Pre-Employment Drug Screening Companies

Businesses spend $740 billion annually on direct medical costs, increased health care costs, absenteeism, lost productivity, and more due to substance abuse. To help you prevent massive financial losses, preserve your workplace safety, and nurture a spotless reputation, we selected the most reliable pre-employment drug screening providers. 

Given that most illicit drug users (13.4 million) are employed, every responsible organization should have a drug policy in place. Scroll down for a vetted list of drug screening providers and a guide on how to pick the most fitting company for your needs. 

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The Best Pre-Employment Drug Testing Services

Sterling Logo

Sterling

People First, Always.

Since 1975, Sterling has been focused on helping organizations build trust and safety for their employees, customers, and business partners. Over 40,000+ businesses globally rely on Sterling’s advanced employee background check solutions to recruit, hire, and monitor their teams. With decades of experience, expertise in dozens of industries, multiple integrations, and fast turnaround times, Sterling is one of the best employee background check providers to hire.

  • Civil and Criminal Records Checks
  • Employment Background Checks
  • International Background Checks
  • MVR Checks
  • Social Media Background Checks
Accurate Logo

Accurate

Screening, optimized.

With a 98.5% client retention rate, 90% first call resolution, and a team of 1,700+ screening experts, AccurateNow is the go-to provider of background check services for small businesses. Marrying advanced processes and intelligent technology, AccurateNow provides an optimized background screening experience for both candidates and employers. Its employee background check process delivers a 99.99% accuracy rate, allowing employers to hire with peace of mind.

  • Business Intelligence
  • Employment Credit Checks
  • Employment Background Checks
  • International Background Checks
  • MVR Checks
Intelifi Logo

Intelifi

Better Background Checks.

Intelifi is both a software developer and data provider. Bringing together the best of both worlds, it offers comprehensive screening solutions, built-in compliance tools, human and AI record reviews, and seamless functionality. The firm is committed to providing the highest quality data for clients to make more informed hiring and renting decisions. More than 10,000 businesses are growing with Intelifi’s EMERGE screening platform and comprehensive background checks.

  • Tenant Screening Services
  • Employment Background Checks
  • Criminal Records Checks
  • MVR Records
  • Drug Screening
Peopletrail logo

Peopletrail

Discover the Safest Hiring Trail With Peopletrail's Advanced Employment Background Checks.

Peopletrail is a premier employment screening company known for its unique Actionable Insights model. It means organizing data in the reports in a way that will further assist hiring managers in their decision-making process, all that with an industry-leading turnaround time of 1.6 days. Over 20,000+ businesses use Peopletrail as their criminal background company of choice.

  • Personal Background Checks
  • Employment Background Checks
  • Criminal Records Checks
  • Social Media Background Checks
  • International Background Checks
IntelliCorp Logo

IntelliCorp

Advance Your Hiring Practices

Established in 1996, IntelliCorp is committed to continued investment in new products and technologies, superior customer care, and forward-thinking leadership. Its screening solutions cover diverse needs from pre-employment to tenant screening. The company offers one the best background checks for employers including reliable healthcare screening packages and add-ons that provide extra protection for this highly regulated industry.

  • Healthcare Background Checks
  • Tenant Screening Services
  • Employment Background Checks 
  • International Background Checks 
  • Drug Screening

Vetting the Best Pre-employment Drug Screening Companies — Our Selection Criteria

We have developed bulletproof selection criteria and compared multiple drug screening services to compile a list of the most reliable options on the market. You can learn more about our evaluation process below.

First Phase: Checking Companies’ Reputation and Compliance

Employers must follow strict rules during their hiring process. These include the laws in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Ban the Box, Fair Hiring Laws, and other federal and state-specific laws.

On top of these employment laws, companies must follow state compliance for pre-employment drug screening. The pre-employment drug test procedure in the DOT-regulated industries, for instance, is further governed by the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing program, among other laws and regulations. Pre-employment drug testing laws by state also vary. Every year, there are changes to marijuana laws, for example, making it even more challenging to keep up with the latest updates. That’s why we list only trusted employment background check companies that have been verified for compliance across all vertices, including drug screening.

