Introduction to the 10-Panel Drug Test
What this test covers and who it's right for.
The 10-panel drug test is the most common test for non-DOT (Department of Transportation) regulated employers, used in both law enforcement and the medical sector where safety is an ongoing and critical concern. It is also used to test people who are on probation and prohibited from using drugs as a condition of said probation, and in some cases, with government employees whose jobs are considered dangerous or are positions which involve a responsibility for the safety of others. (Learn more in Drug Abbreviations Used In Drug Testing).
The 10-panel test has applications in other workplaces where it can be used to identify recent or current substance abuse in employees or potential employees. It typically tests for five common street drugs and five commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals and can help companies define and manage potential workplace risks related to these medications.
A 10-panel drug test typically includes these 10 drugs:
Methadone is an opioid occasionally prescribed for pain relief but far more frequently prescribed as a treatment for heroin addiction. Users of methadone will experience effects that are similar but less severe than those of harder drugs. Methadone is not a cure for addiction but rather a longer lasting substitute meant to ward off addiction cravings for more serious drugs.
That does not mean that the use of methadone does not pose risks for your workplace. Addiction can occur and withdrawal from this drug is as intense as it is for other serious narcotics. In the first few weeks of use, methadone can affect worker safety by inducing:
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
During withdrawal, the effects escalate and can include:
- Panic disorder
Employers cannot discriminate against a worker who is seeking treatment for addiction, but they can require proof of a valid prescription via the Medical Review Officer (MRO). Identifying and understanding the risks of methadone use can also help employers protect their workers during treatment.
Propoxyphene is an illegal, highly-addictive substance with effects similar to other opioids although they are normally less severe. Propoxyphene is less commonly used, but it is a serious drug and can be fatal if ingested with alcohol. In fact, it cannot even be safely taken with food made with alcohol.
Alongside the usual effects of an opioid, propoxyphene has also been linked to increased risk of suicide, severe respiratory depression and heart rhythm abnormalities. These pose substantial risks to your workers as do the effects of long-term propoxyphene use including:
- Changes in behavior
These effects can be serious in safety sensitive positions, but they can also pose substantial risks in other areas of the workplace and can have a negative effect on company morale.
Methaqualone is an illegal drug better known by the street name Quaaludes. Its effects include relaxation, sleepiness and feelings of euphoria. In the workplace, the major risk is drowsiness, which has the potential to cause accidents and injuries.
Even low dosages of Methaqualone can result in fatal overdose and that risk is increased when methaqualone is taken with alcohol. Additional side effects affecting your workplace can include:
- Mental confusion
- Loss of muscle control
After years of high but stable usage rates, there is rising concern among experts that the United States is about to be hit with a cocaine epidemic. If true, this could be a serious problem for employers. Cocaine is often difficult to detect in the workplace as many of its effects mimic those of normal workplace stress or lack of sleep. Drug tests can detect cocaine up to eight days after use and while the high does not last long, the negative effects do.
Cocaine users often mistakenly believe the drug increases their mental alertness as the initial effects of a cocaine high can induce mental clarity and increased focus and alertness. These preliminary effects generally last only thirty minutes, however, after which the user will feel depressed, agitated, nervous and fatigued.
Additional effects of a cocaine high include:
Studies have shown that cocaine users struggle with concentration, attention, decision-making and memory long after the high has disappeared. As users take more of it, more often, they become addicted and both productivity and safety at work are affected.
The United States leads the world in marijuana use and some research suggests that the marijuana being consumed in the U.S. is a much more potent variety. It is also gaining acceptance for both medical and recreational use. Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana and nine more have legalized recreational marijuana. Canada also recently legalized marijuana.
Unfortunately for employers, legalization doesn’t imply safety. High doses of marijuana can induce paranoia, hallucinations and anxiety, and these effects can last up to 24 hours. In the workplace, marijuana can also:
- Impair concentration
- Affect the ability to think and make decisions
- Reduce reaction time
- Affect coordination
These all pose significant risks for jobs relying on driving or cognitive tasks, as the effects can last for up to four hours. Impairment varies widely between occasional and long-term users and by individual tolerance levels. There is additional evidence that acute use can also impair learning, memory and attention over the long term.
