Drug and Alcohol Testing

4-Panel Drug Test: Which Drugs, Timeframes, & Results

  • May 31, 2024
  • Jenni Gray
  • Approx. Read Time: 7 Minutes
  • Updated on May 31, 2024
Cisive. 4-Panel Drug Tests: What You Need to Know.

Note: This blog discusses a type of drug panel that removes specific drugs (THC, PCP, etc.) in certain situations. Cisive recommends working with your background screening partner to determine which drug panel best suits the needs of your company.


Some employers see drug screening as both an extra expense and an extra step that can cause significant delays in recruiting for an important position. However, the long-term benefits of an effective drug testing policy far outweigh these concerns. 

A four-panel drug test is an option to consider due to its convenience and ability to be customized. 



Key Takeaways 

Here are important reasons to include a 4-panel drug test in your company: 

        • A 4-panel drug test is a urine drug test that screens for either four standard substances or drugs of your choice. 
        • The test can be used for pre-employment screening, random drug testing, or non-DOT post-accident testing. 
        • Drug testing promotes workplace safety, increases productivity, and helps protect your organization in several ways. 
        • A drug test is only as accurate as the collection and testing process allows, including issues with intentional dilution by the employee or candidate. 
        • Partnering with a third-party drug test company with a reputation for accuracy, such as Cisive, can help make adding drug screening a painless process. 


Table of Contents 

  1. What Is a 4-Panel Drug Test? 
  2. Components of a 4-Panel Drug Test 
  3. How Drug Tests Work 
  4. Why Are Drug Tests Important? 
  5. Challenges With 4-Panel Drug Tests 
  6. How to Make the Drug Screening Process Easier 


Four Panel 1


What Is a 4-Panel Drug Test? 

A 4-panel drug test is an unregulated urine test that screens for the presence of metabolites of substances from four major drug categories, four specific drugs, or a mix of the two. This is opposed to a 5-panel DOT (Department of Transportation) or DOT-like test, which always tests for the same five substance categories.  


Components of a 4-Panel Drug Test 

For example, a 4-panel drug test might screen for: 

    • THC (cannabis). THC, marijuana, hash, or any other cannabinoid used on the job can impact work performance, so many employers include cannabis screening even in states in which THC is legal. 
    • Cocaine. Cocaine is a highly addictive, powerful stimulant that is known for causing a high dependency that can lead to binges and create serious side effects. 
    • Methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is a potent and addictive member of the amphetamine family. Chronic users can exhibit symptoms such as paranoia, memory loss, and even paralysis. 
    • Opiates. Opiates can be prescribed by a medical professional but are often sold on the streets and abused by snorting or smoking to cause a quick high rather than merely relieve pain. Opiates abused in this way are highly addictive and can cause euphoria, drowsiness, and confusion. 

In states where marijuana is legal, employers may opt for a traditional 5-panel test, except without the THC. This type of "No THC" 4-panel drug test would screen for: 

    • Opiates 
    • Cocaine 
    • Amphetamines 
    • Phencyclidine (PCP) 

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A 4-panel test can also be customized to screen for some standard drug categories as well as other specific drugs or categories, such as: 

    • Methadone. While this synthetic opioid is often used to treat addiction, it can be abused when taken in higher doses than prescribed and can cause impairment even at prescribed doses. 
    • Fentanyl. This is a synthetic opioid that isn't detected by traditional opiate tests. 
    • Benzodiazepines. These are often prescription drugs, such as Valium, Xanax, or Ativan, that can make a person feel drowsy. 


How Drug Tests Work 

The process of testing starts with collecting a urine sample. This can be done at a clinic, lab, or workplace or via mobile collection. 

While a rapid test can detect a negative test immediately, lab-based testing, such as those used at Cisive, is considered to be more accurate. In the latter case, the sample will need to be sent to a lab. However, some collection facilities have labs on-site. 

The advantage of using Cisive as a drug screening provider is that drug testing is always done at the highest standard to ensure the most accurate results. 


Four Panel 2


Why Are Drug Tests Important? 

While most companies are not required to do drug testing, many employers opt to do so because striving to maintain a drug-free workplace environment has many benefits. 

Drug testing can be for pre-employment screening only, random, or non-DOT post-accident testing. Regardless of when drug tests are used, a clear, pre-written drug testing policy that's applied fairly to all employees can help your company in a number of ways. 


