SAMHSA Guidelines: What Are Drug Testing Cut-Off Levels?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services branch that leads public health efforts to advance the nation's behavioral health and reduces the impact of substance abuse and mental illness in America. They also set guidelines for drug testing procedures and cut-off levels in the United States, particularly for workplace drug testing.

A variety of drug tests are available, each testing for different types and numbers of drugs. For instance, a 4-panel drug test typically screens for the four most commonly abused substances: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines. Meanwhile, a 9-panel drug test includes these four, plus testing for barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methaqualone, methadone, and propoxyphene. The test method (urine, oral fluid, hair) can also influence the cut-off level.

Here are the current SAMHSA cut-off levels for non-DOT (Department of Transportation) drug testing, as well as the cut-off levels for the 4-panel, 9-panel, Instant Urine, Oral Fluid, Hair, and DOT 5-panel drug tests:

Substance

Non-DOT Cut-off Level (ng/mL)

Urine 4-Panel Cut-off (ng/mL)

Urine 9-Panel Cut-off (ng/mL)

Instant Urine Cut-off (ng/mL)

Oral Fluid Cut-off (ng/mL)

Hair Cut-off (pg/mg)

DOT 5-Panel Cut-off (ng/mL)

Confirmatory Analyte

Confirmatory Test Cut-off Concentration (ng/mL)

Marijuana (THC)

50

50

50

50

4

1.0

50

THC-COOH

15

Cocaine

150

150

150

150

20

0.5

150

Benzoylecgonine

100

Opiates

2000

2000

2000

2000

40

0.2

2000

Morphine

2000

Amphetamines

500

500

500

500

50

0.5

500

Amphetamine, Methamphetamine

250

PCP

25

N/A

25

25

10

0.3

25

PCP

25

Barbiturates

N/A

N/A

300

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Secobarbital

200

Benzodiazepines

N/A

N/A

200

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Oxazepam

200

Methaqualone

N/A

N/A

300

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Methaqualone

300

Methadone

N/A

N/A

300

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Methadone

300

Propoxyphene

N/A

N/A

300

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Propoxyphene

300

NOTE: N/A means Not Applicable. These drugs may not be tested for in certain types of drug tests.

In light of the variations in cut-off levels and the specifics of different testing protocols, it becomes even more crucial to have thorough training in conducting both DOT and Non-DOT drug testing. Proper training ensures collectors are qualified for these varying standards and can apply and adhere to them accurately. This knowledge allows for the correct administration and interpretation of tests, increasing the reliability of results, and also ensures that the rights and privacy of the tested individuals are safeguarded and that the testing process complies with all legal and ethical standards and by being trained adequately in conducting drug tests is not only about acquiring a skillset but also underpins the integrity, fairness, and effectiveness of the entire drug testing process.

 

  • Answered by:
  • Published: 04/04/2023
  • Updated: 08/02/2023
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