Last updated: October 2, 2023
A 9 panel drug test identifies nine of the most commonly abused drugs and is used by employers who want a more complete drug test. It includes amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, methadone, marijuana (THC), Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, and phencyclidine (PCP). This panel is more comprehensive than the one required by the Department of Transportation for DOT drug testing, as well as standard 5 panel drug tests.
Employers, hiring managers, and human resource professionals who are not required to follow DOT regulations may perform non-DOT drug testing using a 9 panel drug test. Many who use this more extensive panel do so because it is cost-effective, comprehensive, and detects many of the drugs that are commonly abused today. Since a 9 panel drug test is not used in DOT drug testing, any testing method is acceptable, including mouth swab, urine, and hair follicle drug tests.
The 9 panel drug test works with the urine, hair follicle, or mouth swab methods. All are incredibly accurate at drug detection.
- A positive result indicates drug use.
- A negative result indicates no drug use within the detection window.
- An inconclusive result means no determination about drug use could be made.
Unless regulated otherwise, you are free to choose a testing method. There are pros and cons to each.
Urine drug test
The urine test is the most cost-effective of the three choices. That could be the number one reason the majority of employers use it. Or, perhaps, nowadays it is used the most often because it is what employees expect when hearing the words drug test.
Employers regulated by the DOT, will only use this method.
The employee reports to the testing site and completes the identification process. The technician explains the process and escorts them to the designated restroom. The amount of urine required for a specimen is about one and one-half ounces.
The test subject returns the container to the technician. The temperature of the specimen is documented to assure it is in the proper range. If the subject is unable to “go,” they are asked to remain on-site for up to three hours. If there is still no result, they will be free to go. The technician notifies the employer that the test was incomplete.
Once at the laboratory, if an immunoassay test is positive, a second test is done. The gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) determines which drugs were detected. The detection window is anywhere from a few hours up to a month depending on the drug.
Results come back within a few days.
Hair follicle drug test
The hair follicle drug test is without a doubt the least cost-effective for employers. Some think the benefits outweigh the cost, however. The DOT plans to begin using this method of testing rather than the urine test. The change will take effect as soon as the chain of command is completed.
This drug test has a detection window of 90 days regardless of the drug type.
It’s also the least intrusive of the drug tests. All that is required is a quick snip as close to the scalp as possible to collect about 120 hairs. The hair is sealed into a bag and delivered to the laboratory.
Once there, it gets cut to the test length of one and a half inches. Technicians discard any remaining hair.
Test results return in about a week.
Mouth swab drug test
The mouth swab test only detects drugs used up to 72 hours before swabbing. But, it can identify drugs more quickly than the urine or hair follicle test. Most drugs are detectable within the hour. However, alcohol and marijuana are detected almost immediately after use.
The mouth swab test is becoming more popular, especially among law enforcement. It seems a good fit for on the spot testing, such as traffic stops or random employee testing.
A sterile gauze swab infused with the chosen panels absorbs the test subject’s saliva. When it is saturated, the test is complete. You can obtain the results almost immediately.
What does a 9 panel drug test detect?
All drugs tested for using a 9 panel drug test are highly addictive, both psychological and physically, and present a high risk of abuse.
Though designed for pharmacological purposes such as treatment of ADD and ADHD, this substance is one of the most highly used and abused classes of drugs available in America today. Its tendency to physically and psychologically addict users has quickly led the Federal government to classify this drug as a schedule II controlled substance.
The drug most often times comes in a pill form and is ingested, although some users will crush up the pill and snort it, for a quicker more direct effect. Being a central nervous system stimulant, it’s said to be similar to cocaine, just not as potent.
Amphetamines create a more sustainable high that can last hours instead of minutes. Its users claim that the drug keeps them awake, alert, and focused, which is why it’s popular with the high school and college crowds, especially around exam times.
Since being replaced by benzodiazepines, this drug is rarely prescribed today, even though it’s still considered a schedule II controlled substance by the Federal government. Originally designed to treat anxiety and seizure disorders within a hospital setting, this central nervous system depressant has become a highly abused recreational substance.
