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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They are responsible for establishing the Mandatory Guidelines for Workplace Drug Testing Programs for federally regulated employees. These guidelines define which drugs are included in the program, what cutoffs are used to determine a positive versus negative test result, and other testing and collection criteria.1

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Since the guidelines are based on scientific research conducted by leaders in the field of toxicology, many non-SAMHSA laboratories have chosen to follow the SAMHSA guidelines: this includes companies performing pre-employment screening or on-going employment screening, pain management clinicians monitoring for patient compliance, and treatment or criminal justice programs testing participants for drugs of abuse.

What is the “SAMHSA Panel”?

The 1988 Federal Register included testing for five commonly abused drugs referred to as the “SAMHSA 5”: Amphetamines, Cocaine Metabolite, Marijuana, Opiates, and Phencyclidine (PCP). The Federal Register also established guidelines around specimen collection, drug cutoff levels, confirmation, laboratory certification and quality control procedures, reporting and review of results, to name just a few of these requirements.

Two additional drugs, Ecstasy and Heroin, were added to the testing panel in 2010, which came to be known informally as the “SAMHSA 7.” More recently, effective October 1, 2017, SAMHSA added two pain management treatment drugs to the panel: Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. SAMHSA also established new testing criteria for the drug metabolites, adding hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) (a metabolite of Ecstasy or MDMA). Those assays with a secondary analyte must have ≥ 80% cross reactivity.3 Table below summarizes these testing criteria.

Common Name/Street Name Parent Drug / Metabolite Cutoff (ng/mL)
Meth d-Methamphetamine/ d-Amphetamine  500 
Marijuana (Pot)  THCA (11-nor-Δ9-THC-COOH)  50
Cocaine (Coke)  Cocaine metabolite (Benzoylecgonine)  150
Opiates Codeine / Morphine  2000
PCP  Phencyclidine 25
Heroin 6-Acetylmorphine (6-AM)  10
Ecstasy  MDMA/MDA  500
Vicodin® / Dilaudid® (New to SAMHSA)  Hydrocodone / Hydromorphone  300
OxyContin® (New to SAMHSA)  Oxycodone / Oxymorphone  100

Monitoring for Parent Drug and Metabolites

Many drugs are metabolized and excreted into the urine along with the parent drug. Both the parent drug and metabolites may be psychoactive/addictive and thus, are considered important to detect. In the SAMHSA Panel, five drugs (Amphetamines, Opiates, Ecstasy, Hydrocodone, and Oxycodone) require detection of both the parent and the metabolite due to their presence and concentration levels in the urine.

Parent-Drug-Metabolite_774px

SAMHSA Panel: Analyte Attributes

Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
Meth Parent: d-Methamphetamine up to 2 days9 d-Methamphetamine and its active metabolite, d-Amphetamine, remain in the urine for up to two days after consumption and thus, are both required to detect for abuse.15
Metabolite: d-Amphetamine
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI™ Amphetamine Amphetamine 500 100%
Methamphetamine 100%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
Marijuana (Pot) Metabolite: THCA (11-nor-Δ9 -THC-COOH) Single Use: 3 days
4 times/wk Use: 5-7 days
Daily Use: 10-15 days
Heavy User: 3+ weeks9
Marijuana is rapidly metabolized, with little to none found in the urine. However, its major metabolite, THCA, is detectable within hours after exposure and for up to 3+ weeks in heavy users. Therefore, only the metabolite is required for detection.16
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI THC (Cannabinoid) THCA (11-nor-Δ9 THC-COOH) 50 100%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
Cocaine (Coke) Metabolite: Cocaine metabolite (Benzoylecgonine) 2-4 days

Heavy User: 3 weeks9,10
Cocaine is rapidly metabolized, with little to none found in the urine. However, one of its major metabolites, Benzoylecgonine, is found in the urine from up to a few days to 3 weeks for heavy users. As such, only the metabolite is required for detection.17
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI Cocaine Cocaine metabolite (Benzoylecgonine) 150 100%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
Opiates Parent: Codeine 2-4 days9 Opiates, like codeine and morphine, are naturally occuring chemicals found in opium, an extract from the opium poppy seeds. Codeine is metabolized to morphine and both are detectable in the urine for several days and thus, required testing to assess abuse.18
Metabolite: Morphine up to 2 days9
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI Opiate Morphine 2000 100%
Codeine 210%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
PCP (Angel Dust) Parent: Phencyclidine (PCP) up to 8 days9 PCP is excreted in the urine, mostly unchanged, and therefore, is the only analyte required for detection to assess abuse.19
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI Phencyclidine (PCP) Phencyclidine (PCP) 25 100%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
Heroin Metabolite: 6-Acetylmorphine (6-AM) up to 2 days9 Heroin is rapidly metabolized in the body and is not detectable after about 30 minutes, once ingested or injected. It is metabolized to 6-AM. The presence and detection of 6-AM in the urine is considered a specific marker for the illicit use of heroin.20,21
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
CEDIA™ Heroin Metabolite (6-AM) 6-Acetylmorphine (6-AM) 10 100%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
Ecstasy Parent: MDMA 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine up to 4 days11 Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, and its metabolite, MDA, are both found in the urine for up to 4 days and thus, are both required to screen for abuse.22
Metabolite: MDA 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine up to 2-4 days11
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI Ecstasy Plus MDMA 500 100%
MDA 80%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
Vicodin® Parent: Hydrocodone 24 hours12 Hydrocodone is metabolized into its active metabolite, hydromorphone. Hydrocodone is detectable in the first 24 hours but hydromorphone can be detected for longer periods in urine. Both are considered important to screen for potential abuse.23
Dilaudid® Metabolite: Hydromorphone up to 3 days12
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI Hydrocodone Hydrocodone 300 102%
Hydromorphone 122%
Common Name Analytes Detection Window Screening for Abuse
OxyContin® Parent: Oxycodone up to 2 days13,14 Oxycodone and its metabolite, oxymorphone, are widely used as pain relievers. Either can be found in the urine for up to 2 days after consumption.24
Opana® Metabolite: Oxymorphone
Thermo Scientific Assay Analytes Cutoff (ng/mL) Cross-reactivity
DRI Oxycodone Oxycodone 100 100%
Oxymorphone 103%
Specimen Validity Testing

