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Why are there different drug test panels?

different drug test panels

4 panel – 5 panel – 9 panel – 10 panel – 12 panel

Why is it necessary to have so many different drug test panels? And, a panel means nothing on its own it’s just a description of how many tests it does at once.

A 4-panel device identifies four drugs, a 5-panel detects five drugs, and a 10-panel identifies ten drugs and so on. When putting together a test or panel for drugs of abuse it’s important to understand what drugs are to be tested and why. Employers should make sure their employees are screened for the correct drugs and that it matches their Employee Drug-Free Workplace Policy.

Here are some examples; a 4-panel may test for Marijuana, Opiates, Cocaine, and Amphetamines, but could just as easily test for Oxycodone, Benzodiazepines, Methamphetamines, or Ecstasy. The important thing to understand is that this example only identifies four substances, which makes it a 4-panel test.

The choice to the number of panels may be influenced by profession, state laws, and company experiences.

There seems to be no strict definition of which drugs should be tested and how many panels used. NIDA does, however, make some recommendations and it’s worth taking a look.

different drug test panels
4-panel urine dip test.

Different Drug Test Panels

Who or what decides why there are different drug test panels? In some cases, it’s the influence of test labs that have developed different panels to suit the specific needs of their clients. In some cases, particularly now many states have legalized marijuana the need to detect five drugs with a 5-panel has been eliminated in preference to a 4-panel urine analysis; the cost savings by testing for fewer drugs are negligible. Larger corporations, staffing agencies, and smaller employers may decide to customize their panel by adding Methamphetamine instead of Phencyclidine.

A five-panel device is often the analysis of choice by companies, individuals who want to pre-test will use a ten-panel to cover all bases before their company test; this is common practice and sensible. In industries where heavy machinery is operated or company are vehicles used, their test may vary from a five-panel to a ten-panel. A ten-panel is the device of choice. In these situations, it will include some prescription drugs as these are often the substance of choice and abused to the point where it is likely to impair their ability to operate machinery in a safe manner.

There are many variations of a five-panel device that may include Oxycodone, Ecstasy, Cocaine, Opiates, Amphetamines, or Meth; there is no standard and it may require some research to decide what would best suit you.

A typical ten-panel device is often used to test employees in law enforcement and occupational medicine, as well as a person on legal probation. Further, many civil servants are required to pass a 10 panel screen, particularly if their job entails dangerous work or work where the employee is responsible for the safety of others.

A standard 10-panel device would screen for Amphetamines, Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Opiates, Methadone, Propoxyphene, and Methamphetamines.

A twelve-panel device is often administered as an extension to the 10 panel test and looks for either the presence of other opiate-based drugs and prescription opioids or can look for other controlled substances.

different drug test panels
10 panel urine drug screen cup.

A standard 12-panel device typically screens for Amphetamines, Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates, Buprenorphine, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Opiates, Oxycodone, Methadone, Propoxyphene, and Methamphetamines.

There are many different drug test panels available, each of them suits a particular need for a specific situation. If you want to see more drug panel combinations from 1-panel drug tests to 14-panel cup drug tests, click here.

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