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What Is a 5 Panel Drug Test?

By Alia Nikolakopulos ; Updated January 09, 2018

A 5-panel test is the most common workplace drug test. It is used by private employers as well as government agencies such as the United States Department of Transportation. This test screens for five different drugs and a variety of sample collection methods are available. Some sample collection methods are more invasive than others. Choosing the collection method you want depends on the length of drug use you want screened and the cost your organization wants to pay for the test.

Drugs Tested

5-Panel drug tests screen for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines (meth), opiates and phencyclidine (PCP). The common street drug in the opiates category is heroin, but common pain medications such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone are also tested in the opiate category.

Collection Types

5-Panel drug test samples are collected by urine, saliva, blood or hair follicle. Urine, saliva and blood tests measure recent drug use, typically from the last 72 hours. A hair follicle test measures drug use from a longer period of time, such as the last 90 days or longer. Some drugs, such as cocaine, exit the body’s system faster than other substances, like marijuana.

Validity Testing

Due to the privacy required to collect urine samples, there is a risk of sample tampering. Labs use techniques to ensure the sample tested is valid. The lab looks for any presence of chemicals not normally found in urine, such as bleach or other oxidizing material. The lab also tests the pH, specific gravity and creatinine levels to ensure they are normal for human samples. Detection of abnormal results renders the sample invalid for testing, and a new sample is requested. Tampering is not possible with saliva, blood or hair follicle tests because the sample is collected directly by a lab technician.


The cost for 5-Panel drug testing varies, and depends on the lab you use for testing and the type of sample tested. Urine tests can range from $25 to $75 each as of 2015, while hair follicle tests can be as high as $200. This is a cost your organization pays -- not your employee -- so you’ll want to consult with the technician service providers in your area to determine the price and sample collection that best suits your screening needs and budget.

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