Drug testing can be completed in house cheaply with a high rate of accuracy. A 12 panel drug test is comprehensive and can be purchased for as little as $2.70 per test.
There are many types of drug tests available. Different industries and use cases call for different tests and sometimes different procedures.
For instance a highly competitive job search in a large public corporation will often require a 3rd party testing firm because it is worth the extra cost to avoid liability or claims of unscrupulous behavior. A pain management doctor will often use instant urine screens because they have trained staff on site and it is important that they get the results as soon as possible to direct patient care.
Different procedures, policies and specimens can have significantly different costs. In a hypothetical costing exercise outlined later in this article I estimate that a small business with approximately 250 employees can maintain a robust drug testing policy for $781.20 per year (based on 10% turnover and 5 confirmations).
Cost of Rapid Point of Care Drug Screens
Instant urine drug screens are the most cost effective drug tests available. They offer accurate results quickly, but require competent staff to administer. If a facility has a CLIA certificate they can administer CLIA waived tests and the results will meet the criteria set forth by the FDA for drug testing. a comprehensive urine drug screen costs $2.70 when ordered in bulk.
Instant saliva tests have become popular in recent years because people believe it is more sanitary than urine. They are not CLIA waived and carry a higher cost, approximately twice as much as a urine drug screen. Expect to pay $5-$6 for a comprehensive test even if you purchase in bulk.
Instant hair drug tests are now available, but they are prohibitively expensive. A cursory search for instant hair drug tests comes back with offers in the $50 range.
Purchasing the tests is only part of an overall drug free workplace program. You will also have to pay for the time it takes to train staff to administer drug tests and the time they spend drug testing people.
It is recommended that all positive tests be sent to a laboratory for confirmation. A confirmatory test is much cheaper than a full spectrum analysis, but will still cost XXXXX
Cost of Laboratory Drug Screens
Laboratories have many capabilities and the cost of drug testing is dependent on which equipment is used. The truth is that using lab equipment is prohibitively expensive. Usually when a lab conducts employment testing they will use immunoassay strips, the same kind found in rapid test cups, to run the test. The difference is that since their staff and facility meets the requirements for high complexity testing they do not need a CLIA waived product. They can also confirm results on site.
After running the test they will use gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to confirm positive results. It only costs about $40 for a confirmation, but if the same equipment and staff has to do analysis on 12 drugs the cost will be closer to $200.
When an on site drug testing company sends a sample in for a confirmation that’s exactly what they’re purchasing; the use of a gas chromatography and mass spectrometry device to confirm a single finding. One of my newest clients just switched to our 12 panel cups because the 5 panel tests he was using did not include oxycodone. One of his patients failed the 5 panel test for cocaine and when he sent it in for a confirmation it came back negative for cocaine.
Upon reviewing the results one of his nurses noticed that there was a substance that registered on the lab test so they called the lab. It turned out that the patient was positive for oxycodone and the lab workers could easily see that, but the client had paid for a confirmation for cocaine so the official documentation that was provided only indicated that the patient was negative for cocaine.
So why don’t labs always run a full spectrum analysis that identifies all substances? Because a lab can perform a legal 12 panel drug test the same way you would at your business for less than $10 and they can charge you $55 for the work. Each drug confirmation with their expensive equipment costs $30-$50, and a comprehensive test checking for the presence of all drugs would be approximately $200.
Cost of Outsourcing vs. In House Drug Testing
There are several options available for drug testing. You can hire a lab, and there are companies that provide drug testing using rapid tests and also take care of all the details such as policy, paperwork and handling legal aspects.
Most drug testing companies will charge between $20 and $100 depending on the types of drugs you test for, the type of drug testing you need performed, the number of tests performed, and the labor involved.
Most small businesses can complete a single drug test for the cost of the test ($2.70 for a 12 panel cup) and the cost of labor for an employee to observe the drug screen and interpret the results. It takes about 10 minutes to perform a rapid screen in most cases.
Let us look at a hypothetical home healthcare company. In 1 year they may need 20 pre employment tests, 80 random tests and 6 post incident tests.
In House Drug Testing
Cost of Tests: $286.20
Cost of Labor: 15 hours at $18 = $270
5 Lab Confirmations at $45 = $225
Outsourced Drug Testing
Cost of Tests = 106 x $40
Comprehensive Laboratory Testing
Cost of Tests = 106 x $215
As you can see having a laboratory doing comprehensive GC/MS testing on 106 samples is extremely expensive. Even outsourcing your drug testing to a drug testing company is 542% more expensive than doing comprehensive drug testing in house with a competent employee and lab confirmations.
Laboratories know that the cost of testing is prohibitive so they will often substitute cheaper methods. In some cases a lab will use the same cup your can purchase online very cheaply and mark up the cost several orders of magnitude. A lab would call it rapid test or immunoassay so always ask questions about how the tests are performed and the level of accuracy.
When you use CLIA waived test cups, thoroughly train your staff and follow strict chain of custody procedures the tests you can administer in house are considered extremely accurate and meet government standards for improved laboratory testing.
This hypothetical cost analysis reflects a company that has about 200-300 employees and a robust drug testing policy. Small companies can complete drug testing for as little as the cost of a box of tests ($75 on our website). The overall cost of a rapid testing program is influenced heavily by employee turnover and the size of the business.
Questions to Help Decide Which Is Best For You
- How often do you drug test?
- How many drug tests does your company need per month?
- How high is your turnover rate?
- What are the legal requirements for employment in your industry?
- What are common guidelines other companies in your industry use?
- Does your state have any special requirements for drug testing?
- What is your budget for your drug testing program?
For most companies an in house testing program is going to save money and allow you to have more control over the process and the regularity of testing. Some small companies may only need to do 1-5 tests per year and they don’t believe the savings is worth training staff.
How you go about doing drug tests is up to you, but you can drug test staff very cheaply and evidence shows that it probably costs your company more not to drug test employees than it costs to purchase the tests.