How long does a drug test take & how do you know if you failed? Not all employers will tell you!
Applying to jobs is already enough of a hassle. Sitting around and wondering if a pre-employment drug test is going to keep you from getting a job can cause a lot of damage to your mental health. Also stressful? The thought of a workplace drug test, which may unveil aspects of your private life that have no impact on your workplace performance. Now, we're not here to get political. We're here to help provide you with some helpful information about how a drug test and the workplace go together so you can be smart about it! The more you know about what actually happens with a drug test, the better prepared you'll be to successfully balance your smoking habits and the job that helps you afford them!
How do companies drug test?
There are four main methods of drug testing: a blood test, a saliva test, a urine test, and hair drug testing. Employers may have different reasons for choosing one type of test over another, and they may never disclose why they choose the method they do. As you can see in the picture below, hair tests go almost 100 days back, because certain drugs stay in your hair for up to 100 days (we've got a bit more info on hair testing here). The other three methods of drug screens can trace drugs back less than ten days, so let's hope your employer isn't taking this seriously enough to test your hair!
Some companies may require instant drugs testing. These are NOT actually used as drugs tests, but they do give a fairly accurate reading as to whether you’re likely to fail a Medical Review Officer (MRO) lab test or not. This method saves employers money, as they can simply instant test everyone, and then only send those whose test results fail the instant test to the lab.
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How long does a urine drug test take?
Drug screens are vital to some employers, particularly in the US. However, it’s certainly not confined to the US, with some jobs in the UK also requiring drug testing. Often you'll find posts with the military or police forces that require drug detection tests.The time it takes to receive your urine drug screen results will vary slightly, and will also depend on what types of drugs may be detected, be it marijuana or prescription drugs. We like to say that detection times will generally take about one working week when a urine test has been used.
If your initial test shows up positive you'll find that the results take longer to come in; this is especially true with a urine test. A positive result may take about 4-5 days. This is mainly because the lab will ensure whether or not you have shown up as a false positive, and will conduct the tests again. The second test is performed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. These two methods take longer, but are much less likely to be mistaken.
A negative (and therefore passed) drugs test should only take three business days. This should help you realise whether or not you’ve passed the test. This is by no means concrete, and you shouldn’t give up hope if you haven’t heard anything within four days. Some prescription drugs actually give false positive readings on test results, so if you take prescription pills, you may be waiting a long time to know whether you’ve passed or not.
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How long does a blood drug test take?
This is very similar to urine tests, but they are testing more for drugs that have been consumed within the last 24 hours to 48 hours. Blood drug testing is normally used as a pre-employment drug testing method.
A blood test will detect most drugs that have been consumed within the last 48 hours. This is the blood test time frame. So the obvious recommendation here is to say to curb your drug use habits in advance of going in for a job interview. Lay off for about two days so you put yourself in the best position possible for getting that job! It can be a challenge, we know, but we also know that a positive test result can be devastating. The pause in consumption is worth it!
How long does a hair drug test take?
Hair testing is different from both urine and blood tests, and is, if we may, probably the most unethical of all the drugs tests. This is because the number of days hair tests include in their results can be as high as 90 - 3 months! This could mean that they catch drugs you took before you started the job or when you were out for the weekend. The most ridiculous thing about this is that you can still be drugs tested and negatively impacted in states where marijuana is legal.
Getting results from a hair test will take longer than the others at 5-10 business days. Employers like this test because it's less invasive (ie you don’t have to pee into something or get a blood sample taken), but it's also one of the more expensive options for employers to take. This makes it a toss-up as to whether your employer will use it or not.
Keep reading for suggestions of how you can find out what type of test you should expect, for if your employer is using the hair test you'll want to know sooner rather than later!
Sets of drug test packages, photo: @americanscreeningllc
Does an employer have to tell you about drug testing?
Will I be notified if I fail a drug test?
Employers don’t legally have to tell you the drug test results after they run a drug screen, but most will share results. This is mainly because the applicant or employee will be brought in for further questioning and potential termination of their contract if they test positive for drug usage. That means if you fail a drugs test, you may be getting a call from the lab that conducted the testing. This isn't a guarantee however; they may call your employer first.
MRO drug testing
MRO stands for Medical Review Officer. The MRO is a physician who is responsible for receiving and then reviewing laboratory test results. They work with employers to ensure that their drug testing is impartial, and it’s incredibly important to MROs that their work is 100% accurate, as obviously they are responsible for peoples’ lives and jobs. One main focus is to ensure that no one is accused of having drugs in their system based on a false positive. Drug test results will not usually lead to the MRO calling you (though they could), but they will instead release the results to your employer. The MRO has final say over the results of a drugs test.
What does a positive drugs test mean?
A positive drugs test usually means that you’ve failed the drugs test, and you probably won’t get the job or you’ll lose your current position. A false positive drugs test means that something else in your body, or in the lab, has indicated a positive drugs test. As stated above, laboratories will usually re-run a test if it came out positive the first time to make sure the results aren't a false positive.
Worknet drug testing
Worknet is an occupational medicine company, which offers comprehensive drug and alcohol testing. If you have an employee who engages in substance abuse, maybe they're an alcoholic, then Worknet will strive to help this employee, and ensure that they’re not drinking. They design testing programs, how to collect specimens, and also how to deal with daily questions and problems from employees. They are fully compliant with all the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. They use proper drugs labs, and they have their own MRO to carry out the actual testing. Drug abuse doesn't benefit anyone in the end, so social programs like Worknet aim to turn "drug abuse" into a thing of the past.
How to pass a laboratory drugs test
Well, let’s hope this never happens to you! Photo: @my_ego_told_me_to
How to find out if a company does drug tests
Most state laws require employers to inform (potential and new) employees that they do drug screen tests. There are, therefore, two ways to find out if a company conducts drugs tests:
- Ask them (risky, may raise suspicion, just generally in the first few months of a dream job don’t smoke!)
- Block your number, inquire about jobs at the company, ask if they do drugs tests
Drug testing is part of the working world; sometimes stoners just can't catch a break! Blood and urine testing are fairly simple and aren't able to detect drugs that have been in your system for very long. Hair testing, on the other hand, is the trickier one, because the number of days hair tests can go back up to three months.
Whether you need to stop yourself from lighting up your blunt for a bit in preparation for a pre-employment drug test, or you know your drug use is about to be detected by your current employer, knowing about the possibilities for testing will only help you in the end. Sure, this may require you to change your habits a little, you may take a few days off, but if it's in an effort to get or save your job then we say it's well worth it!
Written by Megan Medeiros (BA)
Megan Medeiros has a bachelor’s degree in English and is currently working on a master’s in English at James Madison University. She's the owner and operator of Medeiros Writing, and has been working as a cannabis writer for the past three years, mostly following the legal climate of marijuana, especially in areas like California, Colorado, Oregon, Canada, and other legal areas.
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page. All photos were sourced from Pinterest.com | updated 2021
Have you had experiences with drug testing? What questions do you still have? Leave us a comment below!