Drug testing parolees and probationers is one of the most complex and specialized instances of drug testing. The consequences are high and the subjects are very clever when it comes to tampering. Probationer officers and parolees alike often want to know which drug test probation offices use.
Which drug tests do most probation offices use?
The 12 Panel Clia Waived drug test is by far the most common test used by probation offices across the country. A 12 panel drug test covers all of the well known illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin and ecstasy as well as pharmaceuticals like opiate painkillers, Xanax, valium and buprenorphine.
Users are always finding new drugs that they can take that won’t show up on a drug test, but a 12 panel drug test pretty much covers the basics for probation office use.
Across the United States however testing varies. Probation officers choose tests based on the drug use in their area. Almost all probation offices use instant drug test dip cards or cups, but some use 5 panels and some use 12 panels.
For instance one probation office surveyed in North Carolina used 5 panel tests, but also had alcohol and benzodiazepine tests to use for probationers that used those drugs and to randomly check others. A probation office in Michigan used 12 panel tests but also used an ETG (alcohol) test.
Why 12 Panel Drug Tests?
The main reason probation offices would choose a 12 panel instant test is because it’s the most drugs you can test for in a single device and still have it CLIA waived. A CLIA waived test is important because it takes minimal instruction to use and officers do not need special training.
It is important for probation offices to use instant drug tests because they do a high volume of testing, it is much cheaper and it also allows officers to have immediate results. Positive test results will always be confirmed at a lab, and in most cases your probation officer will wait until those results come back to pursue any punishment.
Drug Test Cups are preferred because the price difference is negligible and they’re much more sanitary than using dip cards.
During the last decade probation officers used 5 panel tests that would identify the use of most popular illicit drugs including heroin, marijuana cocaine and methamphetamine. As areas started to see more prescription drug abuse they started to expand to cover the most widely abused prescription medications.
In some regions it is fairly easy to get a prescription to cover this type of drug use, which slowed down agencies from adopting more comprehensive drug tests even more.
Forensic Use Only
Since probation officers are considered law enforcement, they are allowed to use drug tests that are designed for forensic use. many probation offices have started supplementing their 12 panel tests with fentanyl tests.
Probation Drug Testing Changes on a Regional Level
One probationer that was released from his probation in 2007 said, “I was caught in Minnesota with Oxycontin and charged with felony possession. I was offered a plea bargain that would drop the felony to a misdemeanor in exchange for 1 year on probation, they said I was the first person to ever be caught with pain pills crushed up. Once I checked in at my probation office I noticed they only used a 3 panel drug test, so I continued using prescription painkillers the entire probation”.
States like West Virginia saw an early rise in prescription drug abuse and changed their drug testing programs to reflect that. From 1999 to 2004 deaths from unintentional drug poisoning increased 68% nationwide, while West Virginia experienced the Nation’s largest increase at 550%. West Virginia probation offices were purchasing panels for Oxycodone and other prescription medications as early as 2001.
As prescription drug abuse has increased across the country so has testing for those substances. In 2020 the majority of probation offices are using 12 panel drug tests that are comprehensive, but there are still offices that focus primarily on illicit drugs that have no medical use.
The Future of Probation Drug Testing
Probation officers change with the landscape. Many are already using additional panels to test for alcohol and fentanyl, and some probation offices have started random testing for Gabapentin (Neurontin) because probationers often turn to drugs that aren’t as well known to get high without risking arrest. Other popular replacement drugs are Tramadol, Kratom and designer drugs like spice, K2, Flakka or bath salts.
Most drug tests will include fentanyl after the FDA starts issuing CLIA waivers for those panels. Most 12 panel drug tests have removed PCP and replaced it with Tricyclic Antidepressants in the past few years.
It is a constant game of cat and mouse between probation officers and probationers trying to cheat the system. The only thing for certain is that probation officers will continue to change up and surprise probationers and the only surefire way to keep from getting your probation revoked is to obey the law and practice abstinence from drug use during your sentence.
If you’re a probation officer or probationer we’d love to hear about your drug testing program and which tests you use! Contact us and let us know.