TSA Drug Test for Employment: Complete Candidate Guide
Yedidya Lixenberg

Yedidya, Aviation Industry Assessments Expert at JobTestPrep.

Have a question? Contact me at: ask_the_team@jobtestprep.com

TSA Drug Test Basics

What Kind of Drug Test Does TSA Use?

Generally, the Transportation Security Administration uses five-panel urine (pee) drug tests for all applicants applying for a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) job.

In some cases, they may also use a breath alcohol test and hair follicle drug tests for existing TSA workers.

The drugs that can be detected on the five-panel test are:

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

What's The Purpose of the Drug Test?

The purpose of the TSA drug test is to determine whether an applicant or employee has used any psychoactive drug within the last months.

How Long Does a Urine Drug Test Take?

The drug test takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

How Often Do TSA Agents Get Drug Tested?

TSA officers are randomly drug tested. According to the Transportation Security Administration, about 10% of all employees will be selected at random for their drug tests each year.

Between 2010 and 2016, more than 850 TSA agents failed their drug and alcohol tests, 51 of them were in Los Angeles' International Airport. According to a TSA spokesman, TSA workers who have tested positive for their drug or alcohol test are fired.


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

What Are the Cutoff Levels for the Five-Panel Drug Test?

Drug Screen Cutoff Confirmation Cutoff
Amphetamines 1000 ng/mL 500 ng/mL
Cocaine metabolites 300 ng/mL 150 ng/mL
Marijuana metabolites 50 ng/mL 15 ng/mL
Opiates 2000 ng/mL 2000 ng/mL
Phencyclidine (PCP) 25 ng/mL 25 ng/mL

How Accurate Is a Urine Drug Test at TSA?

The TSA drug tests are highly accurate, but they're not 100% accurate. Several things can affect the accuracy of these tests, including:

  • The amount of urine you gave
  • The way your urine sample was stored
  • What you ate or drank before taking the test
  • Prescription or over-the-counter drugs you may have taken before the test

How Long do Drugs Stay in Your System?

The amount of time that psychoactive drugs can be detected in urine varies based on the drug:

Drug Type (from the Five-Panel test) Timeframe for Detection (Urine Test)
Marijuana (THC) Up to 30 Days
Cocaine Up to 3 Days
Opioids 3 - 12 Days
Amphetamines Up to 7 Days
Phencyclidine Up to 4 Weeks


Failure, Refusal, Results & Passing Tips

What Happens If You Fail the TSA Drug Test for Employment?

If you fail the drug test, you'll be referred to a doctor who's a medical review officer (MRO). The MRO will then determine whether or not there's another condition that may have caused your results, and may ask for a second test.

If there isn't such a condition, your application will be terminated.

What If I Refuse to Take the TSA Drug Test?

TSA applicants who refuse to take a drug test cannot be granted a security clearance and their hiring process will be terminated. Applicants who already have a job with TSA and refuse to take a drug test will be fired from their position.

Is It Possible to Fail a Drug Test Without Using Drugs?

Yes, several factors could lead to failing the drug test even though you haven't used drugs. These factors include:

  • Taking prescription drugs with a metabolite that's detectable on the TSA drug test.
  • High exposure to secondhand smoke from cannabis smokers.
  • Being subject to environmental pollutants such as paint fumes, pesticides, and solvents.
  • Ingesting foods contaminated with THC, amphetamines, or other metabolites.

What Can I Do in Case I've Been Exposed to Secondhand Marijuana Smoke?

Even though the THC levels in your urine rarely last for more than a few hours after being exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke, it's better to stay on the safe side and wait for several days before you take the drug test.

How to Pass the TSA Drug Test?

The most certain way to pass a TSA drug test is not taking drugs in the first place. This is because there's no way to pass the drug test if you've already ingested drugs.

  • Do your research well. Knowing what drugs show up in the urine drug test will help you devise an effective strategy for passing it. Take note that there are no herbal teas or pills that can help you pass a drug test.
  • Do not use fake urine. Using fake urine to pass the drug test will only get you caught. Always provide your own sample.
  • If you're taking prescription medication, discuss with your doctor whether or not it will cause a positive result.

How Long Will It Take to Get My Lab Results From a TSA Drug Test?

It should take several business days for the lab to review your sample and you'll receive the results after a few weeks max.


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Learn More About the Other TSA Hiring Process Stages


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