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When Do Companies Drug-Test Applicants and Employees? The Best Tips for HR

There are many reasons why companies require employees or applicants to submit to drug testing. One such reason is the drive to provide a safer working atmosphere and environment. To achieve this, employers ensure that applicants and employees do not display any risk associated with drug abuse. Employers expect both employees and applicants to undergo drug screenings to verify that they are not under the influence of any drug.

You may want to ask; when do companies drug test applicants and employees? As an applicant, you need to know that drug testing is part of the overall hiring process. Nowadays, it is a prerequisite hiring process that determines whether you get hired or not. More so, companies have the authorization based on the state law to test their employees occasionally during their course of employment.

Companies notify potential employees about their drug testing policy during their enrolment period. It is categorically stated at the initial application or job posting. Many private companies are not fully authorized by law to conduct drug testing on their employees or applicants. However, companies in sectors like safety, aviation, defense, and transportation are required to conduct drug testing on employees and applicants for alcohol or drug use.

Some other organizations that are authorized by law to conduct drug testing for applicants and employees include universities, schools, and Hospitals. County, State, and Federal applicants are also required to submit to drug testing also.

Things to Know About Drug Testing Laws

Drug testing laws vary from State to State. In some states, there are restrictions as to when and how to conduct a drug test on applicants and employees. For instance, in North Carolina, all private and public companies are permitted to test applicants and employees. Still, drug testing must be conducted in a certified laboratory and not within the company’s premises.

On the other hand, in Ohio, you can only test applicants after a provisional offer of employment has been made and with advanced notice. You can only test employees when there is a suspicion of drug abuse, when there are new hires, or after an accident.  If you are wondering what a drug test result might show, check your state drug laws and regulations to see the type of drug testing permitted within your location. To pass a drug test, you must study the tips here.

Applicant Drug Testing for Alcohol and Drugs

When permitted by state law, companies may subject applicants to drug testing as part of the employment hiring process. Mostly the test is conducted after the applicant has received the provisional employment letter. If the applicant fails the drug test, his/her appointment will be withdrawn. If you are on any form of medication during the drug testing period, ensure you make adequate inquiries before the day. Or better still, you should inform the company beforehand.

Most companies have exemption policies for all applicants or employees who are on temporary medications or being monitored for chronic disease conditions. You should also ensure that you consult with your physicians to know if your medication harms your co-workers or working environment.

Employee Alcohol and Drug Testing

Companies who regularly subject their employees to drug testing usually state it categorically in their employees’ code of conduct or employee handbook. Depending on the state laws and authorization, employees may be selected at random to undergo drug testing without their prior notice. Most companies also use HR management software to aid in the drug testing process.

More so, an employee will be required to undergo drug screening if the company believes or suspects that he/she is under the influence of drugs or alcohol during working hours. Also, employees may be required to undergo drug testing if the company notice poor performance from the employee, consistent unexcused absence from work or lateness to work.

Furthermore, companies subject their employees to a drug test when they receive a promotion to occupy a certain position. Depending on the laws of the state, companies may drug test employees if an on-the-job accident repeatedly occurs. If an employee abjectly refuses to undergo drug testing or fails the drug test, he/she may face disciplinary action or lose the job.

Types of Drug Tests Conducted by Companies

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) guidelines, the accredited testing is as follows:

  • THC (hash, marijuana, cannabinoids)
  • Phencyclidine (angel dust, PCP)
  • Opiates (morphine, crank, opium, heroin)
  • Cocaine (crack, coke)
  • Amphetamines (ecstasy, crank, speed, meth)
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • Hydrocodone (Oxycodone, Vicodin, Lortab)
  • Inhalants (hairspray, glue, paint)
  • Hallucinogens (peyote, LSD, mescaline, mushrooms)

The major types of drug tests that companies conduct on applicants and employees include hair drug tests, blood drug tests, urine drug tests, saliva drug tests, breath alcohol tests, and sweat drug tests. Screening of urine for drugs (urinalysis) is the most potent pre-employment testing for applicants.


In most cases, companies can drug test applicants and employees based on the laws of the state. Applicants may be tested during the pre-employment hiring process. State laws require companies to give applicants prior notice before conducting drug tests. The goal of drug tests is to maintain a safer and more comfortable working environment.

Mary Walton is a professional editor, content strategist and a part of gahmj team. Apart from writing, Mary is passionate about hiking and gaming. Feel free to contact her via Facebook:

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