Drug Testing In The Workplace

drug tests in the workplace UK

Drug testing in the workplace where to start

We have put this information page together to help you if you are new to workplace drug testing, and wish to start drug testing your employees.

There are several types of workplace drug test 

  • A pre-employment drug test-this is where a prospective employee undergoes a drug test as part of the recruitment process. This may be done externally by a recruitment company, occupational health service or it may be done in house by the company itself. 
  • Random drug testing-this is where an employer randomly drug tests their employees.
  • Post incident drug test-this type of drug test is performed when there has been an incident at work, and the manager or employer suspects that drugs or alcohol have been consumed.
  • On suspicion drug test-this is where an employee appears to be either under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work.

Workplace drug testing kits

 workplace drug test kits UK

Rapid onsite drug testing kits

These are drug testing kits that an employer can use to quickly screen employees for drug use. Onsite workplace drug testing give immediate results, but they are screening drug tests and any non negatives ( ie positives), should always be confirmed with a laboratory GCMS drug test, if disciplinary action is to be taken:

Types of onsite workplace drug testing kits

  • Urine drug testing kits (very popular, easy and can detect for up to 3-5 days after drugs have been used. The easiest drug tests to start with and excellent value for money. Best method for detecting Cannabis use)
  • Oral fluid saliva drug testing kits (very popular-a little more tricky than urine drug testing. Shorter detection time for drugs only detecting drug use for up to 12-24 hours after use. Not easy to detect Cannabis or Methadone on saliva drug tests. More expensive than urine drug testing but still good value for money )
  • Drug and alcohol testing kits (usually saliva based mouth swab drug test kits and very popular as screen for drugs and alcohol in one drug test)
  • Alcohol testing kits-these are available as alcohol test strips or single use breathalyser kits, and they just screen for alcohol.
  • Hair drug testing kits ( unusual in UK workplace drug testing. Long detection period (up to 3 months ) makes this unsuitable for workplace screening in most cases. More suited to court cases or criminal justice. Only a couple of drug can be tested for on an instant hair drug test kit. Most have to be sent to the lab which is expensive. More expensive than urine or saliva drug testing).
  • Surface drug testing kits-these are used to check a powder or to screen a surface for drugs if you suspect drugs may be being used at work. Useful if you think powder drugs such as powder Cocaine are being taken at work.
  • Fingerprint drug testing-this is one of the newer forms of workplace drug testing and currently this is limited to just a few drugs. Finger print drug tests are a more expensive option than urine and saliva for workplace drug testing in the UK. The prices may come down as the tests become more widely available.

Laboratory drug testing kits

UKAS accredited lab drug test packs are the gold standard when it comes to workplace drug testing. A fully accredited GCMS laboratory drug test should be used to confirm any non negative onsite drug test results, and to assess the amount of drug that is present in the sample.

How common is drug use in the UK workforce

Drug use in the UK has increased over the last 10 years. Recent surveys of the UK population conducted in England, Wales, and Scotland reported drug use rates of 9.4% in England and Wales, 12% in Scotland, and 5.9% in Northern Ireland.

how common is drug use in UK workplace

The highest rates of drug use where seen in the teenagers with 38% of 15 year olds in England, and 21% of 15 year olds in Scotland saying they had used drugs as some time in the past.

Which drugs are the most commonly abused in the UK

The 5 most commonly used illegal drugs in order in the UK are:

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine,
  • MDMA
  • Ketamine
  • Amphetamine

The UK also has relatively high levels of misuse of Opiates and Benzodiazepines (both of which are very sedating) and of course we must not forget alcohol

Most commonly abused legal drugs:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine

Most commonly detected drugs on random drug tests on Prison population:

  • Synthetic Cannabis such as Spice (widely used in prisons)
  • In Scotland Buprenorphine is the most commonly detected drug on prison drug tests

What drugs are tested for in the workplace

There are a huge range of drugs that can now be tested for on a workplace drug test in the UK. We have listed the most commonly used drugs above, so it makes sense to include these 5 drugs on your onsite workplace drug test.

We recommend testing for at least the following 5 drugs on your workplace drug test:

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine,
  • Amphetamine
  • Opiates 
  • Benzodiazepines
If you have a young workforce consider also screening for:
  • MDMA
  • Ketamine

If your workforce are likely to have been in prison consider adding the following drugs to your workplace drug tests:

  • Synthetic Cannabis such as Spice 
  • Buprenorphine 

Also consider whether you wish to also test for alcohol

What is a standard panel drug test?

In the United Kingdom, standard workplace drug testing panels may vary depending on the organisation's policies and requirements. However, a commonly used standard is the 5-panel drug test. This test typically includes screening for the following drugs:

  1. Cannabis (THC): Marijuana and its metabolites.
  2. Cocaine: A stimulant drug.
  3. Amphetamines: Stimulant drugs, which may include substances like methamphetamine.
  4. Opiates: Including drugs like heroin, morphine, and codeine.
  5. Benzodiazepines: Medications that can have sedative effects, such as diazepam or temazepam.

Many UK employers now opt for more extensive panels for their workplace drug testing , usually 7 or 10 panel, including additional drugs such as MDMA (ecstasy), Ketamine, or other substances depending on the demographic of their workforce and local drug use.

UK Drug Testing recommended urine drug test kits to start drug testing in the workplace

We realise there is a lot of choice so here are our top three recommendations if you are new to drug testing in the workplace and would like to do urine drug testing. These all screen for the 7 most common drugs in UK currently and are very quick, accurate and easy to use.

If you would like to screen for a wider range of drugs:

One of our most popular and best value for money workplace urine drug test kits is the:

If you would just like to screen for the 5 most common standard drugs instead of 7 on your workplace urine drug test look at the:

If you would like any help or advice please contact our customer support team during our office hours Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Source for drug use data:


UK Drug Testing recommended saliva drug test kits to start drug testing in the workplace

Again there is a lot of choice when it comes to saliva drug testing, so here are our current top three recommendations if you are new to drug testing in the workplace and would like to do saliva drug testing. These all screen for the 7 most common drugs in UK currently and are very quick, accurate and easy to use. Some of them also include a screen for alcohol.

These two are particular good choice of saliva drug testing kits for drivers and logistics. The first one contains a drug screen for alcohol.

If you would like a 10 panel drug test we have a saliva drug test that exactly matches the drug test combination in our bestselling workplace split key cup drug test the ALLTEST 10 Panel Workplace Split Key Cup Drug Test Kit DOA-1107-B1-TRAM/KET mentioned above. These two would make an excellent choice for workplace drug screening where you wish to use a combination of urine and saliva screening. combination.

If you would like the ultimate saliva drug test kit then have a look at the 13 panel saliva drug testing kit. This will screen for more drugs than any other oral fluid drug test kits currently available, and it covers the standard drugs, as well as many of the newer drugs that we encounter in drug testing. One word of caution it will require a larger saliva sample to run the 13 panel drug test than it would to run a 6 or 7 panel so if you are new to oral fluid drug screening then it may be best to start with a 6 panel.

UK Drug Testing Customer Support

We hope that you have found this information useful and helpful. If you are still unsure where to start, have any questions or would simply like to speak to a human, then UK Drug Testing customer support team are here to help you.

Drug testing In the workplace where to start information page for UK last reviewed and updated by Dr Kate Garside 9/2/24

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