Updated on April 3, 2024
5 min read

What Is a 10-Panel Drug Test?

Key Takeaways

What is a 10-Panel Drug Test? 

A ten-panel drug test detects ten different drugs in a person’s urine. This list includes prescription drugs and illicit drugs. Employers, courts, and rehabilitation programs use these tests to detect and discourage drug abuse.

cropped shot doctor writes the analysis of urine test into a form

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Types of Drugs Screened in a 10-Panel Drug Test 

As the name indicates, a ten-panel drug test identifies ten categories of drugs in a person’s system. These include the most commonly abused drugs in the United States, namely:

  • Amphetamines: methamphetamine
  • Cannabis: marijuana, hash, K2, spice, and synthetic marijuana (commonly referred to as K2 or spice) 
  • Cocaine: regular and crack cocaine
  • Opioids: heroin, codeine, opium, methadone, and morphine
  • Barbiturates: amobarbital, pentobarbital, and phenobarbital
  • Benzodiazepines: Ativan, Librium, Xanax, and Valium
  • Other drugs: phencyclidine, methaqualone, and propoxyphene


The 10-panel drug test doesn’t detect alcohol. Additionally, the use of prescription drugs under a doctor's supervision may appear on these tests.

Should this occur, your employer may request a doctor's note to confirm the prescription. However, the primary focus of these tests is typically on detecting illicit drug use.

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Drug Detection Times 

The 10-panel drug test is a urine analysis test that detects various substances. Drug detection times vary greatly based on the following:

  • The drug used
  • Dosage
  • Individual metabolism
  • Frequency of use

Approximate detection times are as follows:

Amphetamines1-3 days 
Barbiturates2 to 15 days
Benzodiazepines2 to 10 days
Cannabis3 to 30 days, depending on the frequency of use
Cocaine2 to 10 days
Methadone2 to 7 days
Methaqualone10 to 15 days
Opioids1 to 3 days
Phencyclidine3-7 days
Propoxyphene2 days

Understanding the Importance of Drug Testing

Drug testing is an important tool to discourage drug abuse. Employers use workplace drug testing to ensure the safety of their space and that employees aren't impaired by illicit drugs while on the job.

In court, drug tests help prove whether defendants adhere to probation terms or parole agreements. Drug testing is also used in addiction treatment programs to monitor participants’ sobriety from drug abuse.

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Limitations of 10 Panel Drug Testings

While 10-panel drug tests are standard procedures for many companies' pre-employment screenings, it's worth noting their limitations.

Instead of assessing current impairment, this test detects metabolized drugs or their byproducts in the body. However, the metabolized compounds must meet a specific concentration to be detectable.

As a result, false-negative results aren’t uncommon. Even if someone has a prior history of drug use, they could cease using illicit drugs a month or two before a drug test and still pass.

How to Prepare for the Test & What to Expect

There are several things to expect during a 10-panel drug test. For example:

Before the Drug Test

People undergoing a urine drug test must provide a substantial sample of urine midstream into a disposable, uncontaminated container.

In the days before urine tests, it’s essential to:

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs: This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and recreational drugs in the days before urine drug test or random drug testing.
  • Eat a moderate diet: What you eat significantly impacts your urine testing sample. For example, eating much meat reduces the pH of your urine, while dairy elevates the pH.
  • Consume regular fluid intake: While you need to drink enough to produce a sufficient sample for the urine test, don’t drink excessively. Doing so dilutes your urine and makes it more difficult to test.
  • Avoid excessive standing or straining: This can increase the risk of orthostatic proteinuria. 
  • Abstain from sexual intercourse 24 hours before testing: The presence of sperm prevents an accurate urine test.
  • Avoid testing during menstruation and for two days before and after: The presence of red blood cells makes it impossible to obtain reliable results. 

During the Drug Test

Ideally, you’ll submit the first urine (mid-stream) in the morning because it reduces the risk of proteinuria. However, this isn’t necessary. You should also wash your hands and genitals before testing.

In some cases, the technician takes additional measures to avoid sample contamination. They might:

  • Turn off the tap water and secure all other sources of water
  • Put blue dye in the toilet bowl or tank
  • Remove soap or other substances
  • Measure the temperature of your urine sample
  • Conduct a site inspection before collecting the sample

After the Drug Test

Once you submit your sample, the lab tech labels it and delivers it to the collection point/testing location as soon as possible. Refrigeration might be necessary.

Test results are usually available within a few days, but in some cases, results are immediate. Labs return negative tests faster than positive ones because there’s no need for follow-up testing.

How to Analyze Test Results

Some tests offer immediate results, and others require a more comprehensive lab test or analysis.

Positive Results

A positive 10-panel drug test indicates that the test detected one or more of the ten drugs in the panel were caught in a particular concentration. This can be any addictive stimulant drug, narcotic pain reliever, illicit drug, or illegal drug.

If you undergo a drug test that results in a positive reaction, the sample is usually retested using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS). This is to confirm the initial positive result.

If you took the test for employment purposes and the second screening is positive, you'll receive a call from a medical review officer. The 10-panel drug test screens for several legal and prescription drugs. But if you have a valid prescription for identified controlled substances, there's no need to inform your employer of the positive result.

Negative Results 

A negative 10-panel drug test indicates that none of the ten drugs in the panel were detected in a large enough concentration to create a positive result. This might mean there are no drugs in the person’s system or that the concentration is so little that it’s negligible.

Negative tests are submitted to your employer, the court, or a rehabilitation program without further testing.

Inconclusive Results

Inconclusive or invalid results can occur for various reasons, including sample contamination or technical issues. Errors can also come from testing during menstruation or within 24 hours of sexual intercourse.

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Updated on April 3, 2024

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