What is a 10 Panel Drug Test?

What is a 10 Panel Drug Test?

Young pretty nurse listening to her sick patient
A drug test may be the start of a tough conversation.

Drug tests can be a confusing world for businesses large and small alike. But they’re crucial to any background check process, especially for certain industries and jobs, and the more comprehensive, the better. So what do you need to know about 10-panel drug tests?

Drug Tests: The Basics

A “panel,” in terms of a drug test, is a specific drug the test looks for. In the case of a ten-panel drug test, the test will look for marijuana; cocaine; opiates such as heroin; amphetamines; methamphetamines; methadone; barbituates; phencyclidine, a common ingredient of hallucinogenic drugs; propoxyphene, a relatively rare opioid; and benzodiazepines. You might notice a fairly common drug that’s not on that list, alcohol, and that’s an important gap to be aware of.

These tests don’t look for the drugs, per se, but metabolites, chemicals these drugs create as they interact with body chemistry that are expressed in our bodily fluids. A positive result is when metabolites above a certain level are found, and as a result, tests may not spot casual users. This is why ten-panel tests are so popular and why they include relatively obscure street drugs; since you’re doing the test, you can cover all your bases. Generally, a drug test takes one to two business days to get results. If a result comes back positive, the test is conducted again to confirm the presence of metabolites, which usually takes two to three business days after the screening is conducted.

One important legal issue to be aware of is that employees aren’t generally required to disclose their medical history, including the prescription medications they might be taking, unless it poses a safety issue for the applicant or their future co-workers. For example, somebody using pain medication can do a desk job, but shouldn’t be driving a truck. Further, federal law prohibits discrimination based on medical conditions. This is further muddied in the case of marijuana, which is legal either medically or recreationally in some states, but not federally. The law around this issue is still evolving and HR departments should tread carefully as a result.

When To Test?

a printout of the results of a drug testing analysis
Get the results before you make an offer.

Drug tests are a useful tool on multiple levels. The most obvious is when looking for employees who will be using heavy machinery, engage in delicate manufacturing work, or otherwise engaged in activities that might put themselves, their coworkers, and the general public at risk if done incorrectly. That said, most businesses that drug-test employees make it an all-or-nothing proposition, and it may be required that you do so by business that you have contracts with.

At its most basic, drug tests protect you from liability and lost productivity. Even if a driver is impaired, liability for accidents caused by an employee on the clock fall to the company that hired them. Similarly, drug addiction is a serious illness that more than twenty million Americans struggle with on a daily basis and like any chronic illness, it can make completing tasks at work difficult. HR departments need to balance finding the right applicants against potential liability, and drug tests can help you find the right employee for the job, one you can trust to get it done.

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