By Edmund Murphy

Last updated: 13 March 2024 & medically reviewed by Dr. Jenni Jacobsen

A 5-panel drug test is a common form of drug screening that detects marijuana, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, and PCP in a body fluid or hair follicle sample. It is used in employment, sporting, and legal settings as well as other scenarios.

What is a 5-panel drug test?

A 5-panel drug test is one of the most widely used drug screening tests used in the United States, being regularly used by employers, education systems, law enforcement, and other fields where a drug test may be required. It was developed in the 1980s by the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) to screen for the five most widely abused drugs, leading to it being called the NIDA-5 test.[1] It uses urinalysis testing to measure five different drug-class metabolites.

Drugs a 5-panel test screens for

The DOT testing at HHS-certified laboratories is a 5-panel drug test regimen. As of January 1, 2018, the ‘Opiates’ category was renamed ‘Opioids’:[1]

While a 5-panel drug test only screens for 5 drug classes, it can detect multiple variants of specific drug classes. For example, under amphetamines, a 5-panel test can detect MDMA, methamphetamines, and MDA.[1]

How are 5-panel drug tests collected?

5-panel drug tests are often collected using urine samples, though blood, saliva, and hair follicle tests can also be used. Read here to learn more about the different types of drug tests.

When will you be asked to take a 5-panel drug test?

5-panel drug tests are used in many areas to identify drug misuse, such as by employers, in sports, and in legal cases. Despite popular misconceptions, drug tests are not used to identify a substance use disorder, addiction, or dependence. How and where drug tests can be performed varies with individual state law, with some states offering more freedom for randomized drug testing than others.[2]

Common areas drug tests are used for include:

  • Employment 

  • Sports

  • Law enforcement 

  • Entering drug treatment 

  • Monitoring prescription drug use 

  • Educational settings

  • The military 

In all of the above cases, drug tests may be scheduled in advance or ordered randomly without advanced warning. Read here to learn more about how drug tests work.