Guide to 10-Panel Drug Tests

Denise Hemke
December 02, 2022
4 min read

Employers may use a 10-panel drug screen to maintain a safe and productive workplace and reduce liability. For some industries with safety and security-sensitive positions, such as construction and healthcare, or those regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), drug testing is required to maintain a drug-free workplace.

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What is a 10 -panel drug test?

A 10-panel drug test is a type of drug screening used to detect the presence of ten types of illegal and commonly abused controlled substances. It’s one of several types of drug tests that may be used during a pre-employment drug screening, periodic employee testing, or following a workplace incident.

What shows up on a 10-panel drug test?

A 10-panel drug screen detects drug metabolites in a specimen, which are chemicals that remain in the body after metabolizing a substance. A 10-panel drug test screens for the following drug types:

  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methadone
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)

A urine drug test, also called urinalysis, is the most common method for sample collection, but a 10-panel drug screen can also be administered using sweat, hair, blood, or saliva.

Regardless of sample type, the results of a 10-panel drug test are reported as one of the following:

  • Negative meaning the drug wasn’t found, the test cutoff concentration was too low, or there was a positive result but the candidate has a prescription for the drug.
  • Positive meaning there was a positive result at or above the test cutoff concentration or the candidate doesn’t have a matching prescription.
  • Inconclusive results may come in different forms. For instance, the urine sample may be diluted, substituted, or have an abnormal PH. Employers may wish to ask the candidate to retake an inconclusive test.

While urine drug tests are considered highly accurate, they can result in false positives, particularly when a candidate has consumed poppy seeds, CBD, or certain over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs. These often share similarities with the substances the test is detecting, which is why candidate’s might be told not to eat certain foods or take optional medications before testing.

Detection times for a 10-panel drug screen

The 10-panel drug screen detection times—or how far back the test can detect a substance—depend on the drug, dosage, and the metabolism of the individual. The following shows the typical testing window for a urine drug test:

SubstanceDetection time frame
Amphetamines1-3 days
Cocaine2-4 days
Marijuana2-5 days for occasional users, and up to 10 days for daily users
Opiates2-3 days
Phencyclidine (PCP)Up to 30 days for chronic users
Barbiturates2 days to 3 weeks depending on if the barbiturate is short- or long-acting
BenzodiazepinesUp to 6 weeks for chronic users
PropoxypheneUp to 2 days
MethadoneFor about 3 days
MethaqualoneFor about 2 weeks

The sample type can also impact the detection time and accuracy of a test. While urine tests are the most commonly used, a hair test may show drug usage—and patterns—over the previous 90 days.

On the other hand, saliva tests are a non-invasive option that employers can immediately collect from an employee, but detection is limited to the previous few days. Additionally, while blood is the most accurate specimen, the detection window is also very limited.

How long does a 10-panel drug test take?

Drug test results are generally available within three business days, but timing can depend on the specimen, clinic, and results. Specimens that require additional testing, samples that must be shipped to a lab, paper-based clinics, and results that require follow-up with a Medical Review Officer (MRO) may extend the turnaround time. An MRO is a licensed physician with specialized training who reviews and validates drug test results.

At Checkr, all 10-panel drug screens are reviewed by a certified MRO. When there’s a non-negative result, the MRO will follow up with the candidate for context. If the candidate is unable to be reached within 72 hours, the test results will be returned as positive with a note indicating such. Due to this potential back and forth, results that require MRO communication may take up to 10 days for a final result.

Drug testing laws to know

Although there is no federal law prohibiting most private employers from drug testing, employers should be aware of other applicable laws to ensure their drug-testing policies are compliant. Federal government employees, contractors, and grantees may also need to comply with state and federal drug testing requirements.

Several important federal laws relating to screening and hiring include:

  • The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers using drug testing as part of a background check to comply with applicable disclosure and authorization and allow the candidate to review the results and dispute any errors.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from using drug testing in a discriminatory fashion against people in protected classes, including race, sex, religion, or nationality.
  • The Drug-free Workplace Act requires certain federal contractors and grantees to have a formal drug-free workplace policy and awareness program, and to notify the contracting agency if a covered employee is convicted of a criminal drug violation.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids employers from terminating, refusing to hire, or refusing to promote someone because they’re in a rehabilitation program or have a history of substance abuse.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to give eligible employees time off to treat a drug or alcohol addiction, related illness or injury, or care for a close family member who is in a program.
  • The National Labor Relations Act (NRLA) requires employers to negotiate and agree on their drug-testing programs for unionized workers in a formal collective bargaining process.

Employers also should be careful to comply with local and state laws. For example, many states have decriminalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, which can impact how employers can respond to a positive marijuana drug test. Other states and major cities have enacted their own drug testing regulations. For example, Nevada prohibits employers from refusing to hire someone due to a positive marijuana test; New York City and Philadelphia prohibit employers from requiring a pre-employment marijuana test for most jobs.

Get an employment drug test with Checkr

Checkr offers multiple drug screening options, including standard 5-, 9-, 10-panel and DOT-regulated employment drug tests. Our advanced platform streamlines drug screening with simplified ordering and easy-to-read reports, while our extensive network of labs delivers timely, reliable results. Customizable packages enable employers to easily add an employment drug test as part of a comprehensive background check, and candidates can self schedule at one of 6,100 clinic locations across the country.

Checkr is a trusted partner for efficient screening and informed hiring decisions–get started today.

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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

As Chief Product Officer at Checkr, Denise is responsible for leading the product vision, teams, and roadmap to deliver customer delight and innovation while advancing our mission of building a fairer future. Denise brings a relentless focus on customer success, adoption, and innovation to meet our customers’ needs.

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