Frequently Asked Questions about Drug Testing, DNA Testing, and Background Checks

Drug Testing FAQ

Q: I don’t know anything about drug testing. Can you give me a quick run-down on how it works?

Answer: The following is an overview of urine testing.

Instant testing is a form of testing done at the time of specimen collection. This will indicate only a negative or a non-negative without indicating quantitative levels of any detected substances (A non-negative is not the same as a positive—this has to be confirmed by a lab). A negative result can be reported immediately as negative. A non-negative result indicates a substance has been detected above a specified thresh-hold (this is called a cut-off level) and requires additional testing at a laboratory to confirm the findings. A non-negative result may be due to a legitimate prescription so the lab must complete its analysis, first an immunoassay, and if necessary a secondary, more sophisticated type of analysis (gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy or a similar technology) to obtain quantitative analysis.

Lab results that are positive should be reported to a medical review officer (MRO—this is an independent third-party physician) for review before results are released. The MRO will contact the donor directly to discuss the lab findings and determine if there is a legitimate reason that can be substantiated for the lab finding (i.e. a doctor’s prescription). If they are able to confirm a legitimate reason for the lab findings, a negative test result will be indicated and the report will be released (without revealing any private medical information). If they are able to confirm a legitimate reason for the finding (a doctor’s prescription), the results will be released as negative. If they are not able to confirm a legitimate reason for the lab finding, (i.e. an illegal substance such as cocaine) the result will be reported as positive. Lab-based testing may be done automatically (no instant test is done), based on the preferences of the employer.

NOTE: All DOT/federal testing must be lab-based.

Q: What do you mean by an instant/rapid drug test?

Answer: Instant/rapid testing is done right after the donor provides the specimen and results are available within minutes, indicating the presence or absence of a specific drug in your body.

Q: What is medical review?

Answer: An independent, third party should be used for medical review. This is a physician who will review the analysis from the lab and if a non-negative is reported, will contact the donor directly to discuss the test results. The Medical Review Officer (MRO) will allow the donor to provide documentation that indicates a non-negative result was due to a legitimate prescription. If this occurs, the MRO will release the report as negative. If the donor cannot substantiate any legitimate reason for a non-negative outcome, the MRO will release the report as positive and include the specifics.

Q: What does “cut-off level” mean?

Answer: Every test uses an established threshold that must be exceeded for a test to be deemed non-negative/positive. The lower the cut-off level, the more sensitive the test. These are generally industry accepted values, established to ensure reliable results indicating first-hand ingestion; however, non-DOT/non-federal employers can establish whatever testing cut-off levels they like.

Q: Could I test positive for marijuana (THC) from exposure to second-hand smoke?

Answer: Urine drug tests for marijuana are testing for the metabolites created by the body from direct ingestion, not second hand exposure. Additionally, industry-accepted cut-off testing levels are used—any second-hand exposure would result in a urine concentration for such a substance well below the cut-off level. Therefore, a positive marijuana (THC) result would be from direct ingestion, not second-hand exposure. 

Q: Will substances that I use regularly, like vitamins, penicillin, aspirin, and caffeine affect the results in any way?

Answer: No. Rapid drug tests react to drugs and drug metabolites from illicit substances, which have a different chemical structure than OTC substances. While prescription substances may appear as a non-negative on an instant/rapid drug test, lab analysis and medical review should always be used to confirm any non-negative results and rule out any substances that may be legitimately prescribed and taken as prescribed. This means taking a legitimate prescription is never of concern on a drug test. Do NOT stop taking a legitimate prescription prescribed by your doctor for purposes of drug testing.

Q: What is the price of a drug test?

Answer: The price is dependent on the test selected.

Q: What substances can you test for?

Answer: We can test for thousands of substances. There is not one test that will test “everything,” and there is no such thing as a “standard drug test.” To determine what test you need we need to know the reason for the test and what substances need to be tested for. Many of our clients request a 10 or 12 panel urine test but there are many other types of tests that may be appropriate based on the specific situation.

Q: Can one test be used for all the possible drugs of abuse?

Answer: Although multiple substances can be tested for at once, there really isn’t one test that would test for every possible substance. In a laboratory test, many substances can be tested for simultaneously. The DOT test panel is dictated by the federal government—this is a 5 panel test AMP, COC, THC, OPI, PCP—plus 6-AM (heroin metabolite) and MDMA (Ecstasy). For Non-DOT employers and individuals, we can help you determine the type of test and test panel that is appropriate for you, and select a comprehensive, yet affordable test.

Q: Who has access to my drug test results?

Answer: Results cannot be provided over the phone and are only provided to individuals designated by the client on a release form. If testing is done for an employer, the results are released to the employer.

Without a court order, a test result will not be released to anyone other than those designated on the signed release form.

Q: If a drug test is positive, can it be proved how long ago the drug was taken?

Answer: Saliva and urine tests indicate only a positive or negative result, not how long ago a drug has been taken. However, there are generally accepted detection windows per substance. Hair test results offer a detection window of approximately 90 days (for a standard 1.5” head hair segment) but the lab cannot indicate specifically when the drug was taken within that window. 

Q: Does hair color affect hair test results?

Answer: No. Coloring the hair has been shown (and upheld in court) to NOT be a determining factor in detection of drug use.

Q: How effective is hair testing?

Answer: In side by side comparison studies, hair drug testing uncovered 4-8 times as many drug users as urinalysis. (This is likely due to the longer detection window and the inability of a donor to substitute or adulterate a specimen.)

Q: What percentage of random tests should be conducted each year for non-DOT (non-regulated) employers to maintain an effective deterrence and detection program?

