ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Do I Need to Know about Drug Testing for Jobs?

Updated on September 5, 2017

Does the quest for a "drug free" workplace infringe on one's rights?

Since the late 1980s many companies and governmental agencies in the United States have subjected prospective employees to drug testing. It’s all very legal since the Supreme Court upheld the legality of drug testing as far back as 1986, ruling that it is not a violation of one’s Constitutional rights, particularly as they relate to the Fourth Amendment, protecting people against unreasonable searches and seizures. But the tough part is answering the question: What is a reasonable search?

Now drug testing is also used on students, welfare recipients, soldiers, convicts and parolees, but this article doesn’t deal with those situations.

These drug screens, as they’re called, come in various types and test for the presence of different types of drugs – illegal or otherwise. This article tries to inform people about what they should know when a company wants to collect and then analyze their bodily fluids, hair or other tissues before hiring them.


Drug testing requires that a specimen be tested on-site or sent to a laboratory, where it can be analyzed using mass spectrometry, an expensive and time-consuming procedure. Most of these tests check for the presence of five to 10 different drugs, illegal or otherwise. Moreover, the threshold of detection for most of these tests is 50 nanograms per milliliter. For comparison, similar tests for Olympic athletes have a much lower threshold, measured in picograms (trillionths of a gram) and are therefore much harder to beat, detecting the use of various drugs many months after their usage.

Urine Analysis

This test requires that a person urinate in a cup so the urine can be tested for the presence of drugs and/or their metabolites. The most commonly used test, the pee test is the easiest to beat because the urine sample can be diluted somewhat if the person simply drinks lots of water before urinating in the cup; or fake urine can be used or somebody else's, for that matter. Also, drugs such as aspirin, vitamins such as B-2 and B-12 or various herbs can be taken to flush a person’s system before taking the test, but the effectiveness of these substances is uncertain – unless you believe the guarantees of the people trying to sell them! Substances can also be added to the sample to detoxify some - if not all - drugs present within it.

Interestingly, an article in Wikipedia states that about five per cent of pre-employment urine samples test positive for drugs.

Saliva Analysis

The use of this test is becoming more prevalent because it is less intrusive than urine or blood testing, and it is harder to adulterate or dilute the specimen. This convenience of usage makes saliva testing preferable for use in “random drug testing,” where the presence of drugs can be detected almost immediately after use, and also the “level of intoxication” can be measured with greater accuracy.

Perspiration Drug Screen

So called sweat tests are not used for pre-employment screening, because a patch must be applied to the person’s skin to collect perspiration over a period of one to four hours. This test is used only when urine sampling is not practical, such as by parole departments and child protective services.

Blood Analysis

The blood test is essentially the same procedure as the urine or saliva analyses, except the specimens come from a different part of the body. But the blood test has disadvantages: it is more intrusive and costs more; also, the urine and saliva tests detect the presence of drugs or metabolites much sooner. The greatest advantage for the blood test – from the point of the view of the employer of course – is that it is much harder to tamper with the specimen.

Hair Analysis

This test is designed to find drug metabolites in any hair sample taken from the human body. Theoretically any drug consumed within the last 90 days can be detected with this test; however, if the person’s hair is very long, the time of detection could be considerably longer than 90 days. One disadvantage of the test is that it’s more expensive than other tests, because the hair sample has to be sent to a lab, from which it can take up to three days to receive the results.

Furthermore, hair samples can also be tampered with using chemicals, such as those found in shampoos and other hair treatments. For example, the testable amount of THC (marijuana) can be reduced by using such treatments, because THC isn’t readily absorbed by the epithelial cells in hair. Also keep in mind that it can take seven to 10 days after a drug is taken for a strand of hair to grow long enough to be cut and then tested. So if you want to beat this dreaded test, just make sure you use drugs immediately before taking the test.

Fingernail Analysis

Fingernails or toenails can also be tested for the presence of drugs. Similar to hair, which contains keratin, drug use in nails has been measured since 1984. A specimen is simply clipped from the body, thoroughly cleaned, and then liquefied and tested. The advantages of this test are that the specimen is almost impossible to alter in any way, and the test shows what drugs a person has taken in the last six to eight months (depending on the length of the nail).

Detection Time

While a hair test can detect just about any drug for up to 90 days, detection time varies greatly when one is given a urine, saliva or blood test. THC and benzodiazepine (sedatives) tend to stay in one’s system the longest, a time measured in weeks rather than days. Ironically perhaps, some of the most dangerous and addictive drugs – heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine – stay in one’s system for only three to five days. Therefore, it seems pot smokers and users of Valium and Librium (called benzos on the street) may risk the greatest chance of detection. Nevertheless, an occasional pot smoker can beat a urine analysis in as little as seven to 14 days.

(Incidentally, people often use benzos with methadone, creating a heroin-like high.)

Drug Testing for THC in California and Other States

In recent times, many states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Therefore, many people are probably wondering if having THC in one’s system during a drug test would disqualify a person for any particular job. The answer is yes, because marijuana is still illegal according to federal law, regardless of statewide legalization. However, this issue could be handled differently in say California, Oregon or Colorado. In the future, lawsuits and/or more state laws could affect the issue as well, so stay tuned.