Phencyclidine (PCP) is a controlled substance that has new found popularity as a club drug.
PCP’s real threat is the dangerous and mind-altering effects it can have. In the workplace these effects can be extremely serious. Even in moderate amounts, PCP can cause users to feel a misplaced sense of strength and invulnerability and put themselves and others at risk. These effects begin within minutes and can last 6 to 48 hours.
PCP can have numerous other effects on your workers that include:
- Loss of coordination
PCP is highly addictive and over the long-term users can experience memory loss, depression and problems with both speech and learning.
Amphetamines, including methamphetamines, are stimulants that speed up the central nervous system. Though opioids are dominating the headlines, methamphetamine use is quietly skyrocketing in both the Midwest and the southern United States.
The effects of amphetamines can very widely. One user might feel excited and invincible, another nervous and tense and still another hostile and aggressive. In the workplace amphetamine abuse can lead to:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of concern for serious matters
- Exhaustion, particularly at the beginning of the work week
- Aggressive and risky behavior while driving or operating machinery
- Restless and excessively excitable behavior with coworkers or customers
- Aggression or hostility directed to coworkers or customers
- Paranoia, delusions, chronic exhaustion
Amphetamine effects can last for up to four hours but for heavy and chronic users, effects such as paranoia, delusions and aggressive behavior can last for days. All of this poses a potential threat for both your workers and your workplace.
Made from the opium poppy plant, opiates include opium, codeine, heroin and morphine. They are used as an analgesic (painkiller) but also have a narcotic effect on users. (Learn more in Opiates vs. Opioids: What's The Difference?).
Legal opiates are highly addictive and susceptible to substance abuse. Prescriptions for opiates will often include a warning to the user not to operate heavy machinery and even when used as prescribed, opiates cause impairment and can increase workplace accidents, errors and injuries. A few of the obvious effects of opiate use on the job include
- Falling asleep at workstations or desks
- Mood swings
- Major changes in energy levels
As they come down from the high, users may exhibit withdrawal symptoms including irritability, anxiousness, nausea and shaking. Employees abusing opiates will sometimes mix in other drugs to create a functional high, but this essentially doubles the risk for your workplace.
Benzodiazepines are some of the most frequently abused legal drugs. They include brand names such as Valium and Xanax and are frequently prescribed to control conditions such as anxiety and sleep disorders.
Even when used as prescribed, these drugs tend to induce drowsiness or dizziness, making it dangerous for users to drive or operate machinery. They can also negatively impact your employees' social abilities, potentially affecting their interactions with co-workers and customers. At work, benzodiazepine abusers may also exhibit:
- Slow reaction time
- Poor concentration and memory
- Vision problems
Benzodiazepine abuse frequently involves the use of another substance such as alcohol or opioids, exacerbating its effects and increasing the chance of an accidental overdose.
Barbiturates are a seldom prescribed drug that initially makes users feel happy, relaxed and less inhibited. However, there is a very thin line separating therapeutic use from abuse, and barbiturates can quickly become dangerous if taken in excess.
Barbiturate abuse often mimics the symptoms of alcohol intoxication. Tolerance and subsequent addiction builds quickly, usually within a few weeks. Workers pose safety and error risks from several side effects of its use including:
- Poor judgement
How long the effects of barbiturates last vary widely but even withdrawal from the drug can cause severe effects including agitation, anxiety and depression, putting your workplace at further risk.
Why The 10 Panel In Particular?
The 10-panel drug test is a popular option for workplace drug testing and offers a good mix of prescription and illegal substances commonly found in workplaces for relatively little increase in cost. It allows you to identify and address possible risks to your workers, your workplace and the public.
Written by Jennifer Crump
Jennifer Crump is a former freelance journalist and author and now full-time content writer and strategist. She contributes to magazines and blogs throughout North America on issues related to business, training, financing and workplace safety.