Does a Background Check Include a Drug Test?

It might seem unfair, but plenty of companies are still drug testing in this day and age. You might be on the straight and narrow road now, but what if you have failed one or more drug tests in the past? Will that affect your employment opportunities down the line?

If you answered yes to the above, do not lose hope. You may have had a rocky past, and are working towards building a new life for yourself. What’s a way to go about doing this? You can use reverse search tools on yourself, like the ones through, and see just what public information comes up about your previous life. With knowledge like that in mind, you are better prepared for a job interview where challenging questions about your past might come up. is an online reverse search engine that gives its users access to various public data sources on many subjects. Criminal records, arrest records, and even previous residence histories can all be unearthed with the powerful tools at your disposal.

This article will take an in-depth look at drug testing and detail when a background check might include a drug test. If you are properly armed with the knowledge of what an employer is looking for, you have a much better chance of making a solid case for yourself on why your past should not be a consideration for the kind of person you are today.

Do Drug Tests Appear on Pre-Employment Background Checks?

It depends on the job you are applying for and their company policy. You are never obligated to proceed with a drug test if it is against your wishes. That being said, typically, job offers are rescinded if you go down this route.

All background checks are federally regulated by the Fair Credit and Reporting Act. This act mandates that every job applicant be notified in writing that they are required to take a drug test. Even if you pass the drug test, you should always ask for a copy of the report and file it away for your private records.

What Types of Jobs Usually Conduct Drug Tests?

There are many different varieties of jobs that require drug testing as a part of a background check:


Hospitals are full of substances that are highly addictive, even in the most controlled circumstances. No one wants a surgeon or a nurse addicted to drugs or alcohol in any capacity in a medical setting. Proper care of patients requires a clean and sober head for healthcare professionals.


Drug testing is standard when working in tandem with children in educational institutions. No kind of substance abuse is tolerated, even legal ones such as alcohol. Therefore, prepare to be drug tested multiple times a year in this field, sometimes without warning.


No one with a history of drug use or alcoholism is allowed in this industry. Individuals need to be in top mental shape lest an accident happens on the road and thousands of dollars of damages occur or, even worse, the death of human life.


All branches of the armed forces are federal government jobs, and because of this, intense standards regarding drugs and alcohol are to be expected. There’s no room for addiction when it comes to national defense.


Vigilance is needed in security-related positions. Nodding off at one’s post is not a good way to keep a job in this field, and because of this, drugs are not tolerated in the least.


There’s ample potential for losing one’s life or accidentally killing someone else in an industrial setting from not having a full set of wits due to intoxication. Therefore, anticipate strict no-tolerance policies in these fields.

What Drugs Show Up on a Drug Test?

When drug tests are initiated, they search a candidate’s body for a broad palette of different substances. The substances typically tested for are the most common ones, especially ones that deplete one’s cognition the most. A list of some of the most common substances usually looked for in a comprehensive drug test are:


One of the most common drugs used in the United States is also one of the easiest to detect on a drug test. It’s also well-known for being one of the longest-lasting drugs that can stay in one’s system due to it being stored in fat cells. While still an illegal substance on a federal level, many states are slowly easing off on harsh penalties for the substance, if not flat-out legalizing it. That being said, many companies will still terminate employment over a worker testing positive for it, even in states where it is legal. Why is that? Mainly because of the serious cognitive impairments that it causes in individuals.


Considered to be energy and cognition-boosting by its adherents, strong, consistent use of cocaine leads to paranoia, mood swings, and memory loss. Cocaine is a drug that can quickly spiral out of control and turn a once benign employee into an utter nightmare to deal with.


More commonly known as “speed,” amphetamine use can cause extreme mood swings, exhaustion, and violent, antisocial behavior.


Considered to be a current health crisis in the United States, opiate abuse in the workplace can lead to serious, if not fatal, injuries on the job. Opiates cause high levels of sedation and drowsiness. If an employee takes too many opioids at once, there’s even a chance of death from respiratory depression.


Commonly known as “benzos,” these medications are used to treat anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive, however, and an employee can easily spiral out of control when hooked on them. Behavior such as this can lead to absenteeism, an increase in anxiety, and workplace hostility.

Can You Still Be Hired After a Failed Drug Test?

Like many of the cases in this article, it’s really dependent on the company you are applying to and many other potential factors. Some companies might continue through the hiring process if the test comes up positive, but it’s a long shot. In some cases, the new hire will have a probationary period to see if they are a trustworthy and solid fit for the position, but this is exceedingly rare.

Drug tests are not exclusionary in a malicious or hateful way. They are utilized to ensure a new hire is a proper investment for the company. Training new hires can take time, and in business, time is money.

It’s also important to note that if you take any prescribed medications that might raise flags on a drug test, you can disclose these medications to the tester. Often, employers will disregard a positive test if it’s for a previously disclosed and physician-prescribed medication.

Final Thoughts

Drug tests are fairly common nowadays for new hires, but previously failed drug tests from your past can also haunt you in the present. While failed drug tests are not public information, they can still be accessed by employers doing a deep background check on you.

So, if you’re looking for a new gig and are a heavy user of substances, consider knocking out the habit. If you were a user in the past, however, then prepare to explain yourself accordingly if the subject ever comes up due to the pre-employment background check process.

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