Final Words

Keep in mind that it’s possible for people to get a “false positive” after taking a drug test. The Web site,, claims that more than 250 over-the-counter and prescription drugs can cause a false positive. For example, Ibuprofen can cause a false reading for THC; cold medications can do likewise for amphetamines; and antibiotics can cause a reading for cocaine. Also, according to a February 2011 episode of Mythbusters, eating poppy seeds before a test can give you a reading for opiates!

If you get a false positive, demand that you be given a second test. Unfortunately, corporations and governmental agencies seem to have all the rights regarding drug testing, but individuals still have some rights in this regard. However, you better act fast before even those rights disappear like the glaciers!

In conclusion, if you’re worried about the possible outcome of a drug test, educate yourself as much as possible before taking it. And if you’re really adventurous, try whatever countermeasure you deem acceptable given your code of ethics and/or level of necessity. Good luck!

Please leave a comment.

© 2010 Kelley Marks


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      5 years ago

      ihave fount that if you are not a heavy pot smoker jus drink plenty of water untill it runs clear and not yellow,also getting out in the yard or doing some kind of work out that will make you sweat a lot will greatly clean the toxins out also....

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      As little as you smoke, dill pickle, you could possibly pass a blood, urine or spit analysis after as little as 10 days. I know a guy who did that recently. If you're really worried about passing, buy one of those test kits and test yourself. Or go to some clinic and have them test you for THC. It'll cost a little money but at least you'll know for certain. Later!

    • profile image

      dill pickle 

      9 years ago

      I hadn't used any drugs in the past 5 months, then I went on vacation and smoked marijuanna. On the last day of my vaca, I received a call that I had been selected for a full time job at an airline(5 weeks after I applied). I know they drug test, not sure if it will be urine or swab? I had to buy the protox drink, but I don't even know my test date! I am scheduled for a 2nd interview today, and I assume that I will be given a test today if they decide to hire me. So, I am debating drinking this stuff now or just wait til I know for sure. It really sux that I may not get a job because I smoked a lil pot. Owell, if it's meant to be, it will work out.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      We believe we live in a democratic society, when in fact we live in a controlled communistic society. Just look at the new 2010-2011 penny... See the shield?? See the Latin phrase on the shield? When translated in says, From many come one... Sounds pretty "red" to me. They control us every day, new laws, new regulations and we no longer have a say in anything. This capitalistic world controls everything, especially our politicians!!! Get off your couches, step away from your computers and game consoles and lobby for action. They walk all over us because WE let them!!!

      Peace, love and freedom.


    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the insightful comment, CJamesIII. Drug testing is definitely out of control and unnecessary, but that's America at the present time. Later!

    • CJamesIII profile image


      10 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      The employment drug screening is out of control, and also for people receiving government benefits. It is a radical violation of one's privacy. Some industries I don't have a problem with if they wish to test, like education, police and fire fighters, airline pilots and those that operate heavy machinery, and so on. But if someone works for The Gap, that is ridiculous! They can't test for alcoholism, and that is the most prevalent drug problem in this country!

    • profile image

      ralph jeffrey 

      10 years ago

      the politicans are being bought of by the alcohol industry to keep drugs like weed ilegal.

    • profile image

      Erin Holladay 

      11 years ago

      Immartin, your employer has the right to drug test you randomly. However, you can prepare for this by purchasing a drug detox kit online. With their detox products you will be able to submit a urine, saliva, hair or blood sample for drug testing.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      11 years ago from Sacramento, California

      By adulteration tests, do you mean tests to see if the sample has been tampered with? Later!

    • gidtset profile image


      11 years ago

      What about adulteration tests?

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      11 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Yeah, it's generally okay to smoke and then drive but drinking a six-pack and then driving is certainly not recommended. Worse yet, you do both. Then the cops may drug test, whether you like it or not. Later!

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 

      11 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Kosmo. i know people that use them all the time. Mostly for pot. lol. What you do at home is your own buisness, as long as you are not doing it at work. If you smoke a bowl you can drive. If you drink a six pack you should not.

    • loveofnight profile image

      Loveofnight Anderson 

      11 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      there is a lot of good info here, i never knew that there were that many tests....

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      11 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks very much for the comments regarding drug testing. It seems employers want to have as much control over their employees as they possibly can, including the right to test their bodily fluids whenever they want. How did we ever allow them to do this? Later!

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      11 years ago from Ohio

      Great Hub Lots of important information many will benefit from. Here's hoping it gets in front of them... Funny story I have a friend that never uses drugs, runs heavy equipment and is sent for the "random" drug test at least 6 months out of the year. It's a joke they know he's clean and somehow he keeps getting pulled to take the test...makes me wonder. Great Job!

      Thanks and Peace :)

    • lmmartin profile image


      11 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      No that I'd have reason to worry about passing one, but I can't help believing such tests are an affront to our rights and our dignity. If I party Saturday night, how does that affect our job come Monday morning? Does my employer have the right to now what I do on my own time? I don't think so, but apparently the U.S. Supreme Court deems otherwise. Where will it end?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)