We continue our evaluation process of companies offering drug screening for employment services with web research and examine their online presence. We visit their websites, evaluate the site experience, and ensure they have HTTPS internet security protocol in the site URL, precise explanations of their services, and secure payment gateways. We continue our search on the web, reading reviews on reputable third-party sites, getting in touch with past clients, and surveying them.

Second Phase: Rigorous Testing

Once we form a preliminary list of companies, we start testing their abilities. This process includes evaluating the scope and effectiveness of their employment drug screening programs and other services, customer support check, and speed.

Substance Coverage

Typically, pre-employment drug tests detect past use of the following substances: 

Testing for marijuana use: Is it necessary and relevant? 

Medical marijuana is legalized in most US states, and an increasing number of states are legalizing its recreational use. Most employers still include marijuana panels in their drug tests despite the decriminalization. Employers are allowed to test, but how should they handle a positive result if their state allows marijuana use?

Working “under the influence” is forbidden, but given that marijuana can stay in one’s system between two days and five weeks, employment drug testing methods can’t prove whether an employee was under the influence during work hours or in their free time. 

Employers are divided between following contradictory state and federal laws and having difficulties acting upon positive results in states where marijuana use isn’t restricted. We handpicked experienced drug testing companies aware of the complexity surrounding marijuana use and pre-employment drug testing laws by state. These outfits can advise clients on the best practices regarding building a bulletproof employment drug policy and handling positive results in accordance with the laws.

Evaluating the Pre-employment Drug Screening Process

The drug screening process should include: 

    1. Written employment drug testing policy and process

As an employer, you have to provide fair treatment to everyone. If you decide to conduct pre-employment drug testing, you need to prepare a well-defined employment drug testing policy in written form at least 30 days before hiring a consumer reporting agency to assist you with the process. Due to the ever-changing and very complex rules and regulations regarding drug screening, having a reliable drug screening partner is critical to help you keep your hiring process fair, consistent, and compliant. 

     2. Notice that you intend to conduct pre-employment and random drug testing and obtain written consent

Employers must notify candidates and employees of the pending pre-employment drug testing with a written standalone form. They should also ask the individuals for consent to be tested and receive the permissions in written form. The drug testing window should be short enough to prevent cheating but should still fall within reasonable time frames, preferably 24 hours. 

    3. Instructions for candidates and employees to complete their drug tests

Your chosen company will guide you through the entire pre-employment drug screening process, so you can explain to your applicants and employees where to go and how to complete the drug tests. To avoid diluted urine samples, the best employment drug testing companies ask the subjects to limit their fluid intake, avoid diuretics, provide the urine early in the morning, bring any prescriptions they currently take, etc. 

    4. Complete the test

The companies on our list work with exceptionally well-trained staff that collects samples in a highly controlled environment, limiting access to any tools, and chemicals that can produce false-negative results. 

    5. Track the chain of custody

The most reliable companies require a valid photo ID from each candidate. They have a system that allows you to track the pre-employment drug testing process from collecting the sample through the analysis, preparation of results, and sample disposal. 

    6. Medical review

We curated a list of pre-employment drug screening companies that work with expert-level medical review officers for accurate results. If a candidate tests positive, the officer should follow best practices to verify factors that may have impacted the outcome, like medical records and prescriptions, and perform a confirmation test if needed. 

    7. Taking actions in accordance with laws and regulations

If you decide to take an adverse hiring decision based on the information from the drug test or other part of the background check report, you must follow the adverse action process outlined by the FCRA. Failure to adhere to these guidelines can result in charges, fines, and other undesired events. The top agencies on our list provide guidelines on how you can use the information they report compliantly.

Pre-employment Drug Screening Services

We curated a list of companies with extensive lab networks that can provide a variety of tests, including DOT-approved drug panels. 