Answer: There is no established optimum percentage of random tests. Logically, a very small percentage (e.g., 5 percent) may not be sufficient to deter or detect someone abusing an illicit substance, while a very high percentage (e.g., 95 percent) might be much more than is needed to maintain an effective program. The Department of Transportation FMCSA utilizes a 50% random drug testing and 10% random alcohol testing rate annually so many non-DOT employers follow suit and test at these rates as well.

Q: What are the drug detection times in the body for urine and saliva testing?

Answer: Drug detection times, or the amount of time the drug remains in the body, varies from drug to drug (times given are approximate and may vary given dosage, potency, metabolism, usage frequency, etc.). The chart below indicates some approximate detection windows by substance. Hair testing will yield a 90-day detection window per 1.5” standard head hair segment. Some facilities indicate body hair will yield approximately 1-year detection window.

APPROXIMATE Values for Detection Periods
SubstanceUrineOral Fluid
Alcohol6-24 hours
Note: Specific alcohol tests can measure EtG (zero tolerance alcohol test) which can stay in urine for up to 80 hours
12-24 hours
Amphetamines 
(except methamphetamine)
1-4 days12 hours
Methamphetamine3-5 days1-3 days
MDMA 
(Ecstasy)
72-96 hours72-96 hours
Barbiturates 
(except phenobarbital)
1 day1-2 days
Phenobarbital2-3 weeks4-7 days
BenzodiazepinesTherapeutic Use: Up to 7 days
Chronic Use (Over One Year): 4-6 weeks
6-48 hours
CannabisInfrequent Users: 3-4 Days
Heavy Users: 10 days
Chronic Users and/or Users with High Body Fat: 30 days or more
Typically 2-24 hours in most cases
Cocaine2-5 days
(With exceptions for certain kidney disorders)
2-5 days
Codeine2-3 days1-3 days
Cotinine
(break-down product of nicotine)
2-4 days2-4 days
Morphine2-4 days1-3 days
LSD12-24 hours2-4 days
Methadone7-30 days24 hours
Steroids3-30 daysN/A
PCPSingle Use: 3-7 days
Chronic Use: Up to 30 days
1-3 days

Q: Do you offer DOT (federally regulated) testing?

Answer: Yes, we utilize collection sites that have trained collectors to conduct DOT UDS BAT testing, and are current on federal regulations and collection protocol.

Q: I am an employee (for example, truck driver, merchant mariner, pilot, etc.) or employer covered under the DOT regulations. Can you give me specific information on the DOT regulations?

Answer: We can answer your questions about DOT/federally regulated testing or you may call the DOT directly at 202-366-3784 or visit the website at www.dot.gov/ost/dapc.

Q: What forms of payment do you accept?

Answer: We take most forms of payment (including most major credit cards), but we do not accept personal checks.

DNA Testing FAQ

Q: Are DNA paternity tests accurate?

Answer: Yes, we only utilize fully certified and accredited laboratories and results will indicate a 0 probability (complete exclusion) or greater than 99% probability (inclusion) of paternity.

Q: How long does it take?

Answer: DNA sample collection is a quick, painless process and samples are shipped overnight to the laboratory. Results are typically reported quickly, in a detailed, comprehensive report provided in just a few days.

Q: Can results be used in court?

Answer: Yes—testing for legal/court purposes is available.

Q: Does the biological mother have to participate?

Answer: No—we can assist with motherless testing (although the appropriate party must sign to give consent for us to collect a minor child’s DNA).

Q: What if the alleged father is not available or is deceased?

Answer: In many cases, there may be another type of DNA test available to determine paternity or we may be able to obtain a DNA sample even if the alleged father is deceased. Call us to discuss your specific situation.

Q: Is a court order required for legal DNA testing?

Answer: Not necessarily. If all parties are willing participants a court order is not required.

Q: Where do I get tested?

Answer: We can facilitate testing anywhere in the US (even if a party is incarcerated), typically without any additional fee.

Q: Can I get testing cheaper by dealing directly with the laboratory?

Answer: Typically, our DNA prices are lower than dealing directly with the laboratories because when the labs must facilitate the sample collection and administrative part of the test they charge a premium. We have had clients tell us we saved them $100 or more, plus you get personalized service when you work with us!

Q: Is DNA testing painful?

Answer: No—a simple cheek swab (called a buccal swab) is the standard specimen. This is done with a Q-tip type device and is not painful at all—some clients say it tickles! In certain circumstances alternative specimens may be used as necessary (cigarette butts, bloodied bandages, chewing gum, etc.), though additional fees apply.

Q: How much does a DNA test cost?

Answer: This depends on the type of test you need but is often less than you would think. Call us for information.

Q: What other DNA tests are available?

Answer: We offer a wide variety of DNA tests including grand-parentage, avuncular (aunt/uncle), twin-ship, sibling-ship, and DNA banking.

Q: Who has access to my DNA results?

Answer: Only individuals designated by the client on a release form have access to test results and results are NOT given out over the phone. Without a court order, a test result will not be released to anyone other than those designated on the signed release form.

Background Check FAQ

Q: Where does the information in the reports come from?

Answer: Many agencies simply use public databases to compile their information for reports. However, we utilize information provided by official law enforcement registries to ensure information is up to date, regulated, and accurate. Any derogatory information is confirmed by licensed private investigators prior to release (to ensure accuracy). Additionally, all of our reports are fully compliant with FCRA regulations.

Q: What kind of background checks are available?

Answer: We offer a wide variety of reports: criminal, MVR, etc. Call us to discuss your needs.

Q: How long does it take to receive a report?

Answer: Some reports are available almost instantly. Others require some lead-time depending on the type of report and confirmation of information provided.