Complete Guide to Efficient Drug Screening in 2024: Tests, Costs, and More

May 29, 2024 by Verified First

Complete Guide to Efficient Drug Screening in 2024: Tests, Costs, and More

Workplace drug testing is a standard part of the pre-employment screening process for many companies. As an HR or Talent Acquisition professional, you know efficient drug screening can help you make more informed hiring decisions and create a safer environment for your employees. For some industries and positions, drug testing is even required by law. 

However, as times change, so do drug testing trends. Your drug screening program should account for your organization's needs, today’s most relevant drugs of abuse, and your budget.  What if we told you that your drug screening program could not only be more efficient but could end up saving you money?

How? By re-evaluating your drug testing program. Yes, drug screening costs vary depending on the kinds of tests utilized, who conducts the tests, and the amount of tests needed, but updating your drug screening policies can ultimately reduce costs. Did you know some companies are still screening for substances no longer manufactured and prescribed in the US? 

In this guide, we’ll explore how your organization can optimize its drug testing program by exploring 3 key areas:

  • Types of drug tests and what substances you should be screening for
  • Drug testing costs
  • Components of an efficient drug screening program

Common Types of Drug Tests

Drug tests can screen for the presence of alcohol or controlled substances in urine, saliva, hair, blood, and breath. Drug tests may screen for various substances, including alcohol. A five-panel drug screen will typically test for the following substances:

  • Marijuana (THC)
  • Amphetamines 
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates (codeine, morphine, and heroin)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Another common pre-employment screen is a ten-panel drug test, which screens for the same substances as a five-panel test plus the following: 

  • Benzodiazepines (valium and xanax)
  • Barbiturates
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone (commonly known as Quaaludes)
  • Propoxyphene

Some employers choose to test on-site, while others may send candidates to offsite labs or clinics for testing. Onsite testing tends to be less expensive, plus it can offer rapid results. For some situations and job roles, this may be necessary. On the other hand, lab-based testing requires employees to go to a lab or clinic to provide a sample in person. The results will be provided to the requesting employer within a few hours or days, depending on the test. Lab-based testing can be more comprehensive and include additional protocols, such as split sampling. 

Understanding Drug Screening Costs

Similar to background screening, drug test costs can vary depending on the type of test, who conducts it, and how many substances are being screened for. Another factor that can impact costs is the number of tests needed. 

However, drug screening costs are not limited to the tests themselves. Employees who go to clinics or labs for testing are usually compensated for their time. In the event of onsite testing, a staff member must be trained and compensated for their time, ultimately impacting costs. It’s best practice to develop a compliant drug screening process that outlines obtaining consent, the testing process, interpreting results, and more.  

For this reason, many organizations choose to work with a drug screening provider. An accredited vendor can help streamline the process of ordering and managing screens and build a customized drug testing program that fits your organization’s current and future needs. For example, a drug screening provider like Verified First can design custom screening packages depending on the role, industry, and company needs. 

Components of an Efficient Drug Testing Program

To run an efficient drug screening program for your organization, you need a comprehensive screening policy that tests for today’s most relevant drugs of abuse. Nationally, there are about 4.3 million nonmedical users of painkillers. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, prescription misuse is the second most common form of illicit drug use. 

Frequently abused painkillers and prescriptions like oxycodone are not evaluated for in common drug screen panels, while drugs no longer manufactured and prescribed in the US are. Understanding relevant and irrelevant drug screening can improve hiring efforts, ensure higher standards of workplace safety, and ultimately save you money.  

Irrelevant Drug Testing: Propoxyphene and Methaqualone

While these two drugs are very different, Propoxyphene and Methaqualone have one thing in common: they were once heavily prescribed during their peaks, but due to dependency and adverse effects, they have significantly fallen out of favor. So much so, that supporting data shows it’s not necessary to test for these substances in your drug screening program. 

While that may be hard to believe, let’s explore the facts:

  • Propoxyphene is estimated to be responsible for over 10,000 deaths in the US between 1981 and 2006. Due to this, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled Propoxyphene from the market in 2010. Between 2019 and 2022, out of 7.5 million tested samples, none had tested positive for Propoxyphene.
  • Methaqualone is also linked to severe adverse effects like hallucinations, seizures, and comas. The drug was classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance in 1984, meaning it no longer had recognized medical use. By 1985, production and distribution was banned in the US. Between 2012 and 2022, out of 8 million tested samples, none were reported positive for Methaqualone

Now, you’re probably wondering what this means for your drug screening program. It’s time to remove Propoxyphene and Methaqualone from your drug tests and focus on commonly abused substances

Relevant Drug Testing: Commonly Abused Substances

Focusing on commonly abused substances will improve your drug screening program, while strengthening hiring and ensuring workplace safety. By targeting more relevant substances, you can verify that your drug testing panel is relevant and effective and that you are hiring and retaining qualified employees. 

Common abuse substances can include marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and cocaine. Here are 13 common drugs to consider adding to your drug screening panel: 

  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA aka Ecstasy)
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Buprenorphine
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Heroin
  • Oxycodone
  • Phencyclidine 

In addition to updating your drug screening panel to include more relevant and commonly abused drugs, your organization also needs to stay up to date with changing drug laws and regulations. For example, several states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. While some industries and positions require candidates to be screened for marijuana, other employers have opted to remove marijuana from their drug screening panel (except for safety-sensitive positions) in light of recent regulations.  

Efficient Drug Screening with Verified First

Periodically reviewing and updating your drug screening program, including your drug testing panel, is key to maintaining its relevance and effectiveness in the changing hiring landscape. If you don’t know where to start, Verified First is here to help. 

Whether you’re just starting to build your organization’s drug screening, or looking to optimize it, you should consider removing Propoxyphene and Methaqualone from your drug test panels. Not only will it save you money and lessen turnaround times, but it will also help you improve the efficiency of your screening program while ensuring workplace safety. 

Verified First offers customizable and a la carte drug testing packages so you can ensure you are screening for today’s most prevalent and commonly abused substances. With three different drug screening solutions to choose from and customize to your organization’s needs, you can be sure that your drug screening program is not only efficient, but you are maximizing your investment, too. 

Interested in talking to a drug screening specialist? Get started here! Or,  learn more about drug screening solutions and packages.

About Verified First
Verified First is known for delivering streamlined background screening backed by the best client support, and for developing the easiest, fastest HR system integrations, for free. Our client support team is U.S.-based, answers calls in seconds, resulting in hundreds of positive testimonials and a 96% customer satisfaction. Verified First's patent-pending, award-winning integrations include over 100 applicant tracking systems, and provide clients a turn-key experience.

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