Types of pre-employment drug tests

We selected companies that collaborate with reputable laboratories offering various drug tests, allowing employers to choose based on their industry requirements and business needs. 

Urine tests

Urine drug testing is the most common drug test for employment and is the only type approved for industries and positions requiring mandatory testing. Urinalysis can show the presence of a controlled substance days after the consumption. These tests typically cover five to 10 drug types. 

Saliva tests

Saliva drug testing is the second most common method to perform drug screening for employment. Also known as a mouth swab test, employers usually use it to test recent drug use. Saliva tests can detect usage within a few hours to up to two days, making them unsuitable for longer-term drug testing. Applicants are advised to avoid food and beverage intake at least 10 minutes before sample collection. Swab tests are easier to collect, less prone to adulteration, and can detect various drugs. 

Hair tests

Hair testing is another option for pre-employment drug screening. It determines long-term drug usage as these tests can cover 90+ days of substance abuse. Lab personnel closely monitor the sample collection, leaving no space for adulteration or substitution. 

Blood screen tests

Blood tests are usually used to track the presence of drugs in one’s system at the time of testing, from minutes to hours. It is a legitimate way for an employer to determine if an employee is working under the influence. Still, these tests aren’t very effective in detecting drugs for extended periods. This type of employment drug testing also leaves very little room for adulteration as professionals collect the samples. 

Rapid tests

Rapid drug tests are used to detect the usage of drugs that metabolize quickly. These tests are often performed at the workplace or in selected nearby laboratories. Urine and saliva are the most common samples used in rapid drug tests. Their significant advantage is that the results are ready in as little as four hours and sometimes instantly. If the result is positive, it may require a confirmatory test that takes between two and three days. 

Panel Drug Tests

We looked for multi-panel employment drug testing companies that also include DOT-required drug panels. The panel refers to a family of drugs or a drug included in the test. Employers can choose which panels to have in their pre-employment or random tests. More extensive panels allow for testing on a wider variety of drugs and provide an additional layer of security upon hiring. 

If you are operating in a highly-regulated industry, drug tests with a higher number of panels may be a more suitable option to protect your team, customers, and your reputation. Below you can see the differences between lower and higher panel tests. 

4-panel and 5-panel drug test — the 5-panel drug test is the most common choice for employment drug screening, detecting the consumption of medical marijuana (MMJ), phencyclidine (PCP), opiates, cocaine, and amphetamines. It’s also the approved and recommended standard for DOT employers, an industry where drug screening is mandatory. 

With marijuana legalization on the rise, some employers opt for a 4-panel drug test, which excludes marijuana.

6-panel drug test (includes MMJ, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines). 

7-panel drug test (tests for MMJ, opiates, cocaine, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, PCP, and barbiturates). 

8-panel drug test (detects the usage of MMJ, opiates, PCP, amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates). 

9-panel drug test (this drug screening for employment covers MMJ, opiates, PCP, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and methadone). 

10-panel drug test (includes MMJ, opiates, PCP, amphetamines, cocaine, benzodiazepine, barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, and methaqualone). 

12-panel drug test (determines the presence of MMJ, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, methaqualone, benzodiazepine, oxycodone, Ecstasy/MDA).

14-panel drug test (includes everything the 12-panel test, plus Tramadol and Demerol, narcotics usually available to staff at hospitals and vet stations; personnel with access to these drugs should undergo these tests).

Evaluation of Other Services

Pre-employment drug screening services are usually available at consumer reporting agencies that offer a full suite of other services for employers, including: 

On top of these services and pre-employment drug testing, some consumer reporting agencies may provide tenant screening services. These searches typically include address, employment, eviction history, criminal background check, credit report and score, proof of income, collections, tradelines, consumer statements, inquiries, and other public records.

