TSA Employee Drug Tests: A Complete Guide

Like all Governmental organizations, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), maintains a zero-tolerance policy for drug use from either employees or applicants.

Thus, your drug testing starts from the TSA Medical Evaluation and continues periodically throughout your time in the agency.

Here is a brief explainer of what you need to know before your first drug test. Ready?

Keep reading to learn more!

Press to see a comprehensive guide on the TSA computer assessment test.

TSA Five-Panel Drug Test

As part of their hiring process, TSA applicants are required to pass the TSA CBT exam a five-panel drug test. The test for applicants relies upon urine samples, while employees may also go through breathalyzers and samplings of fair follicles.

Here are some of the most popular questions asked about the five-panel drug test:

What Drugs Will I Be Tested For?

Well, the reason why the test is called five-panel is because of the five drugs tested for:

  • Marijuana (THC metabolite)
  • Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine metabolite)
  • Opiates (Morphine, Codeine, and 6-Monacteyl Morphine metabolites)
  • Amphetamines (Dextroamphetamine and Levamphetamine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust)

How Far Back Does the Test Go?

The urine test will detect drugs taken within the last several days, while a fair follicles sample can even show drug use up to three months.

Is the Test Time-Consuming?

No. It should only take 5-10 minutes.

What Is the Frequency of Drug Testing After Hiring?

There is no way to know because 10% of all TSA staff are chosen at random for a drug test throughout the year. As an interesting side note, from 2010-2016, over 800 employees failed their drug tests. So, the tests do work.

Cutoff Values, Accuracy & Time It Can Stay in Your System

Cutoff Levels for the Five-Panel Drug Test

What is a cutoff level? This is the level where the amount of drug substance is defined as a safety risk. Here are the numbers.


Screen Cutoff

Confirmation Cutoff


1000 ng/mL

500 ng/mL

Cocaine metabolites

300 ng/mL

150 ng/mL

Marijuana metabolites

50 ng/mL

15 ng/mL


2000 ng/mL

2000 ng/mL

Phencyclidine (PCP)

25 ng/mL

25 ng/mL

Test Accuracy – The Numbers

First, the tests themselves are not 100% accurate, but the exact percentage of the inaccuracy will differ between positive and negative results.

  • Positive Results: 10% false.
  • Negative Results: 15% false.

How long do drugs stay in your system?

Every drug works differently, but here is what you need to know regarding the five-panel test.

Drug Type (from the Five-Panel test)

Timeframe for Detection (Urine Test)

Marijuana (THC)

Up to 30 Days


Up to 3 Days


3 – 12 Days


Up to 7 Days


Up to 4 Weeks

Failure, Refusal, Results & Passing Tips

Failure Procedures

The general rule of thumb is that failure means automatic disqualification or firing. However, you can request a medical check-up to determine if you believe that another factor may have caused the result (see above).

If the medical expert decides that you need a second test, you will receive it. However, there are no third chances; if you fail again, you are out.

Additional factors which can lead to a False Positive
There are a number of factors that can lead to false-positive results on the test, including:

  • prescription drugs that include metabolites.
  • Extreme secondhand smoking.
  • Pollutants like paint fumes or pesticides.
  • Knowingly eating food contaminated with drugs

*Tip: In case you’ve been exposed to heavy secondhand smoke, you should push off the test for two or three days to get it out of your system.

Refusal to Comply

If you refuse to take the test, you will be promptly disqualified or fired. In addition, security clearance demands passing the test, which is unnegotiable.

What Not to Do

  1. Simply don’t take drugs; that is the best option.
  2. If you do take drugs, at least avoid the five on this test.
  3. You can’t fool the system by trying to use someone else’s urine; you will get caught.
  4. No, teas and pills cannot hide or dilute the drugs in your system.
  5. For those on medically prescribed prescriptions, speak with your physician first and ask them to write a letter you will bring on test day.

So, that is what you need to know about the TSA drug test – Good luck!