Most often taken in its original pill form, some users crush the pills into a fine powder, and snort them for a more intense and direct effect. Though already a highly potent sedative, some users mix this drug with other illicit substances, creating a dangerous cocktail that can lead to overdose and death.
Designed to replace Barbiturates as a central nervous system depressant to treat anxiety and seizure disorders, this schedule IV controlled substance is highly potent and highly addictive. This substance can illicit dependence on both the brain and body, leading to traumatic physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Xanax, a popular name brand benzodiazepine, is usually ingested in pill form, but can be crushed into a fine powder and snorted, for a more intense and direct effect. The substance will leave a user feeling sedated, calm, and relaxed. Over time, users will develop a tolerance to the drug, continuously requiring higher doses to reach the same level of high, forming dependence.
Often times, this class of drug is mixed with other sedatives or even central nervous system stimulants, leading to dangerously slowed respiratory processes, erratic heart-beats, and even potential death due to overdose.
An intense central nervous stimulant, cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the Cocoa plant through chemical synthesis with numerous highly toxic substances, such as kerosene. This highly abused and highly addictive drug is claimed to have limited medicinal effects, leading the U.S. Government to classify it as a schedule II controlled substance.
Being that it usually comes in a white powdered form, the most common way of ingestion is through being snorted.
Additional chemical processes have been invoked to “cook” the expensive drug into a cheaper, crystalized form called crack. This is where the crystals are heated up and smoked or injected, creating an intense direct high that only lasts for limited time. The subsequent “crash” that occurs as the user begins to metabolize the substance results in an intense come down. This leads users to begin “tweaking,” creating dependency quickly.
Made mainstream by Hollywood in the 1980’s, this known party drug is abused for its stimulating properties, making it popular among overnight workers, drivers, and party goers.
Although 31 out of the 50 states in the U.S. have enacted some sort of medical marijuana legislation, it’s still deemed a schedule I class substance, having zero medicinal effects, and thus labeled illegal by the Federal Government.
This drug is grown and cultivated in “grow ops,” some of which are legally licensed by the Federal government and others are operated through the black market. The most common form of ingestion is through inhalation by rolling paper or glass pipe.
Marijuana oil can also be extracted for a more potent delivery mechanism either through inhalation or ingestion of “edibles;” food that has been prepared with THC oil or “bud butter.” Cannabis is said to have a relaxing effect on the central nervous system while increasing appetite and granting the user a feeling of calm euphoria.
Although it’s been argued to be a safe way of having fun, it’s still banned in most workplaces due to the impairment users experience such as reduced reaction times, lost coordination, and less effective judgment decisions. Thus, most drug panels will have marijuana as one of the substances tested for.
Due to this drug causing intense physical and psychological addiction, the Federal Government classified methadone as a schedule II controlled substance. It was created during WWII to treat severe pain and has been recently repurposed to fight the growing opiate crisis that has swept across America.
Though it’s as highly addictive as its opiate/opioid cousins, it’s used to treat the deadly withdrawal symptoms of those who are dependent on narcotics such as heroin. It enables the abuser to wean themselves off the illicit substance without shocking their central nervous system into shutting down.
It works by blocking the pain, like other pain medications such as Oxycontin or Percocet, but because it’s only a half agonist, it blocks a majority of the high effect that people become addicted to. Being that methadone is still a painkiller has led to its abusive and addictive qualities.
It’s most often found available in liquid, tablet, or powder form and has been known to have aggressive side effects such as fainting and lightheadedness.
This class of pain medication is known as an opioid because it’s a partially synthesized painkiller. Oxycodone is manufactured in labs through the chemical modification of the opium poppy plant.
This highly abused and addictive narcotic is deemed a schedule II controlled substance by the Federal government because of its physically and psychologically habit forming properties.
Brand name oxycodone derivatives like Percocet are designed to treat moderate to sever pain. They’re usually found alone or in a combination with other painkillers. The most common form of ingestion is through “popping pills,” or snorting it when crushed into a powder.