SAMHSA has established guidelines to assess whether a specimen has been compromised. These tests identify specimens that may be diluted, substituted or tampered with by the addition of various liquids or agents.

Visit our Specimen Validity Testing education page to learn more about monitoring for substitution, dilution or adulteration.

To learn more about SAMHSA and for more information regarding guidelines and testing criteria please download our SAMHSA Guidelines SmartNote!

  1. “About Us.” Veterans and Military Families | SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 13 May 2013, www.samhsa.gov/about-us, (accessed April 25, 2017)
  2. National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Drug Use in the Workplace; Normand J, Lempert RO, O’Brien CP, editors, Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1994, Chapter 6. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books (accessed May 22, 2018)
  3. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 13 / Monday, January 23, 2017
  4. https://healthfinder.gov/FindServices/Organizations/Organization.aspx?code=HR0055 (accessed June 27, 2018)
  5. Rowland BJ, Irving J, Keith ES. Increased Detection of Marijuana Use with a 50 µg/L Urine Screening Cutoff. Clinical Chemistry, Vol. 40, No. 11, 1994, pgs 2114-2115
  6. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), Federal Register / Vol. 63, No. 219 / Friday, November 13, 1998
  7. Ibid, Federal Register / Vol. 69, No. 71 / Tuesday, April 13, 2004, pg 19644
  8. Ibid, Federal Register / Vol. 75, No. 157 / Monday, August 16, 2010 / Rules and Regulations
  9. Moeller KE, Lee CK, Kissack JC, Urine Drug Screening: Practical Guide for Clinicians, Mayo Clin Proc. January 2008;83(1):66-76
  10. Weiss RD, Gawin FH.  Protracted Elimination of Cocaine Metabolites in Long-Term, High-Dose Cocaine Abusers, The American Journal of Medicine, Vol. 85, December 1988
  11. Abraham TT, Barnes AJ, Lowe RH, Kolbrich Spargo EA, Milman G, Pirnay SO, Gorelick DA, Goodwin RS, Huestis MA. Urinary MDAMA, MDA, HMMA, and HMA Excretion Following controlled MDMA Administration to Humans. J Anal Tox, vol. 33, October 2009
  12. Cone, EJ, Heltsley R, Black, DL, Mitchell, JM, LoDico CP, and Flegel, RR. Prescription Opioids. II. Metabolism and Excretion Patters of Hydrocodone in Urine Following Controlled Single-Dose Administration. J Anal Tox, 2013:37:486-494 
  13. Oxycodone and Hydrocodone: Detection in Urine, Oral Fluid, and Blood. SAMHSA, June 10, 2004
  14. Cone, EJ, Heltsley, R, Black, DL, Mitchell, JM, LoDico, CP, and Flegel, RR. Prescription Opioids. I. Metabolism and Excretion Patterns of Oxycodone in Urine Following controlled Single Dose Administration. J Anal Tox, 2013:37:255-264 
  15. R.C. Baselt. Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man, 10th edition, Biomedical Publications, Seal Beach, CA, 2014, pgs 1263-1265 [d-Methamphetamine]
  16. Ibid, pgs 1948-1950 [Tetrahydrocannabinoid]
  17. Ibid, pgs 511-512 [Cocaine]
  18. Ibid, pgs 516, 1400 [Codeine, Morphine]
  19. Ibid, pgs 1596-1597 [Phencyclidine]
  20. Cone EJ, Welch P, Mitchell JM, Paul BD. Forensic Drug Testing for Opiates: Detection of 6-Acetylmorphine in Urine as an Indicator of Recent Heroin Exposure: Drug and Assay considerations and Detection Times. J Anal Tox, vol. 15, January/February 1991
  21. R.C. Baselt. Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man, 10th edition, Biomedical Publications, Seal Beach, CA, 2014, pgs 992-995 [Heroin]
  22. Ibid, pgs 1318, 1315 [Methylenedioxymethamphetamine]
  23. Ibid, pgs 1011-1012, 1018 [Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone]
  24. Ibid, pgs 1528-1529 [Oxycodone]

 

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