Major Drug Test Supplier To Stop Testing for Cannabis, Prioritize Fentanyl

High Times
Mon, Oct 30
Key Points
  • Psychemedics, a major supplier of drug testing kits, has announced an updated screening panel that focuses on testing for fentanyl instead of cannabis.
  • The new five-panel drug screen acknowledges the changing legislative landscape for cannabis laws and the increasing rates of fentanyl overdose.
  • Psychemedics believes that current drug tests are outdated and do not effectively address the needs of employers or employees.
  • The company's hair-based drug tests are significantly more effective at detecting opioids, cocaine, and amphetamines compared to traditional urine tests.

A major supplier of drug testing kits has announced an updated screening panel which no longer tests for cannabis and prioritizes testing for fentanyl. 

Psychemedics, a Massachusetts-based producer of drug testing kits announced Friday that they would be launching a new five-panel drug screen which will “[shift] the spotlight from marijuana to the paramount threat of fentanyl” amid a nationally changing legislative landscape with regard to cannabis laws and continually skyrocketing rates of fentanyl overdose. 

Psychemedics, which by their own admission manufactured the first commercially viable hair test for the presence of drugs in 1986, said Friday that the way drug tests are currently performed are outdated and do not address the needs of employers or employees. Current drug tests are also not great at detecting fentanyl compared to traditional opioids, according to Psychemedics. 

“As we grapple with an ongoing labor shortage and with marijuana’s legal landscape evolving in 49 states, it’s clear that the time for a change has come. Traditional 5-panel drug tests, rooted in a four-decade-old paradigm, have failed to evolve in today’s drug market and are unable to detect the rising drug, fentanyl,” Psychemedics said in a press release. 

Psychemedics drug tests, which use hair as opposed to urine, are also reportedly much more effective than the urine tests at detecting other drugs besides cannabis as well. According to the press release, the new drug screening panels are 25 times more effective at detecting opioids, 23 times more accurate in identifying cocaine use and 13 times more adept at pinpointing amphetamine use. 

The President and CEO of Psychemedics said in a statement that these updates and changes to a very traditionally-based practice are necessary due to shifts in workplace/public perception of risks associated with cannabis use versus the harms and risks associated with fentanyl. 

“Few challenges in the workplace have undergone as dramatic a transformation as the shifting dynamics between marijuana and fentanyl,” remarked Brian Hullinger, President and CEO at Psychemedics. “Recognizing this shift, Psychemedics has developed the Advanced 5-Panel to bridge the gap.”

The announcement came after a study which Psychemedics said encompassed data from over 1 million drug screenings. Unlike traditional urine-testing which can detect the presence of cannabis anywhere from a few days to around a month, hair testing has traditionally been a source of gripes from cannabis users whose hair follicles can sometimes test positive for cannabis even several months after use. 

These new tests aim to change that standard by providing a more accurate reading than urine testing without the associated stigma of unfairly targeting cannabis users. The FDA has already approved the updated form of testing, according to the press release. 

“For decades, Psychemedics has remained at the forefront of innovation, responding to the ever-evolving needs of our clients,” the press release said. “The Advanced 5-Panel Drug Screen epitomizes this legacy, offering clients a cost-effective choice to adapt their testing protocols in sync with evolving priorities and employment policies.”

This marks a step forward for cannabis users who wish to consume the plant outside of working hours but Psychemedics is only one of several companies producing drug test kits. A report by Global Market Insights valued the drug testing market size at $6.2 billion in 2022 and estimated the market would jump 16.3% over the next decade to reach $27.1 billion by 2022. 

Some states, like California, have opted to pass laws restricting an employer’s ability to reprimand their employees for cannabis use but many states, even states that have passed adult-use cannabis laws remain without employee protections for cannabis use. 

Psychemedics, according to their website, supplies pre-employment and employee drug screening services to thousands of companies including several companies listed within the Fortune 500. The company credits themselves with pioneering the modern, widely-adapted practice of using hair to screen for drugs.

“We invented the science that re-invented the drug testing industry,” Hullinger said in a statement on the Psychemedics website.