Drug Testing – What the Results Really Mean

Random drug testing is used by the Department of Transportation and those in the medical field, but many private employers are beginning to incorporate this practice into their policies as well. While a positive result is grounds for immediate dismissal for some employers, others take a more cautious approach, allowing one positive screening. However, what you find in that positive screening could tell you a lot about the employee – including just how much of a threat he or she could be to your business.

Different drugs take longer to leave the system after they have been taken or used, and being aware of how long that takes is important for employers. Understanding this information can help you see just how recently an employee has used a specific drug, and that can have a major impact on how you should handle the situation.

Average Time for Drugs to Leave the System

The following are some of the average amounts of time it takes for illicit drugs to continue showing a positive result:

  • Cocaine/Crack – Two to three days
  • Marijuana – One to seven days – There will be a result for much longer if the person is a frequent or daily user
  • Oxycodone – One to two days
  • Heroin – One to three days
  • Barbiturates – One to three weeks
  • Amphetamine/Meth – Two to three days
  • Ecstasy – Two to four days
  • Methadone – One to three days
  • Benzodiazepine – One to four days
  • PCP/Angel Dust – One to two weeks

As you can see, most of these drugs, including marijuana for an infrequent smoker, have a very short amount of time that they stay within the system. This means that an employee who returns a positive result used the drug within a very short window of time prior to the drug screen.

For employers who want to make a conscious effort to ensure the safety and productivity of their workforce, knowing how recently an employee has used is an important consideration. While you will still need to follow all applicable laws concerning drug testing in your state, knowing that one of your employees has a potential problem is information that can be very beneficial, and help you determine the proper steps to take in disciplining or seeking help for the employee.

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