Turnaround Time

The turnaround time depends on the type of test, type of screened-for drugs, the lab provider, and whether the initial report is positive or negative. The most commonly used five-panel drug test for pre-employment typically returns results within three to five days, while tests with more panels require more time. The pre-employment drug screening methods for collecting the samples also play a role in the results timeframe. The most popular ones among employers include: 

The test outcome can also affect the turnaround time as positive results require additional testing to ensure accuracy. 

Customer Support

Whether it’s via phone call, email, or live chat, top-notch customer support is a must. We tested the listed companies via all available communication channels for attentiveness, knowledge, speed, and ability to provide personalized support.

Fourth Phase: Comparing Prices

The cost of pre-employment drug testing depends on the chosen method, drugs being tested, and the organization’s size. As much as 95% of companies that conduct drug screening use urine tests due to the accurate results and a reasonably low cost. That said, they are more susceptible to cheating as subjects can substitute or dilute the sample due to the lack of direct supervision. Lab urine drug kits can cost between $30 and $80 for a five and 10-panel test and go up for more panels. 

Saliva drug testing is another popular, albeit slightly more expensive, choice. It costs around $60–$70 for a five-panel test, with a single panel ranging from $5 to $10. Saliva tests are the simplest employment drug screening tests to conduct and can provide results within five minutes. 

There are urine and saliva tests available for on-site use, typically costing between $3 and $10, but the lack of trained medical personnel and supervision makes them prone to getting tampered with. There’s a whole industry of devices and substances that promise to conceal drug use on drug tests. 

The companies on our list, on the other hand, conduct pre-employment drug testing in highly-controlled environments leaving no space to compromise the samples. 

Blood tests can detect the actual drug rather than the metabolite which makes them the most trusted and reliable form of drug testing. On the flip side, they come with a higher price tag — around $280 for 10-panel tests. Prices range from $85 for one substance to over $200 for eight to 10 panels. 

Hair drug tests can detect long-term drug use. They are rarely used for pre-employment drug testing though due to the long turnaround time and higher cost — it may take up to two weeks to deliver results and each test costs over $100 in lab conditions. 

The companies we selected can help you build a drug screening program that suits your needs and industry requirements. Bigger organizations can get discounts for high-volume orders. Although the cost of drug screening may seem high, not testing could translate into lower productivity, absenteeism, constant mistakes, and reputation damage, ultimately resulting in a far greater financial weight. 

Fifth Phase: Ranking the Employment Drug Testing Companies Based on Overall Performance

We thoroughly and carefully analyze the information collected during our research and rank the companies in this last phase. While we rank the outfits based on their overall performance in every category, we put more weight on reputation, compliance, drug screening services, and customer support. We also weigh their services against the rates they charge, verifying that they offer good value for money. 

How to Select the Best Pre-Employment Drug Screening Program for Your Business

In case you’re undecided about which service to choose, check out this helpful buying guide to narrow your choices down. 

Determine Your Needs

Pre-employment screening for drugs is not one-size-fits-all. First, you need to have a clear employment drug policy in place. Do you want to follow a zero-tolerance policy or tweak the rules based on the job? For instance, you may decide to tolerate medical marijuana use for positions that don’t require excellent reactions and alertness. 

Most importantly, you should implement your policy fairly and consistently without interfering with any federal, state, and civil rights as well as workers’ rights. Having legal counsel is also advisable to avoid expensive lawsuits.

You need to consider multiple factors related to drug screening for employment, from the laws and regulations in your industry to the potential hazards and costs of not screening. Employers operating in highly-regulated sectors with access to controlled substances, caregiving, working with minors, and handling vehicles or machines should be cautious when hiring new team members. 

What about continuous monitoring and random testing? What types of drug tests most fit your industry and business needs? Do you want to track long-term drug use or determine whether an individual is impaired at the moment of testing? Do you need to detect the presence of a specific substance? Do you need tests that will stand up in court? Outline your needs and prepare a list of questions for prospective employment drug testing companies.

We filled our list with experienced companies that can provide expert guidance in every step of the pre-employment drug screening process, from answering your questions and addressing your concerns to building a personalized drug screening program for your business. 

