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You are Here: Home > Workplace > Drug Testing in the Workplace - 6

Drug Testing in the Workplace

Workplace Drug Testing Cutoff Levels

Initial Test
Drug Cutoff Levels
Drug/Metabolite ng/ml
Marijuana metabolites 50
Cocaine metabolites 150
Opiate metabolites 2000
Phencyclidine (PCP) 25
Amphetamines 500
 
Confirmatory Test
Drug Cutoff Levels
Drug/Metabolite ng/ml
Marijuana metabolites 15
Cocaine metabolites 100
Opiates:
 Morphine
 Codeine
 Heroin metabolite

2000
2000
10
Phencyclidine (PCP) 25
Amphetamines:
 Amphetamine
 Methamphetamine
 Ecstasy, X or XTC

250
250
250

Listed in the tables to your left are the most common illegal drugs or resulting chemical changes (metabolites) for which workplace drug testing screens. Cutoff levels are included.

A drug cutoff level is the least amount of a drug or resulting metabolites remaining in your body after use, that will cause you to fail workplace drug testing. In other words, if you test at or above the cutoff level for a drug, then you'll "flunk" the test. (More about that is below.) Cutoff levels are measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).

A nanogram is a mere one-billionth (0.000000001) of a gram, while a gram is only thirty-five thousandths (0.035) of an ounce. A milliliter is only one-thousandth (0.001) of a liter, while a liter is not quite a quart. It doesn't take much drug use to fail a workplace drug test.

In fact, you could fail after trying a drug only one time ever, too close to a random workplace drug test that you didn't know was coming. That's because it takes time after use for a drug or resulting metabolites to dissipate below the relevant cutoff level. See Drug Detection Time for Drug Testing in the Workplace for more about that.

The drug cutoff levels are based on urine chemical analysis (urinalysis) and were derived from the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, which includes the scientific and technical data for the Model Plan for a Comprehensive Drug-Free Workplace Program.

Both are published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Although they're exclusively for Federal workplace drug testing, they are considered to be among the "model guidelines" for all workplace drug testing.

All drug-testing labs certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are required to adhere to these cutoff levels. However, drug cutoff levels might be different at testing facilities that are not HHS certified.

Under SAMHSA's Guidelines, drug-testing labs conduct an initial test and then a more sophisticated confirmatory test, if the initial test shows illegal drug use. If the specimen you submit for workplace drug testing shows:

  • No illegal drug or resulting metabolites or shows one or the other below a cutoff level in the initial test, then the lab won't perform the confirmatory test and will report your test results as "negative" for the drug. In other words, you'll pass workplace drug testing for the drug in question.
  • An illegal drug or resulting metabolites at or above a cutoff level for both tests, then the lab will report your test results as "positive" for the drug. In other words, you'll fail workplace drug testing for the drug in question.

Expanded workplace drug testing screens for abuse of one to all of the following drugs, in addition to those listed in the tables above. However, at this writing, SAMSHA has not included cutoff levels for the drugs in its Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs.

  • Alcohol
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Barbiturates
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants

Drug Testing in the Workplace > 12345 • 6

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