Substance Use

6-Panel Drug Test: What Drugs Does it Test For?

6 panel drug test

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If you’ve never been asked to pee in a cup, you might be scared or confused the first time you hear the term “drug test.” Drug testing has become a standard diagnostic procedure in many situations, from pre-employment screenings to legal mandates. Among the various drug tests available, the 6-panel drug test stands out due to its comprehensive ability to screen for multiple substances simultaneously.

In this article, you’ll gain insight into the 6-panel urine drug screens, the substances they detect, and what to expect from drug testing—from the procedure to interpreting the test results.

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What is a 6-Panel Drug Test?

A six-panel drug test is an FDA-approved urine test that checks for specific types of drugs using a urine specimen from an individual. Interestingly, some versions of the six-panel drug test are CLIA-waived, meaning they are simple enough to be administered without the need for complex laboratory equipment or specially trained personnel. (1) (2)

As its name suggests, a six-panel drug test has six panels. Each panel is designed to look for a different drug category. The test provides valuable information about an individual’s recent drug use and helps professionals design effective, tailored treatment plans and interventions. (2)

When is a 6-Panel Drug Test Typically Ordered?

A six-panel drug test is commonly ordered in various situations, such as part of an employment requirement, during court proceedings, or when entering treatment. (3)

  • Workplaces: Many employers utilize this type of drug test as part of their pre-employment screening process or random drug testing policies to maintain a drug-free work environment. 
  • Legal proceedings: Courts and probation departments may require individuals to undergo a 6-panel drug test if drug abuse is suspected or to monitor compliance with legal rulings. 
  • Substance abuse treatment centers: Treatment facilities often administer this test to assess an individual’s substance use history and tailor treatment plans accordingly. 

What Does a 6-Panel Drug Test Test For?

The power of a six-panel drug test lies in its ability to target a range of substances. Each panel can identify a different type of substance. It’s also essential to note the detection times.

For instance, Amphetamines (AMP) and Methamphetamines (mAMP) can typically be detected within 2-5 days of use, while substances like Marijuana Metabolite (THC) may remain detectable for up to 30 days or more, depending on the frequency and quantity of use. (4) (5)

While all drug test manufacturers have their own specifications, typical six-panel drug screens use a urine sample to look for substances like:

  1. Marijuana Metabolite (THC): The main psychoactive compound in marijuana. THC induces the “high” associated with cannabis consumption.
  2. Cocaine Metabolite (COC): A byproduct of cocaine use. Cocaine is a potent stimulant drug derived from the coca plant, known for inducing euphoria and increased energy.
  3. Opiates (OPI): Encompasses a range of drugs derived from the opium poppy, including morphine and codeine. This category also picks up semi-synthetic drugs like heroin, oxycodone, methadone, and the highly potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl.
  4. Phencyclidine (PCP): Originally developed as an anesthetic, PCP can lead to hallucinations and altered perceptions of reality when abused. It’s known on the street as “angel dust.”
  5. Amphetamines (AMP) and Methamphetamines (mAMP): Both are stimulant drugs that increase activity in the central nervous system. This category can detect drugs like Adderall, Dexedrine (often prescribed for ADHD), the more potent and addictive Methamphetamine, often referred to as “meth” or “crystal meth” (MET), and MDMA (Ecstasy), known for its stimulant properties.
  6. Benzodiazepines (BZO): Sedative drugs primarily prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. They include drugs like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. Some tests may include Barbiturates instead.

While a six-panel urine drug test can detect a wide range of substances, it can’t detect all possible drugs. Synthetic cannabinoids, some designer drugs and prescription medications, and other substances outside the test’s parameters may not be detected. 

If you suspect (or know) that these other types of substances may be present, alerting healthcare professionals is crucial to ensure accurate testing.

6-Panel Drug Test: Procedure and Administration

Preparing for a six-panel drug test involves understanding the types of drugs that could potentially be detected. Depending on the circumstances of your drug screen, you may be tempted to try various methods to dilute any substances in your body.

Staying hydrated is always a good thing, of course, but not simply for the sake of trying to outsmart a drug screen. In fact, it doesn’t work anyway. (6)

If you’re on prescription medications, inform the testing facility with a list of all prescriptions, illicit substances, and any other medications—prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC), or herbal supplements—you take to ensure accurate interpretation of results.

Six-panel drug tests may detect a medication, mistake it for an illicit substance, and return a false positive. (7

Substances known to produce false positive results can include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Amphetamine salts (Adderall)

In some cases, even OTC herbal supplements can affect test results. For instance, naturopathy followers may take supplements with turmeric or add turmeric to the foods they eat.

Turmeric is a spice with anti-inflammatory and other medicinal benefits. But when drug screens detect the chemical in turmeric that’s responsible for these qualities, curcumin, false positives for marijuana can occur. (8)

How the Drug Test is Conducted

  1. Collection: The individual provides a urine sample in a clean drug test kit, usually supplied by the testing facility. Privacy is typically maintained, although, in some situations, a same-gender professional might be present to prevent tampering and adulteration.
  2. Initial Screening: The urine sample undergoes an immunoassay test using a dip card—an initial screening that checks for the parent drug or its metabolites. If the test detects any substances, it will be marked as “non-negative” rather than “positive.”
  3. Confirmation: Samples that test non-negative in the initial screening are subjected to a second, more detailed test. A SAMHSA-certified laboratory will often handle the subsequent GC/MS analysis to ensure the most accurate results.

Interpreting the Test Results

Typically, the results of a drug screen only take a few days. Result timelines depend on the person or entity requesting the drug screen, the facility performing the test, the type of test, and the specimen retrieval method.

When you’re handed your drug test results, they will usually align with one of three categories: negative, non-negative, or positive.

A positive result on the initial screening indicates the detection of one or more substances. However, this doesn’t serve as a final verdict—it’s more of an initial alert.

Keep in mind that the presence of drugs does not always mean impairment; it depends on the cutoff levels set for each substance. (7) (9)

Receiving a positive result can be daunting, especially if it’s unexpected. However, there are numerous resources and support systems available to help navigate the aftermath.

It’s important to remember that a positive result doesn’t define who you are as a person. Many individuals go through challenges with substances at some point. The key is to acknowledge the issue, seek the necessary support, and take proactive steps towards a healthier future.

If you or someone you care about has received a positive result and needs help with substance use, Zinnia Health offers a wide range of services to support individuals at every stage of their recovery journey. Our team of healthcare professionals can assist in understanding the complexities of the test results, suggest counseling options, and guide you toward personalized treatment plans.


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