What Are the Most Common Substances Detected in Workplace Drug Tests?

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Identifying the most common substances detected in workplace drug tests is important for employers and employees alike. The most frequently detected drugs include marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines. These substances are commonly tested for because they can impair performance and pose safety risks in the workplace.

Employers often utilise Drug Testing Kits for professional use to ensure accuracy and compliance with legal standards. Reliable and non-invasive methods, like saliva and urine tests, are widely and openly used, because they are effective and do detect recent drug use. Blood and hair tests also available out there, especially when looking for long-term drug usage or confirming immediate impairment.

Understanding which substances are most commonly detected and how tests are administered can help maintain a safer and more productive work environment. To implement a new drug policy or update your existing procedures or even to know the specifics of workplace drug tests can really help to make better decisions for the company.

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Overview of Workplace Drug Testing

Workplace drug testing is a necessary practice so the working environment is safe for everyone and can also boost productivity. Both important for every companies. 

Legal Framework and Objectives

Employers must follow a legal framework designed to uphold fairness and privacy. Drug testing policies need to be clearly communicated and must include:

  • Reasons for testing
  • Types of tests used
  • Testing procedures
  • Consequences of positive results

Consent from employees is absolutely necessary, and data protection laws must be followed too. This way, the process respects employees’ rights and maintains confidentiality. Both paramount in the process. The main objectives of workplace drug testing include:

  • Improving safety
  • Reducing accidents and errors
  • Promoting a drug-free environment

Common Testing Methods

There are various methods available and are used to detect drug use. These are the most common types:

  • Urine Tests: The most frequently used method, suitable for detecting recent drug use.
  • Saliva Tests: Non-invasive and quick, ideal for on-site testing.
  • Hair Tests: Can detect drug use over a longer period, up to 90 days.

Random drug testing is also practised to deter drug use, as employees are aware they could be tested at any time. 

Substances Commonly Detected

Workplace drug tests often check for a variety of substances that can affect safety and performance. The most common drugs screened include cannabis, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, PCP, alcohol, and benzodiazepines.

Cannabis and Its Metabolites

Cannabis, also known as marijuana or weed, is one of the most frequently detected drugs in workplace tests. The tests usually look for THC and its metabolites, such as THC-COOH. Even though some places have legalised marijuana, it remains illegal in many areas, and workplaces often have strict no-drug policies.

The detection window for cannabis can vary. It can remain in the body for days or even weeks on occasions, depending on how frequently it’s been used. Urine tests are common, but hair tests can detect longer use histories. 

Cocaine and Its Metabolites

Cocaine, a powerful stimulant, is also regularly found in drug tests. Tests typically identify benzoylecgonine, a primary metabolite of cocaine. This substance can be detected in urine for up to three days after use.

Cocaine is often used for its intense but short-lived effects. It’s necessary to point out, that this drug poses numerous health risks and can lead to serious legal consequences if found in your system during a workplace test.

Opiates and Opioids

Opiates like morphine and codeine, along with synthetic opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl, are commonly detected in workplace drug tests. These substances are often prescribed for pain but can also be highly addictive. However – the workplace must be aware of prescriptions of any opiates.

Opiates are usually detected through urine tests. The presence in the system can range from a few days to a week. Their misuse is closely monitored due to the risk of dependency (and to prevent overdose).

Amphetamines and Methamphetamines

Amphetamines and methamphetamines are stimulants that are regularly checked for in drug screening. These substances include legal drugs like Adderall and illegal substances like meth.

These drugs can be detected in urine for up to three days. They are commonly abused for their performance-improving and euphoric effects but pose serious health risks, including addiction and cardiovascular problems.

Phencyclidine (PCP)

Phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP or angel dust, is a hallucinogenic drug that can be detected in drug tests. It can appear in urine for up to a week after use.

PCP is known for its severe psychological effects, including hallucinations and aggressive behaviour. Its use is dangerous and highly discouraged in any workplace setting.


Alcohol is frequently included in workplace drug tests, especially for safety-sensitive positions. Breath tests and urine tests are common methods to detect alcohol consumption.

Alcohol can impair motor functions and decision-making skills. Even though it is legal to consume, it is important that workers do not show up to work under its influence, as it can highly affect safety and productivity.


Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are prescribed for anxiety and insomnia but are also tested in workplaces due to their potential for abuse. These drugs can be detected in urine for up to a week.

While they are effective for treating various conditions, misuse can result in serious side effects, including drowsiness and dependency. It is important for employees using these medications under a doctor’s prescription to inform their employers.

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