“What Kind of Drugs Will They Be Looking For?”

by Rick Cusick

So, you have to take a drug test. Well, you’re not alone. Up to 50 million drug tests are performed in the United States every year and that number is only going to increase in the near future. The vast majority of those are private sector pre-employment screens. There was a time not long ago when the idea of subjecting any American worker to a random suspicionless drug test was unthinkable; now, the practice is common. Almost half of all U.S. employees are subjected to some form of drug testing at some point in their employment. How did that happen?

That’s a sordid story you can read here, but first…

Holy Shit!! You have to take a drug test!!!

Relax… I was the associate publisher of High Times magazine for over ten years, and its co-editor for almost two. I created the magazine’s Drug Test column. I know how to beat a drug test. Over the years I’ve been privileged to help a lot of people get by while getting high, and the first question they ask is always the same:

“What kind of drugs are they looking for?”

Good Question.

The short answer is the SAMHSA 5: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and PCP.

The long answer is – maybe – the SAMHSA 9 including the five listed above plus hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires companies that employ operators of commercial class drivers’ licenses to have a drug test program and specifically to  test for the infamous SAMHSA 5. SAMHSA’s Mandatory Guidelines for Urine Testing outline every step of the process, and over time these standards have been adopted to include a wide variety of federal employees, all U.S. military personnel, all federally regulated industries including private companies with government contracts, private companies that bid for government contracts, and states and local governments which, by choice, adhere to the federal standards.

But on January 1, 2018, owing to an increasing opioid crisis, DOT fast-tracked test-panels for four new opioids: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone. This will increase the SAMHSA 5 to the SAMHSA 9 in 2018, and drug testing for these four additional opioids will trickle down into the private sector and become common throughout the American workspace in the very near future.

The private sector has far more leeway when it comes to employee drug testing, especially at the point of pre-employment. A private company can make any requirement a condition of employment as long as it does not violate the law.

So the bad news is when you’re looking for a job, a private company can legally test you for any drug whatsoever as a condition of employment; but the good news is they probably won’t because it’s expensive and time-consuming to go looking for less popular drugs. It’s cheaper to stick with SAMHSA 5 and 9, and in urine testing; the smart money goes with the flow.

So to answer your first question directly: in 2018 drug test administrators will continue to look for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP and a class of opiates that includes methadone, codeine and heroin.  But be forewarned: additional test panels for the new Big Bad – hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone – are right around the corner, if they’re not already here.