With 60 percent of all deaths occurring by overdose at the cause of Fentanyl makes it the most dangerous opioid synthesized today. Manufactured mainly in China, this synthetic painkiller is 100 times more potent than morphine. Most first-time users who inject Fentanyl wind up overdosing, most don’t survive. It’s the main culprit in the opioid crisis.
This class of pharmaceutical drug is called an opiate due to being made directly from the cultivation and processing of the opium poppy plant. Similar to opioids mentioned above, the key difference between an opiate and an opioid is one is processed in a lab and the other is synthesized, or in other words, manufactured instead.
Oxymorphone is used to treat moderate to severe pain. It comes in tablet form and is made to be ingested by mouth. Abusers often times crush up the tablet into a powder and snort it for a more intense and direct high.
This schedule II controlled substance is highly addictive, and patients are known to build up a tolerance very quickly. Its ability to bring a level of calm euphoria only found through use of this medication is what leads people towards dependence. It’s said that continued use past three consecutive days increases the chances of forming an addiction by 70 percent.
Most commonly known as PCP or angel dust, this highly abused and addictive drug has been used for some time by Veterinarians as a powerful animal tranquilizer, as well as by human doctors for rare medicinal purposes. Thus, the Federal government has labeled PCP a schedule II controlled substance.
Generally manufactured in black market labs or stolen from animal hospitals, the drug comes in either powdered or opaque yellowish liquid form. It’s most commonly ingested through being crushed up and snorted, smoked, or even injected.
The PCP high has been known to invoke users with superhuman strength, create “out of body” experiences, and even “out of Earth” hallucinations. There have been many instances in which people under the influence of PCP no longer understand what is reality from hallucination. They tend to enter deep states of prolonged impairment which include episodes that resemble schizophrenic breakdowns.
Some avid users have explained entering different dimensions, different universes, and even the “divine realm.” They explain that time is distorted and that their souls leave their bodies to experience other realities. But sometimes things turn dark. People have mutilated themselves and others, while even some instances have ended with them taking their own lives during a “bad trip.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a SAMHSA laboratory?
A SAMHSA laboratory is one that has been certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association. They are federally regulated and adhere to stringent standards.
How do I know if SAMHSA certifies a laboratory?
Check out SAMHSA’s current list of certified laboratories by state.
Do poppy seeds really cause a false positive on a drug test?
Due to the way the body metabolizes things, it can happen. Poppy seeds and dextromethorphan have caused a false positive reading for opiates. And, since we are on the subject, decongestants containing ephedrine can cause a false positive result for amphetamines.
What causes a false positive for cocaine?
Nothing. The metabolite for cocaine is called benzoylecgonine. That is what pops on a drug test. There are no other “caine” type drugs that will produce benzoylecgonine.
What is a DOT type drug test?
The employer is choosing to test for the same drugs as the DOT even though they are not regulated to do so.
Can you flush drugs out of your system by drinking lots of water?
No. Time is the only way to get drugs out of your system. A hair test, however, shows drug use permanently. The metabolites grow out of the follicle and into the hair itself.
If I am around people that smoke marijuana, will the second-hand smoke make me test positive for it?
No, the testing levels are set higher than the level of any passive smoke intake.
Can employers still drug test if marijuana is legal in my state?
Yes. Rules and regulations vary by state, but marijuana is still an illegal drug according to the federal government.
How many hair follicles do they have to get for the drug test?
The test doesn’t use hair follicles. The drug metabolites deposit in the hair follicles and grow out into the hair. About 120 strands of hair are cut as close to the scalp as possible for testing purposes.
Will eating or drinking affect a mouth swab test?
No. The drug metabolites are in your saliva whether or not you eat or drink.
I know you can’t gargle with it, but people say if you swish bleach around in your mouth that you can pass a mouth swab test. True or false?
FALSE! It will not change the result, but you may not be available for the test. That is a very dangerous MYTH! Never put bleach in your mouth.
Why am I always getting pulled for the random drug tests and my co-worker has never had her name pulled? It doesn’t seem fair.
Random drug testing pools are set up to be just what they say. Random. Statistically, research shows that odds are the reason for someone’s name to come up fairly often and someone else may escape the draw. It’s just the luck of the draw.