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Drug tests are often part of pre-employment and periodic screenings to ensure that employees are working safely. Industries such as nursing, manufacturing, shipping, transportation and construction rely on drug screenings from providers like MedExpress.


What is a 5-Panel Drug Test?

Drug tests are often used by employers in a variety of industries to ensure their employees aren’t under the influence of substances that may impair their ability to work safely. They may also be required by the Department of Transportation (DOT). One of the many tests that employers can use is the 5-panel drug test.

In this article, we’ll discuss what the 5-panel drug test is. We’ll also explain what it tests for, how long results take and how results are delivered. We also answer some frequently asked questions.

Why is it Called a 5-Panel Drug Test?

This drug test gets its name because it tests for the five most commonly abused substances. They are:

  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates – opium and codeine derivatives
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  • Phencyclidine – PCP

How Long Do Test Results Take?

It depends on the type of test that is ordered.

Department of Transportation (DOT) drug tests must follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) guidelines. That means that all DOT-related tests must be sent to a lab for testing. Results are available in three to five business days.

Non-DOT drugs tests results are available within the hour.

How Does MedExpress Share Results with Employers?

Employers can easily view drug test results via the digital results reporting function of the eScreen 123 portal. If you’d like to use this service, contact us using the form below.

What Happens When the Results Are Received?

If the results are negative, the employer is informed and the employee can continue working.

If the results are positive, additional testing is required. For example, it is possible that prescription medications are creating an abnormal result. A provider will perform additional drug and alcohol testing services on the urine of a patient, which will be sent to an outside lab. These results will be available in three to five business days.

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What Should Your Employees Do Before the Test?

They should not drink alcoholic beverages or beverages that contain caffeine. Also, in order to provide the best possible urine sample, they should drink plenty of water.

What Should Patients Bring to the Test?

  • 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-issued ID.
  • All authorization forms or paperwork.

Can a Drug Test Detect Fake Urine?

In short, yes. Synthetic urine is made from urea molecules that show up in tests as similar to human urine. It is commercially sold and can be used to pass a positive drug test. In one study, five of the eight commercially available synthetic urines screened negative for drug use and passed the specimen validity testing (SVT) as authentic urine.1

However, to deter the use of synthetic urine, MedExpress works with our testing labs to ensure that our Specimen Validity Testing (SVT) is always of the highest levels. While we respect our patients’ privacy during this process, we also strive to hire collectors with the highest degrees of professionalism and training. Each test has a visual inspection during collection, as well as an adulteration test strip – which is a test that detects diluted or adulterated urine specimens, and the lab that we partner with is responsible for confirming that each urine test has a valid specimen.

How Far Back Does a 5-Panel Drug Test Go?

While 5-panel drug tests can test for drug use, they can’t tell if a person is currently using a drug. These tests use urine samples to measure byproducts in the body that come from the drugs breaking down within their system. The byproduct is either present or it is not. MedExpress does not perform hair drug tests.

Here is a rough estimate for detection times as determined by urine tests:2

  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – marijuana: 2 to 7 days, but up to 60 days for chronic users
  • Cocaine: 2 to 4 days
  • Opiates – opium and codeine derivatives: 2 to 3 days
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines: 1 to 2 days
  • Phencyclidine – PCP: 14 days but up to 40 days for chronic users

Does MedExpress Offer Additional Drug Test Options?

MedExpress also offers a 4-panel drug test which excludes THC testing and a 10-panel drug test which looks at the five common prescription medications and five illicit street drugs. If you're interested in learning more, contact us below.

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1 National Foundation for Infectious Diseases: Can synthetic urine replace authentic urine to "beat" workplace drug testing? Accessed September 14, 2023.

2 LabCorp: Days of Abuse Reference Guide. Accessed September 6, 2023.

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