Promotes Workplace Safety 

Drug use impairs judgment and motor skills, which can lead to avoidable accidents. For example, an impaired employee may operate machinery or stack products unsafely, potentially causing an injury to another employee or customer. 

A drug-free workplace helps maintain a safe environment for both fellow employees and customers. 


Increases Productivity 

Employees struggling with addiction are less productive, more prone to theft, have more absenteeism, and produce a lower quality of work. A substance abuser can be so distracted by withdrawals or obtaining their drug of choice that they aren't focused on the task at hand. 

Because addiction can lead to higher turnover, employers can also realize savings in recruitment and the expense of new-hire training with a sensible drug testing policy. 


Protects Your Organization From Liability 

In the case of an accident that injures either an employee, a customer, or property belonging to a third party, having a drug testing policy, especially mandatory post-accident drug testing, can protect your organization from liability and potential lawsuits. 

Some substances are only detectable for a limited time in urine tests, so an established post-accident policy can help ensure the drug test is performed in a timely manner to prove the employee was not impaired when the incident occurred. 


Helps Maintain Your Organization's Reputation 

These days, it can take just one viral video of an employee acting inappropriately or erratically around a customer to tarnish a company's reputation. Regular drug testing helps maintain positive customer experiences and prevents your organization from being the focus of a media frenzy due to a severe accident or highly publicized lawsuit. 

A 4-panel drug test can allow employers to keep specific drugs that are causing the most problems in their area out of the workplace. It can also help improve the quality of their employees' lives after being hired by requiring substance abuse treatment in the event of a positive random test. 


Recommended Reading: DOT vs. Non-DOT Drug Test 


Four Panel 3


Challenges With 4-Panel Drug Tests 

While 4-panel drug tests have their benefits, those benefits and the accuracy of the test itself can be affected by several factors. 


Factors That Can Influence Results 

The test is only as accurate as the sample given. Below are some factors that can affect the quality of the sample: 

    • Testing delays. The sooner a sample is tested after it's collected, the more accurate the results. 
    • Dilution. If the employee drinks too much liquid before the test, it can become too diluted to give an accurate result. 
    • Metabolism. Because drug tests are designed to screen for substance metabolites, a person's metabolism can determine how fast drug metabolites can leave their system. 


Less Comprehensive Than 5-Panel (and More) Tests 

Drug tests range from one panel, which only screens for one substance, to over 15 panels. The more substances the test screens for, the more comprehensive the test. 

While a 4-panel drug test is sufficient to screen for the substances that are most likely to cause addiction and affect a worker's performance, a 5-panel or higher drug test would be more comprehensive. 


Interpreting Results 

A 4-panel drug test will give three possible results: 

    • Negative 
    • Positive 
    • Inconclusive 

Negative results are fairly straightforward and are reported the most quickly. Employers may receive negative results on the same day as the sample was given to the lab, depending on the efficiency of the lab. 

A positive result takes longer because it typically involves further testing to weed out false positive results. A delay can also be caused by the lab needing to contact the employee or candidate to verify a prescription or ask about other substances that might have been ingested, such as some over-the-counter medications. 

Inconclusive results usually require a new sample.  

Cisive is a drug screening company that strives to use best practices in the industry to provide the most accurate results possible. 


Recommended Reading: Non-DOT Drug Testing 


How to Make the Drug Screening Process Easier 

While the idea of adding a drug testing policy might seem complicated, the benefits outweigh the additional effort needed. 

Partnering with a third-party drug testing company, such as Cisive, can make drug testing a painless part of pre-employment screening or an ongoing check to ensure a drug-free environment. Numerous collection sites across the country and on-site or mobile options make drug testing fast and convenient. 


Recommended Reading: How Long Does Pre-Employment Drug Screening Take 


Find Comprehensive Drug Testing With Cisive 

A drug testing policy will help protect your employees, customers, and your organization from the dangers associated with hiring substance abusers.  

Cisive offers convenient, flexible, and accurate drug testing options with collection sites across the country. For added convenience, on-site or mobile sample collection is also available.  

For a free assessment of your company's current drug testing program, speak to an expert today. 


Screen smarter, hire safer. Get the right talent to drive your success. Speak to an expert.


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