Taking a company drug test isn’t uncommon because many employers choose to have a drug-free or zero tolerance program. The majority of employee drug test results are negative because most employees don’t use drugs. However, employers need to know about those that do.

Some states offer employers discounts on their workers’ comp insurance if they participate in enforcing a drug-free workplace. The main reason they do it, though, is for safety’s sake.

Employees who use drugs are far more likely to be involved in a workplace accident. Coming to work impaired puts everyone around them at risk. After putting drug-free programs in place statistics show a decrease in accidents and employees are absent less often too. Not only that, productivity goes up!

There are three primary means used for employee drug tests.

Different source, same results

The type of specimen collected for a drug test varies according to the employer. Drug testing facilities across the nation accommodate millions of employees throughout the year. Furthermore, some companies offer mobile drug testing services anywhere in the United States! It eliminates the need for lost time sending employees to and fro.

Those regulated by the DOT or other government entities are required to use a urine drug test. However, last October the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published guidelines allowing employers under their jurisdiction to use oral fluids testing if they choose to do so. There has been no mention of the DOT moving toward changing its policies and procedures yet though.

Employers of the general workforce use the method they feel best fits the company.

No matter which test method is used, the results of the test all read the same.


A positive drug test result indicates that drugs were identified in the test sample. The information discovered accompanies the test.

Employees often find themselves dismissed when a drug test is positive. However, some employers offer a 2nd chance allowing the employee to voluntarily enter rehab. When they successfully complete treatment, their job is waiting for them.


Of course, the majority of employee drug tests return with a negative result because they don’t use drugs.


An inconclusive drug test result means that neither a positive nor a negative result could be determined.

Thanks to advances in drug testing technology coupled with the ever increasing sophistication of laboratory equipment it’s easier to detect adulterated or substituted specimens than ever before.

Drug users have tried to find ways to get around the company drug test since day one. Employers and lab technicians alike quickly caught on to that fact and scientists have worked continuously to combat the “latest and greatest” method.

For instance, urine tests were the only test method available in the early days of drug testing. Someone discovered that by simply drinking excessive amounts of water prior to the test, they obtained a negative result. However, once the laboratories caught on to what was happening, they sought to create a way to officially detect it.

When urine contains too much water—or not enough for that matter—it throws off a chemical balance. Laboratory equipment tests for this imbalance and if it’s found, the test result is marked inconclusive.

However, it’s broken down even farther.

  • A negative dilute test result means that there were no drugs detected in the system, but that the specimen was diluted. This alerts employers to the possibility that someone may have been trying to mask their drug use. Moreover, that’s often the stance they take and many employers choose to administer a second test immediately. If this test returns diluted, policy usually dictates letting the employee go.
  • Positive dilute results indicate that drugs were detected in the system and the specimen was diluted as well. All employers handle this result in the same manner they handle a positive drug test.

Do they ever get away with it?

Sadly, there are some employees who manage to “pass” their drug test even though they may suffer with an addiction.

They most probably refrained from using long enough to clear the drugs from their system. Drug tests identify drugs for a period of hours up to a few days. There are exceptions—especially in the case of the hair test itself. It identifies all drug use for a ninety day period.

However, there are contributing factors that can cause some people to retain drugs in their system for longer periods. They effect the detection windows of the urine and oral fluids tests.

  • Body mass
  • Genetics
  • Frequency of use

Synthetic urine is the newest product to hit the market. Word on the street is that it’s impossible to distinguish a difference from real urine. You’re sure to pass the test if you submit it in place of your own.

However, lab techs weren’t born yesterday. Something as simple as the absence of normal sedimentation in the specimen alerts them that something’s amiss. Additional testing can confirm that the sample is not human urine.

Mouth swab specimens can’t be swapped out because the test subject is never out of the test administrators sight. Also, because our body is constantly producing saliva, the products claiming to mask drug use for a period of time don’t work.

Employers use hair follicle tests the least, largely due to their expense. However, the fact that they detect any and all drug use for a ninety day period has many employers rethinking things.

In fact, the DOT is making the switch from the urine test to the hair follicle test. They hope to receive final approval soon.

The final say

When it all comes down to it, the type of drug test you use for your drug-free program isn’t really important. It’s the fact that you realize that drugs don’t have a place in your workplace culture.

Encouraging employees to live drug-free lifestyles helps create a positive environment. Hold classes periodically focusing on the dangers of drug use. Send emails or short videos as an in-house PSA—maybe your HR team will star in them.

Whether you choose a humorous or serious tone, when your employees realize you’re committed to providing a drug-free workplace, it will increase morale. Sure, the drug users won’t be too happy, but maybe exposure to continuous education may break through.

Be ready to offer a helping hand if they come to you admitting they have a problem.

And—keep up the good work.