What Is a 10-Panel Drug Screen Test?

by Scott Krohn; Updated September 26, 2017
Medical urine test, close-up

The 10 panel drug test detects both street drugs and pharmaceuticals. Intelligence gathered from these tests can confirm recent drug use by people applying for employment, as well as existing employees in some cases, to help private companies define and manage potential risks. While a prospective employer cannot force someone applying for a job to submit to this test, it is within an employer's rights to consider a refusal to take the test as grounds not to hire that applicant.

Use of the 10 Panel Drug Test

The 10 panel drug test is the most frequently used screening regimen for private employers that are not required to administer the more stringent U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug-testing rules for employees. According to policies set forth by the U.S Department of Labor, non-union companies in the private sector can require their employees to take this type of test, while drug testing policies in unionized businesses must be negotiated. This test screens a total of 10 drugs, five of which are classified as “street drugs” and five of which are pharmaceuticals. It enables an employer to determine whether prospective or current employees have recently used drugs that might impair on-the-job performance or create safety issues.

Screened Drugs

The categories of street drugs screened by the test are amphetamines, THC, cocaine, phencyclidine and opiates. The drugs within these categories are crystal meth, marijuana, angel dust, and heroin. The pharmaceutical categories tested are barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methaqualone, methadone, and propoxyphene. The common drugs names in these categories include reds, Valium, Xanax, Quaaludes, and Darvon. Urinalysis, unlike blood tests that detect the actual presence of drugs, tests for substances referred to as metabolites that remain in the system with markers that identify the specific drug after it has been broken down by the body.

The Procedure

This drug test is initiated with the collection of a urine sample from the person being tested. The employer can select a venue such as a doctor’s office, or an area at the workplace that has been specified for this purpose. Precautions to ensure a clean test at the workplace typically include dying toilet water and shutting off water at the faucets. The next step is referred to as the “initial screening”. If there is a positive indication, a second confirmation test is performed using a highly accurate spectrometry to either find false positives of confirm the results of the initial screening. The two screenings must match for the test to be ruled as a positive.

Limitations of the Test

The 10 panel drug test can only detect recent drug use, as the metabolites that serve as indicators for specific drugs can be washed out of the body within a matter of days. For example, metabolites that indicate the use of opiates, such as heroin and morphine, can be broken down in as little as 48 hours. Metabolite indicators for crystal meth can be eliminated by the body even faster, disappearing within 24 hours. The drugs with indicators that take the longest to be fully dissolved by the body are Valium and Xanax, which can be broken down within seven days.

About the Author

After working for 21 years as a licensed adviser specializing in corporate and private finance, Scott Krohn began his writing career in 2008 covering a variety of topics including business, personal finance, health, and IT. He graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach with Bachelor of Arts degree.

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