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Complete Guide To 10-Panel Drug Tests

Drug testing is often a routine step in the pre-employment screening process — and for a good reason. Drug use on the job can cause accidents, conflicts, and liability issues that could be avoided if companies are able to identify drug use early on.


A 10-panel drug test is one of many screenings employers can use to detect prescription or illicit drugs. Read on to learn how the test works, what it screens for, and drug testing laws that candidates and employers should know. 

What Is A 10-Panel Drug Test?

A 10-panel drug test screens for ten different types of illegal substances and commonly abused prescription drugs, like Adderall and Xanax. An expanded 10-panel screening identifies the same substances plus additional opiate types, such as Oxycodone. Although 10-panel tests do not screen for the presence of alcohol, labs may offer an add-on to include alcohol detection.

Typically, 10-panel drug tests are used in the pre-employment screening process for law enforcement, medical professionals, government employees, and other industries where drug use may impact the safety of others. Taking a 10-panel drug test may also be a condition for probation, even if not convicted of a drug-related offense. 

What Does A 10-Panel Drug Screen Test For?

A 10-panel drug screen identifies metabolites in your system, which are chemicals that remain after your body metabolizes certain substances, like food or drugs. The 10-panel drug test screens for metabolites linked to the following drug types:

  • Amphetamines, such as ecstasy, crystal meth, or Ritalin
  • Phencyclidine, also called PCP or angel dust
  • Cocaine and crack cocaine
  • Opiates, such heroin, oxycodone, or hydrocodone
  • Marijuana
  • Barbiturates 
  • Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium 
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone, commonly referred to as Quaaludes
  • Propoxyphene 

In addition to the substances above, the 10-panel expanded test may check for additional opiates such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, codeine, and morphine. Typically, a urine sample is collected for the test, but sweat, hair, blood, or saliva may also be tested

10-Panel Drug Screen Detection Times

How long a drug can be detected in your system can vary depending on the type of sample taken, the type of drug used, and how often that drug is used. 

Certain drugs may be detectable for a longer period of time if used consistently. For example, marijuana could be detectable in urine for several weeks for regular smokers. Meanwhile, someone who smokes marijuana only occasionally may have no detectable THC in their system after just a few days. Alcohol can also affect the metabolism of drugs, leading to a more varied detection time frame.  

How Far Back Does A 10-panel Urine Test Go? 

Below is an approximate breakdown of how long a drug might be detectable in a urine drug test:

SubstanceDetection Time Frame
Amphetamines48 hours
Barbiturates24 hours to 3 weeks
BenzodiazepinesUp to six weeks for extended use
Cocaine2-4 days
Methadone~3 days
Opiates2-3 days
Propoxypheneup to 48 hours
Cannabinoids2-3 days for light smokers; 5 days for moderate smokers; 10 days for daily smokers; up to 28 days for chronic smokers
Phencyclidine~8 days, or up to 30 days for chronic users

Detection Times For Blood, Saliva, and Hair

The following are estimated time frames that drugs may be detectable in blood, saliva, and hair:

SubstanceBloodSalivaHair
Amphetamines~12 hours24-48 hoursup to 90 days
Barbiturates1-2 days1-3 daysup to 90 days
Benzodiazepines2-3 daysup to 10 daysup to 90 days
Cocaine1-2 daysup to 72 hoursup to 90 days
Methadone24-36 hourswithin several days of useseveral months
Opiatesup to 24 hoursup to 4 daysup to 90 days
PropoxypheneN/Aup to 36 hoursup to 90 days
Cannabinoidsup to 2 weeksup to 24 hoursup to 90 days
Phencyclidine1-4 hours1-3 daysup to 90 days

While blood is the most reliable specimen to test for drug use, you’ll notice above that substances may only be detected in the bloodstream for a few days. 

For that reason, blood testing may better indicate whether someone is currently (or was very recently) under the influence. Saliva specimens also have a relatively short drug detection window that varies depending on the drug.

