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6 Panel Drug Test: What It Is & the Types of Drugs Detected

25 March, 2024

A corporate man holding a "drug testing" sign

A 6-panel drug test is a common type of screening that tests for six different classes of drugs in a person. These drugs include amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and benzodiazepines. By testing for these substances, employers, schools, or other organisations can determine if an individual has used drugs recently. This type of drug test typically consists of a collection apparatus and an analysis mechanism to screen the sample.

Drug misuse can result in impairments that cause a variety of harmful effects on both physical and mental health. These effects include addiction, social isolation, financial instability, impaired decision-making abilities, and an increased risk of accidents or injuries. Hence, drug testing becomes necessary in various environments. Additionally, many use test kits to screen common illicit substances without needing expensive drug testing services. This article will present a 6-panel test, including how it works and the detectable substances.

What is a 6-Panel Drug Test?

Drug testing kits include different panels for various substances. Each panel tests for a specific class of drugs. The more panels a kit have, the more substances it can detect. In the case of a 6-panel drug test, it screens for six drug classes that are commonly abused. These illicit substances can have detrimental effects on health and are likely to lead to physical dependence.

Employers, law enforcement agencies, drug testing facilities, and healthcare providers commonly employ this type of test as part of their screening procedures. Employers utilise a 6-panel test kit for pre-employment checks, blanket testing, or random screening of employees. Law enforcement agencies utilise these tests in investigations or as part of probation or parole monitoring programs. Healthcare providers use them to monitor patients to screen for the presence of drugs.

A positive result on a 6-panel test can significantly affect the testee. It can potentially lead to consequences in employment, legal matters, or medical treatment. Moreover, if the test detects any of the screened substances above the specified cutoff levels, it indicates recent use or exposure.

Importance of the Testing

  • Private employers help keep the workforce productive by identifying employees who may be under the influence of drugs.
  • Pre-employment screening can help determine if an applicant uses an illegal drug or abuses a prescription drug.
  • The result of a drug test can help determine if a person needs further evaluation for possible substance use disorder.
  • It is a cost-effective method for companies with workplace drug testing programs to screen their employees regularly.
  • A six-panel drug test kit is crucial for maintaining a safe and healthy environment.
  • It helps deter drug abuse.
  • Overall, it helps minimise or prevent accidents due to impairments.

A medical professional conducting a swab test on female individual

How a 6-Panel Drug Test Works

A 6-panel drug test works by initially collecting a sample, typically urine, saliva, blood, or hair, from the individual undergoing testing. Trained collectors ensure accuracy and reliability by maintaining controlled conditions during sample collection. They then securely label and seal the sample to prevent tampering or contamination.

During the initial phase of the drug testing process, the collected sample undergoes immunoassay screening. In this step, medical professionals analyse the sample to detect the presence of specific drugs or their metabolites. Immunoassay tests utilise antibodies that bind to the target drugs, generating a measurable response. Analysts may require further confirmation to eliminate false positives if the initial screening detects drugs.

If necessary, confirmation of the preliminary results is conducted using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) in a laboratory setting. GC-MS is a highly sensitive and accurate analytical technique that separates and identifies the individual components of a sample. Hence, it can confirm the presence of specific drugs and provide quantitative data on their concentration.

Detection Process for Different Drugs

The detection process for different drugs is relatively simple. The first step is the collection of specimens. The administrator will explain the process and what substances are being tested for. Then, they will ask the individual to provide a sample in a designated container or swab. Some cases of a urine test may require supervision.

The second step is testing the specimen. After the sample collection, individuals immerse or dip the test strip in the sample. For the saliva test, the administrator inserts the swab inside the testing device for analysis. Then, wait for the results to show after a few minutes.

An assortment of scattered drugs

Types of Drugs Detected in a 6-Panel Drug Test

In a 6-panel drug test, there are six types of drugs it can detect. Firstly, amphetamines, such as methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy), are substances that stimulate the central nervous system. They can increase energy and focus. Secondly, cannabinoids, which include marijuana and hashish, affect the brain and body by producing a sense of relaxation and euphoria. These drugs can impair coordination and judgment.

Thirdly, cocaine is a powerful stimulant that affects dopamine levels, leading to feelings of intense pleasure and energy. It can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and its use can result in addiction and severe health problems. Fourthly, opiates are a class of drugs that can cause drowsiness, confusion, and respiratory depression. They are highly addictive and can lead to overdose and death if misused.

Fifthly, Phencyclidine (PCP) is a hallucinogenic drug that distorts perceptions and causes delusions and hallucinations. It can also induce feelings of detachment from reality and aggression. Lastly, benzodiazepines, including drugs like Xanax and Valium, are central nervous system depressants commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders. Overall, these are all the drugs that a 6-panel test can detect.

Cut-Off Levels

Cut-off levels are the minimum amount of a drug needed in a sample for a test. The testing laboratory sets these levels. If a drug is below the cut-off level, the test will be negative. Meanwhile, if it is above, the test will be positive, indicating recent drug use.

Setting appropriate cut-off levels is crucial for the accuracy and reliability of drug tests. It helps to differentiate between occasional and chronic drug users, ensuring that the results reflect recent drug use rather than past exposure. Moreover, establishing consistent cut-off levels across different testing facilities ensures uniformity and fairness in drug testing procedures.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a 6-panel drug test is a tool used to screen for six types of abused drugs. Employers, law enforcement, and healthcare providers may use it to check for drug use. The process involves collecting a sample, usually urine or saliva, and analysing it for drug traces. If drugs are detected, further testing may be done to confirm the results. A positive result can have serious consequences for the individual, such as affecting employment or legal matters.

The six detectable drugs include amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates, Phencyclidine (PCP), and benzodiazepines. These drugs affect the body and mind in various ways, from stimulating the central nervous system to causing hallucinations and relaxation. Cut-off levels are set by testing labs to determine if the amount of a drug in a sample is enough to trigger a positive result. Setting appropriate cut-off levels is crucial for accurate testing, distinguishing recent drug use from past exposure.

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