Look for a Company That Understands the Pre-Employment Drug Testing Laws in Your State and Industry

According to DOT regulations, pre-employment drug screening is mandatory for the entire transportation industry. Even when not obligatory, it can be very dangerous to skip drug testing in industries like construction and healthcare. Many professional athletes also undergo mandatory testing to prevent unfair advantages. No matter if drug testing is or isn’t required in your industry, an experienced provider can help you follow the best practices to protect your company from financial, safety, or reputational risks related to drug consumption. 

States also have different rules. With the rise of medical and recreational marijuana legalization, it gets even more confusing to navigate through the changing laws. Having a drug screening partner to keep you in good standing with the state provides peace of mind.

Compare Different Employment Drug Screening Programs and Prices

You’ll stumble upon different offerings while searching for the best drug screening company. Take notes and compare the various programs and prices to see which offer fits your business needs. If you contact the companies, you may receive personalized offers and bulk discounts for larger orders. Ultimately, pick a provider that works for your budget and provides the best value for the price.

Pre-Employment Drug Screening FAQs

What is the most common pre-employment drug test?

A urine drug test or urinalysis is the most common pre-employment drug test as it provides accurate results at a fairly low cost. It’s the standard in industries where drug testing is mandatory. Urine drug tests can detect drug consumption for extended periods of time, long after the effects of the drug have worn off.

What drugs do they test for pre-employment?

Employers widely use five-panel tests which cover medical marijuana (MMJ), phencyclidine (PCP), amphetamines, opiates, and cocaine. Employment drug testing with up to 14 panels are available and can cover all the substances that five-panel tests do plus barbiturates, benzodiazepine, methadone, methaqualone, oxycodone, Ecstasy/MDA, Tramadol, and Demerol. Companies can personalize their tests and request to test for different combinations of substances.

What happens if you fail a pre-employment drug test?

In the majority of cases, a positive drug test will result in losing the chance to get hired. Employers that practice pre-employment drug testing should state in the offers that only candidates who pass the drug screening tests are potential hires. 

How far back does a urine drug test go?

Urine drug tests can go back from seven hours to 30+ days depending on the substance, frequency of use, body mass, hydration levels, and the acidity of the urine. Below, you can see how long urine tests can detect drug consumption for different substances. 

Drug Detection Period After Use
Marijuana 3 days single-use; 5-7 days moderate use; 10-15 days daily use; 30+ days heavy use
Alcohol  7-12 hours
Amphetamines 48 hours
Cocaine metabolites 2-4 days
Heroin 48 hours
Long-acting barbiturates 3 weeks
Short-acting barbiturates 24 hours
Long-acting benzodiazepines 30 days
Short-acting benzodiazepines 3 days
Morphine 48-72 days
Methadone 3 days
PCP 8 days

How long does it take to get results from a pre-employment drug screen?

How long a pre-employment drug test will take depends on the type of employment drug testing, the number of panels, and the lab provider. Urine and blood tests typically take one to five business days, while hair tests can take up to ten business days. Furthermore, five-panel tests return results within three and five days. Employers should allow a day or more extra for tests with a higher number of panels. Confirmatory tests for candidates with positive results can also extend employment drug testing turnaround times.

Can you retake a pre-employment drug test?

No, if you fail a drug test you will lose the opportunity to get the job. You still have the right to request a retest at your own expense, but using a new sample is not possible. In case of a retest, your original sample will be re-examined. 

Do pre-employment drug tests include alcohol?

Alcohol affects a pre-employment drug test for positions that require a commercial driver’s license. The Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) demands frequent tests for individuals with CDL following strict procedures for pre-employment drug screening and alcohol testing. 

For other applicants, it depends. Alcohol is a legal substance and most employers don’t include pre-employment alcohol tests, but they can add an alcohol panel upon request. Some organizations, however, may test for alcohol traces if they suspect that an employee is impaired during work hours. If an applicant drinks alcohol closely before the time of testing, it could also show up as an illegal substance on some tests.