Hair samples can better detect long-term drug use because the detection window can last 90 days or more. However, it may take seven to 10 days for hair growth to show a positive result, which can make a hair specimen less effective at revealing recent drug use. 

Urine testing is the industry standard for drug tests when employers are screening applicants, and it’s typically what applicants and candidates expect when they go to the lab. However, collecting urine does have its own downsides, including the potential for test-takers to attempt to tamper with the sample in some way to get a negative test result. 

Understanding The Results

After a sample is received, the results from a 10-panel drug test should be ready within a few business days, and the final report will show positive, negative, or inconclusive results. Here’s what they mean:

  • Positive means that metabolites in the sample exceed the test cutoff concentration. A test cutoff concentration is the amount of a substance that has to be present to trigger a positive result. 
  • Negative means that the test does not detect drug use or the substance detected is below the test cutoff level. 
  • Inconclusive means that a result wasn’t found, which can happen if the sample is watered down or there’s a reason to believe that the test was faulty. This could be due to a testing error or if someone drinks a lot of water or tries another method of diluting the urine to pass the test. 

Before pre-employment test results are sent to an employer, they are reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO). MROs are licensed physicians who are trained and certified to review and validate lab test results. They confirm positive test results to ensure it was not a false positive.

False positives can occur if you have chemicals in your system similar to what the test is designed to detect. For example, over-the-counter drugs — such as Sudafed or Robitussin — could cause a positive test result. 

When results are questionable, the MRO may reach out to the test taker to discuss any physician directed prescription drugs they may have taken or foods they may have eaten to gain more context before making a final decision. 

From there, employers are given the positive or negative test certification, and the test taker can dispute findings or request to have urine test results explained further. 

10-Panel Drug Testing Laws To Know

Federal law doesn’t prohibit drug testing, but there are rules employers must follow when testing job applicants and existing employees to maintain a drug free workplace. 

First, employers must ensure that drug tests are given fairly to all candidates and employees to be compliant with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This Act prohibits employers from treating employees differently due to their race, sex, religion, or nationality, which includes singling out protected classes for drug testing. 

Drug testing must also not infringe upon the rights of persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, under the ADA, employers can’t enforce different policies for those recovering from drug abuse or punish workers that have gone through rehabilitation or have a history of drug use. Additionally, employers should be cautious in their treatment of individuals with a medical marijuana card. Although the ADA does not explicitly require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for legal users of medical cannabis, 21 states prohibit discrimination against workers on the basis of medical marijuana use.

If you do a background check as part of the employment screening process, it’s important to note that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that employers notify new job applicants and employees of background checks ahead of time, and applicants have the right to review results and dispute errors. 

On a local level, states and major cities might have their own regulations for drug testing. For example, in some states, a conditional job offer has to be made before you can request that an applicant take a drug test.

Another factor to consider is the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and its impact on testing guidelines. Some states have decided to bar employers from making hiring and firing decisions based solely on marijuana use. 

For example, Nevada restricts disciplinary action based on a positive marijuana test, New York City prohibits pre-employment and current employee drug tests for marijuana for most roles, and Philadelphia prohibits pre-employment testing for marijuana for most roles as of Jan. 1, 2022. 

Get An Employment Drug Test With GoodHire

Coming up with a system to drug test employees can be a headache — and that’s where GoodHire can help. The GoodHire drug screening process is designed to help you meet workplace drug testing goals while complying with local and federal drug testing regulations. 

Adding the GoodHire drug testing process to your background screenings can give you a more comprehensive look at job candidates so you can make fully informed hiring decisions. With GoodHire 10-Panel and 10-Panel Quick Tests, you can get fast results within one to three days of testing, and you can rest assured that accuracy is verified by a Medical Review Officer.

Since laws on drug screenings can vary from location to location, it’s always good to consult with your legal counsel if you have questions when developing testing policies for existing employees and new job applicants.

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Disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.


About the Author

author karen axelton

Karen Axelton is a Southern California-based freelance writer specializing in business topics.