Man testing a sample for drugs in a lab.
What are drug test cutoff levels?

Drug testing detects the presence of drugs and drug metabolites using cutoff levels to determine whether a specimen tests positive or negative for the use of a specific drug.

Drug test screening level vs. confirmation level

In workplace drug testing, the industry standard process involves two-tiered testing – an initial screen on one portion of the specimen, followed by a confirmatory test on a second portion of the original specimen. The initial test is designed to separate negative specimens from further consideration. The confirmatory test uses definitive methods, such as chromatography-mass spectrometry (e.g., GC-MS, LC-MS/MS), that specifically identify and quantify the drug/metabolite in the specimen.

What does ng/mL and pg/mg mean on your drug screen?

Cutoff levels are expressed in nanograms (ng) per milliliter (mL) for urine and oral fluid testing or picograms (pg) per milligram (mg) for hair testing.

It is important to select a specimen type and cutoff level based on the desired window of detection and any regulatory requirements. Only when a drug or drug metabolite is identified at a concentration equal to or above the administrative cutoff is a specimen reported by the laboratory as positive. Consequently, a negative drug test does not necessarily mean that no drug is present. While that may be the case, other possible interpretations are that a drug was present below the cutoff or the testing panel did not include the drug the individual was using.

Federal drug testing cutoff levels

Cutoff levels for federally-regulated drug testing programs are established based on mandatory guidelines set by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

DOT drug testing cutoff levels

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rule 49 CFR Part 40 harmonizes with HHS and describes the required procedures for conducting drug and alcohol testing for the federally-regulated transportation industry.

Non-DOT drug testing cutoff levels

Many non-regulated employers mirror the cutoff levels established by the government while others customize their drug testing panels to be more sensitive to certain drugs based upon their program needs and unique workforce.

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Lab-based urine drug test common cutoff levels

DrugScreen cutoffConfirmation cutoff
Amphetamines500 ng/mL250 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites150 ng/mL100 ng/mL
Marijuana metabolites50 ng/mL15 ng/mL
MDA-analogues 500 ng/mL 250 ng/mL
Opiates2000 ng/mL2000 ng/mL
6-Acetylmorphine (6-AM)10 ng/mL10 ng/mL
Opiates (semi-synthetic)300 ng/mL100 ng/mL
Oxycodones100 ng/mL100 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)25 ng/mL25 ng/mL

Urine specimen 5-panel drug test cutoff levels

DrugScreen cutoffConfirmation cutoff
Amphetamines1000 ng/mL500 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites300 ng/mL150 ng/mL
Marijuana metabolites50 ng/mL15 ng/mL
Opiates2000 ng/mL2000 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)25 ng/mL25 ng/mL

Urine specimen 9-panel drug test cutoff levels

DrugScreen cutoffConfirmation cutoff
Amphetamines1000 ng/mL500 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites300 ng/mL150 ng/mL
Marijuana metabolites50 ng/mL15 ng/mL
Opiates2000 ng/mL2000 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)25 ng/mL25 ng/mL
Barbiturates300 ng/mL300 ng/mL
Benzodiazepines300 ng/mL200 ng/mL
Methadone300 ng/mL200 ng/mL
Propoxyphene300 ng/mL200 ng/mL

Instant urine drug test common cutoff levels

DrugScreen cutoff
Amphetamines1000 ng/mL
Methamphetamines1000 ng/mL
Cocaine/metabolite300 ng/mL
THC/metabolite 50 ng/mL
Opiates2000 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)25 ng/mL

Oral fluid drug test common cutoff levels

DrugScreen cutoffConfirmation cutoff
Amphetamine150 ng/mL120 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites 15 ng/mL 6 ng/mL
Marijuana 3 ng/mL 1.5 ng/mL
Methamphetamines120 ng/mL120 ng/mL
Opiates30 ng/mL30 ng/mL
Oxycodones30 ng/mL30 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP)3 ng/mL1.5 ng/mL

Hair follicle drug test common cutoff levels

DrugScreen cutoffConfirmation cutoff
Amphetamines300 pg/mg300 pg/mg
Cocaine/metabolites300 pg/mg300 pg/mg
Marijuana metabolites 1 pg/mg 0.1 pg/mg
Opiates500 pg/mg 500 pg/mg
Phencyclidine (PCP)300 pg/mg300 pg/mg

Hair specimen 5-panel drug test cutoff levels

DrugScreen cutoffConfirmation cutoff
Amphetamines300 pg/mg300 pg/mg
Cocaine/metabolites300 pg/mg300 pg/mg
Marijuana metabolites 1 pg/mg 0.1 pg/mg
Opiates500 pg/mg500 pg/mg
Phencyclidine (PCP)300 pg/mg300 pg/mg

Sources

Common federally-regulated cutoff levels: Source.

Commonly ordered non-regulated drug tests: Source.

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