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Random Drug Screening

This page was last updated on 17th of September 2017

What to Expect from a Random Drug Screening

Many people in the workforce are subjected to a random drug screening. The same is true for those that may be involved with the legal system including individuals on parole and probation. It can also be a requirement for those that engage in various types of sports.

Knowing what to expect from a random drug screening is very important. There are plenty of variables so it will depend on who you work for and what the laws are where you reside or work.

Test Selection

The process of random drug screening should be a pool where everyone has the same chance of being selected. An employer may select a given number of people monthly that they test. Any reports of someone using drugs or alcohol, and even odd behaviors can trigger the request that you report for a drug screening in most locations.

Failure to report to work ‘fit for duty’ is cause for a drug test.  Workplace accidents or injuries will trigger a drug test in the U.S.

For more about workplace testing the U.S. and the UK, visit these respective pages:

Notification to Test

The first element that is present is the notification to test. This may be a phone call or other type of notice. A letter may be given to the person of interest and they have to sign for it.

With a job related random drug screening, a supervisor may come up to you while you are at work and inform you that you’ve been tapped for the test. For those that show up for a court related appointment or who engage in sports, the request to test usually occurs when they show up.

Depending on the type of notice to test, the individual will have a given time frame for testing. For example, when a letter is given, they may have 2 days to comply. When a phone call is made, they may have as little as 2 hours to show up at the testing facility. With a face to face request, the person may be asked to report immediately.

Type of Testing

There are various types of testing that can occur with random drug screening. Urine tests are very common but they are also among the easiest to tamper with. That is why blood samples are more accurate.

There is also the less invasive procedure of a saliva test that involves swabbing the inside of the cheek.

Some entities are now testing hair samples as it shows a longer history of the use of drugs than the other methods of testing.

Both the hair and saliva tests are more expensive to administer and are not as common as urine testing.

The entity that is requesting the random drug test likely has a given procedure in place and testing type. There are locations that use more than one type of testing so that those that could be brought in for testing don’t know until they show up what that testing procedure will be.

Failure to Test

Even if you think you may fail the random drug test, you need to take it. Failure to show up and test is automatic failure. It could cost you your job or your spot on a sports team that you worked hard to get. It may result in your parole or probation being revoked. If the results are positive, you can ask for a re-test and that may buy you some time to clear out your system. There may be services provided (Employee Assistance Program) if you test positive to help with quitting drug use.  It is an effort by the employer to salvage good employees rather than fire them on the spot.

An entire industry has evolved that is sometimes fairly adept at helping individuals pass a drug test.  The following website provides some insight into how many people are interested in obtaining information on how to pass a drug test.  The numbers are impressive.

For more information, visit

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