Do You Really Need a 10-Panel Test?
The Government Sets the Guidelines. Businesses have been using drug testing as a deterrent
to workplace drug abuse since the 1960s. That’s when the Department of Defense began testing
military personnel stationed in Vietnam for drug abuse. The government made a conscientious
decision to look only at those drug classes that presented a high potential for abuse. The classes
selected were opiates (heroin, codeine and morphine), amphetamines (methamphetamine and
amphetamine), phencyclidine (PCP), cocaine (as its metabolite benzolecgonine) and marijuana.
The Government Gives It a Second Thought. In the mid-1980s, the federal government passed
the Drug Free Workplace Act. This new law required the mandatory screening of employees who
were under the jurisdiction of certain agencies (for example, the DOT, Justice Department, etc.).
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, after studying the issue again, once more selected the same
fi ve drug classes: opiates, amphetamines, phencyclidine, cocaine and marijuana. The agency
then selected these fi ve drugs, along with specifi c cut-off levels, as the new rules for all federally
regulated testing. Individual states soon followed the federal guidelines and instituted their own
rules for drug testing. Numerous states have adopted the federal government’s fi ve-drug panel,
and some also mandate the use of a SAMHSA-approved laboratory. (SAMHSA, too, regulates only
the fi ve drug classes previously listed.)
The Feds Had Reasons for Setting the 5-Panel Limit. Those unfamiliar with the facts above
often ask the question, “Why wouldn’t a 10-drug panel be better than a fi ve-drug panel?” Well,
consider the drugs testing labs typically add to the federally approved list. Typically, they are drugs
commonly prescribed by physicians, such as barbiturates, methadone, benzos, methaqualone and
propoxyphene. As a result, labs and Medical Review Offi cers frequently must fi eld questions from
donors and companies concerning these prescription medications.
Legal uses. It’s also important to note that more than 90 percent of donors who test positive for the
following drugs produce valid prescriptions. Some additional facts about these drugs:
• Methaqualone has not been
manufactured in the United States for
about 20 years. The only positives
detected are by testing laboratories that
are using the drug for quality control and
profi ciency testing samples.
• Methadone previously was used
exclusively for the treatment of heroin
However, today, doctors frequently prescribe it for pain.
• Benzodiazepines are a commonly prescribed tranquilizer.
• Barbiturates are prescribed for a variety of medical issues (such as migraines and epilepsy).
• Propoxyphene is a very mild pain medication. It was announced in late November 2010 that
propoxyphene is being pulled from the US market due to an increased risk of potentially serious
or even fatal heart rhythm abnormalities.