As part of the application process, job applicants may be required to be screened for drug and alcohol use prior to being hired or as a contingency of a job offer. Employees may be tested for drugs or alcohol in the workplace, where permitted by state law.
There are a variety of employment-related drug and alcohol tests used by employers. The types of drug tests which show the presence of drugs or alcohol include urine drug tests, blood drug tests, hair drug tests, breath alcohol tests, saliva drug screens, and sweat drug screens.
Here's information on the types of drug tests employers utilize, when applicants and employees are screened, and what types of drugs are tested for.
Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Screening
Hiring can be contingent upon passing pre-employment drug and alcohol tests and screenings. Drug testing laws vary by state. In some cases, the law requires drug testing.
For example, industries regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation are covered by federal or state drug testing requirements. In some states, there are limits to when and how drug screening can be conducted.
Breath Alcohol Tests
Breath alcohol testing devices, commonly known by the term for one type of device - Breathalyzer - measure how much alcohol is currently in the blood. Breath alcohol tests show current levels of impairment or intoxication, not past use.
Blood Drug and Alcohol Tests
A blood drug test may be used when job applicants or employees are screened for illegal drugs. A blood test measures the amount of alcohol or drugs in the blood at the time the blood is drawn.
Drugs that are screened for in a typical blood test for employment purposes include amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.
Hair Drug Tests
A hair drug test provides a 90-day window of drug use. It doesn’t indicate current impairment due to drugs, only past use. A hair drug test does not detect alcohol use. Hair can be tested for cocaine, marijuana, opiates, methamphetamine, and phencyclidine.
Mouth Swab Drug and Alcohol Tests
A mouth swab drug test, also known as a saliva test or oral fluids test, collects saliva from inside the job applicant’s or employee's mouth. The saliva is tested for use of drugs during the previous few hours up to one to two days. Saliva is easy to collect and test, so this is one of the simplest and least invasive types of drug testing.
Urine Drug and Alcohol Tests
A urine drug test is the most commonly used test when job applicants or employees are screened for illegal drugs or alcohol use. Urinalysis shows the presence of drug residues that remain in the body after the effects of the drug have worn off.
Drugs that are screened for in a typical urine drug test for employment purposes include amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.
Urine tests may be required as part of pre-employment screening or may be conducted randomly by employers, especially for employees in certain occupations.
Passing a Drug Test
Prospective employees may be required to be screened for drug and alcohol use prior to being hired. Employees may be tested for drugs or alcohol in the workplace.
When Employers Drug Test
When do employers drug test? Employers may drug test as part of the pre-employment hiring process and also may test employees for drugs and alcohol use under certain circumstances.
Company Drug and Alcohol Test Policies
Many companies test job applicants for illegal drug use as part of the employment hiring process. In addition, employees may be screened for drug and/or alcohol use, where permitted by state law. Review a sample company drug test policy that specifies how and when the company screens for drug and alcohol use.