for organizations that are particular on the illicit substances they are inspecting on their employees. Drug tests often use more complex methods to extract and check samples and would take a longer time to deliver results. It has a lesser chance of detecting false positives and negatives as drug tests are more thorough in nature.

Drug screening and drug tests are both important tools for employers as they can help improve workplace safety, as well as prevent all the negative consequences of substance use disorder among the employees.

How Can I Pass A Drug Screening Or Test?

If you’re admittedly using illicit substances and are anxious about how you’re going to pass a drug screening, know that you are not alone. Congratulate yourself for a bold step in looking for employment, or simply securing your job amidst an addiction.

The internet may offer hundreds of tips and techniques to “hack” a drug screening or test, but the only sure way for you to pass these protocols is to eventually stop using illicit substances. This does not mean you should immediately stop drinking or using cold turkey, as there are life-threatening consequences to that.

On top of that, being untruthful during a drug screening or test may even prove to be a risky move that can cost you your job or even your freedom.

Getting a job or committing to keep your career is a positive lifestyle change. Why not accompany this change by breaking yourself free from substance addiction? There are high-quality rehab centers that can help you get started on this journey.

Going to rehab can help you not only pass the drug screening once and for all, but it can also help you:

  • Recover from substance use disorder
  • Avoid or eliminate triggers in your life
  • Help you find fulfilling hobbies or interests to pursue
  • Maintain your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health

These changes aren’t just meant to last until the “next test comes”, but it is meant for a long-term transformation that will allow you to tread a path towards full sobriety.

Drug Screening Benefits You And Others

You may groan at the thought of having another drug screening or testing, but the benefits of having one are quite straightforward. Whether it’s to prevent a suspicious employee, eliminate illegal activities, or to help in the workers’ overall health, these assessments are meant to protect you and others from the snares of substance use disorder.



  • Cdc.gov – “Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn The Facts”
  • Disa.com – “Map Of Marijuana Legality By State”
  • Datia.org – “Workplace Drug Testing”
  • Datacheckinc.com – “The Difference Between Drug Screening And Drug Testing”
  • Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Relationship Between Drug Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence: A Longitudinal Study Among Women Receiving Methadone”

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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