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Drug Screening –
What You Need to Know

Our NowCare Urgent Care Centers offer a variety of services including, but not limited to occupational medicine, drug screening, and DOT physicals.

A drug screen is the testing of a biological sample, such as urine or hair, for the presence of a legal or an illegal drug. While there are several possible uses for drug testing, the most common use is for post-offer screening. Commonly tested drugs include amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opioids, and PCP.

A drug screen, also called a drug test, is the collection and analysis of a biological sample, such as blood, urine, hair, or saliva, to evaluate for the presence of chemicals or contaminants left in the body after drug use. Drug screens can also be used to detect performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Drugs include legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco, and well as over-the-counter medications, prescription medications and illegal substances. Various drugs are metabolized by your body at different rates, making the timeframe for detecting certain drugs very specific and vary widely depending on the substance.

Urine drug testing (UDT) is the most common test for drug screens.

When Would I Need a Drug Screen?

Drug screens may be needed for several reasons, the most common being used to enforce workplace safety.

Employers may require a drug screening during these common scenarios:

● For an applicant’s post-offer clearance.
● During employment – an employer may randomly or periodically require drug screening after hiring an employee.
● When drug use is suspected based on signs and symptoms observed in the workplace.
● After an employee has an accident or incident while working.
● For diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder. Drug screens can help determine treatment adherence, monitor abstinence and detect early relapse for individuals with substance use disorders.

Other uses for drug screening include:

Medical testing and diagnostics: People may be tested for drug use to help determine the cause of their symptoms or in emergencies when healthcare providers suspect a potential drug overdose or poisoning.
Legal testing: Drug testing may be required for legal purposes, including collecting potential evidence of a crime, investigating cases of child abuse or endangerment and determining if a person is under the influence of alcohol or other substances while driving.
Monitoring for prescription drug misuse: Your provider may request a drug test to check the amount of the drug in your system if you take a prescription drug with high addiction potential and/or the potential for misuse, such as opioids for pain.
Athletic testing: Drug screens help to test professional athletes for substances considered performance-enhancing.

What Are the Types of Drug Screens?

Urine drug screen (UDS): This is the most common and most popular form of drug screening due to their low cost and simple collection process and requires a sample of your urine. Depending on the type of panel used – a 5-panel or 10-panel urine test, for example – the sample will be evaluated for a specific set of prescription drugs and/or illegal substances. The 5-panel drug screen is used most often by employers.

5-panel urine drug tests screen for:

● Amphetamines
● THC (cannabis, cannabinoids)
● Cocaine
● Opioids
● Phencyclidine (PCP)

The more comprehensive 10-panel urine drug test can detect:

● Amphetamines
● THC (cannabis, cannabinoids)
● Cocaine
● Opioids
● Phencyclidine (PCP)
● Barbiturates
● Benzodiazepines
● Methaqualone
● Methadone
● Propoxyphene

Saliva drug screen: Also known as an oral fluid drug screen, the saliva test uses a less invasive collection process involving a swab of the mouth, which can be self-performed under direct clinical supervision. The drug detection period for saliva is shorter than that associated with other specimen types. This offers an opportunity for employers to differentiate between recent (on-the-job) substance use and prior use.

Blood drug screen: This type of drug test is mainly used by healthcare providers in emergencies. It can also be used to detect alcohol (ethanol) levels and provide a precise level.

Hair follicle drug screen: Hair samples can provide information on substance use over time. Scalp hair has a detection window of three months, while slower-growing body hair has a detection window of up to 12 months. Results vary based on the characteristics of each person’s hair.

Breath drug screen: This test is mainly used to detect recent alcohol consumption, with the result being called a breath alcohol concentration (BrAC). Officials use this to estimate a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

What Should I Expect During a Drug Screen?

For a urine sample, you will be directed to void into a clean container provided to you. In some instances, you may be required to provide your urine sample in the presence of a nurse or technician to confirm the sample is physically yours.

For the blood sample, a phlebotomist will draw a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm or hand.

For a hair sample, a technician will collect 90-100 strands of hair from the head close to the scalp. If head hair is limited, body hair may be collected from arms, legs, and chest.

For a breath alcohol test, a technician will instruct the employee to blow a deep lung breath through a tube into a breathalyzer to estimate blood alcohol content.

When Are My Results Available?

The time it takes to receive results of a drug screen varies based on the type of test. However, most results are reportable in 24 to 72 hours. Non-negative results may be longer due to required laboratory confirmation testing.

How Will I Receive My Drug Screen Results?

Typically, results from employer-ordered testing are reported to the employer and results from self-pay personal tests are reported to the patient.

Visit one of our six convenient NowCare Urgent Care Centers for Occupational Health Services
located in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Suffolk.

For more information, please contact our Occupational Health Program Manager, Gary Matthews.
Office (757) 424-4300
Cell (757) 944-1653