What Is a 5 Panel Drug Test?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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The use and abuse of drugs can result in serious problems for employers and society. For this reason, there are many occasions, such as to obtain employment or to fulfill probation conditions, when people are requested to take drug tests. A 5 panel drug test is one that has the ability to determine the presence of multiple drugs at once.

The 5 panel test is called this because there are five substances that can be detected from a single sample. These include amphetamines, such as a drug commonly referred to as crystal meth, and cannabinoids such as marijuana. Cocaine and phencyclidine (PHP) can be detected. Additionally, a wide range of opiates, such as heroin and codeine, can be detected.

The testing method usually begins with collection of a sample. The sample is commonly a bodily fluid, such as saliva, blood, or urine. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, commonly referred to as GC/MS confirmation, is a common method used to analyze such samples. This method is often conducted in laboratories, meaning the test is sent away and the results are returned at a later time.

In some instances, a 5 panel drug test will claim to be instant. This does not mean the results will be revealed immediately after the sample is introduced. This means that these tests are designed to provide results without being sent to a laboratory. These tests often use an immunochromatographic assay method. Obtaining the results of an instant test generally requires at least several minutes.


Drug tests usually have levels that must be met or exceeded for detection. This means a person may have one or more of the listed drugs in her system. However, it may be present in such small amounts that the test results show she is drug-free.

In many instances, pre-employment screening and random drug testing conducted in the workplace utilize the 5 panel drug test. Another common instance when such tests are used is when people are injured on the job. If it is proven that a person was under the influence of a controlled substance when she was hurt, her employer, the employer’s insurance company, and unemployment insurers may be relieved of the burden of compensation.

There are more thorough drug tests, such as the 10 panel drug test. However, many employers deem the 5 panel drug test to be sufficient for their needs. One reason is those five types of drugs have been deemed to be the most often abused by health authorities such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the United States (US). Another reason is more in-depth testing is also usually more costly.


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Post 3

For the average person, I would think the average 5 panel urine drug test is going to catch pretty much anything that might be there. However, I know that professional athletes are very good at finding ways to hide the drugs in their systems.

The athletes have so much money (some of them anyway) that they can afford to go to great lengths to not get caught. They actually pay people to help them not get detected when they are taking illegal drugs.

Post 2

Where I used to work, a lot of the younger guys would smoke marijuana, especially on the weekends, and they would always be trying to come up with some way to beat the drug test kits that the company used.

The test the company used was about as simple as you could get I think, so there were some holes in the system. Still, most guys just tried to find ways to substitute their urine with clean urine without getting caught.

Post 1

Being sober and drug free on the job should be required of every employee regardless of his or her duties. I am in the process of trying to set up some type of drug screening for my employees. This is something I never thought I would have to do, but I think I was fooling myself when I just assumed that all of the people I hired would not come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Some of my workers work with heavy machinery and if they are high or drunk then they are putting themselves and other people in danger, and my companies are liable. My employees also work with the public in some situations

and the way they behave reflects on me and my companies.

Finding a drug test that is not so expensive that it is going to create financial problems and one that is effective at the same time is my primary concern. I think a standard 5 panel drug test might be what I need.

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