Difference Between Regulated & Non-Regulated Drug Screens

Drug screens are used by employers, corrections facilities and other institutions. Two basic types are regulated and non-regulated. This designation is unrelated to quality and has to do with government standardization.


Regulated drug screens are a specific type approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These tests are the only type allowed for all employees required to be tested for drug use by federal law, such as those operating heavy equipment or large vehicles. Regulated drug screens are five-panel, meaning they test for five types of drugs--amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, opiates and PCP, according to the Occupational Health Group 1.


Non-regulated drug screens are those used for non-federal, private or public enterprises. Non-regulated screens can be performed by a lab certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


A non-regulated drug screen is not necessarily more accurate than a regulated screen. There are also non-regulated screens that test for barbituates, benzodiazepines, methadone, propoxyphene and methaqualone in addition to the five drugs tested for in a regulated test, according to the Occupational Health Group 1.