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In today’s work environment, it’s common for employers to require their employees to complete drug and alcohol screenings. Here’s everything you need to know to make sure you’re prepared and know what to expect.


Who Needs Drug and Alcohol Screenings?

The simple answer: almost everyone. Employers from a wide variety of industries rely on pre-employment and periodic drug and alcohol screenings to protect your well-being as their employee, as well as your co-workers and, depending on the industry you work in, the general public.

For jobs in safety-sensitive industries such as manufacturing, shipping, transportation, and construction, drug and alcohol screenings are critically important and help make sure you’re not under the influence of any substances that might prevent you from being able to safely perform your job.

Anyone designated in Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations as a safety-sensitive employee is subject to DOT drug & alcohol testing.1

When Do Drug and Alcohol Screenings Typically Take Place?

The frequency and timing of a screening typically depends on your employer and the regulations within your state; however, employers may request drug and alcohol testing in these situations:

  • Pre-employment 
  • Return-to-duty following a workers’ compensation claim 
  • Post-accident 
  • Reasonable suspicion or cause 
  • Randomly 

What Types of Drug and Alcohol Screenings Are Offered?

Your company determines which drugs are included in your screening. State regulations and company drug-free workplace policies can dictate the type of testing required. MedExpress offers two types of drug screening collections: hair collections and urine collections (rapid 5-panel drug test and 10-panel). Hair testing can detect drug use from months prior to testing as it takes hair longer to grow. Urine drug tests are the most common because the results can be quickly obtained. MedExpress also conducts breath and blood alcohol testing depending on applicable state requirements and/or your employer.

What Drugs Are Tested For?

MedExpress is capable of testing for many different drugs, including:

  • Cocaine 
  • Marijuana 
  • Opiates 
  • Methamphetamines 
  • Phencyclidine (PCP) 
  • Barbiturates 
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Methadone 
  • Methaqualone 
  • Propoxyphene 
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxymorphone

What About Prescription and Over-The-Counter (OTC) Drugs?

If you’re currently taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, we encourage you to write down the medications you’re taking on your copy of the chain of custody form after your visit. In the event that your results reveal a potential prescription or OTC medication in your system, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) may contact you to verify any medications you may be taking, if applicable.

What is a Medical Review Officer (MRO)?

These are licensed physicians who are responsible for receiving and reviewing laboratory results as well as evaluating medical explanations for certain drug test results. They must complete ongoing education courses in order to maintain their status as a MRO and act as a safeguard to ensure the quality and accuracy of your results. Certain industries and government organizations, such as DOT, require that a MRO review their employees’ test results.

What Should I Bring With Me to a Drug and Alcohol Screening?

Please bring the following items with you for a drug and alcohol screening:

  • A valid (non-expired) picture ID such as a passport, driver’s license, military ID, employee badge, or any other photo ID that was issued by a federal, state, or local government agency. Identification requires a valid government-issues ID.
  • All authorization forms or paperwork from your employer 

Is There Anything I Need to Do to Prepare?

If completing a urine drug screen, you’ll need to be able to provide 45 mL or 1.5 fluid ounces of urine sample. Please do not go to the restroom prior to your test. If you can’t provide a full sample once the collection has started, you’ll have three hours to complete a full sample. If you leave during the collection for any reason, this is considered a refusal to test and can hold the same consequences as a positive result to your employer.

What Happens During a Drug and Alcohol Screening?

  1. You’ll be asked to provide either a hair or urine sample based on the preferences of your employer. If completing a urine drug screen, you’ll be asked to wash your hands and remove any excess clothing, such as a jacket or hat. You’ll also be asked to empty your pockets, and you will have the option to place your valuables in a lock box. If carrying a wallet, you are permitted to keep it with you following an inspection of the wallet by a MedExpress staff member.
  2. If your employer has requested a breath or blood alcohol test, you’ll be asked to blow into a breathalyzer or give a blood sample, which measures the amount of alcohol in your blood stream.

How Are Results Reported?

If you’re completing a drug and alcohol screening at the request of your employer, results will be reported directly back to your employer. Your employer will notify you of the results of your test. If self-employed or requesting a drug test for court, we’ll send the results to the email or mailing address you designate.


1 U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary of Transportation, Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy and Compliance. What Employees Need to Know About DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing. Reviewed Jan. 2012. Accessed March 16, 2023

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