This is a tough question and can depend on many factors. SAMSHA certified laboratories all give the same generic answer. Negative drug screen results are generally available 24 – 48 hours after the specimens are received at the laboratory. Non‐negative results typically take 3‐5 business days from the time the specimen arrives at the laboratory. Generally, our hope is to get the result back and reported the same day the lab receives the specimen. However; this is based on many factors that we cannot control. We generally find our average overall turnaround time for a DOT client is less than 2 business day on negative results.
Let’s be honest. The DOT Drug testing process has many steps. Those steps are created for accuracy not speed. Here are several examples of things that can slow down the process. Collection site personnel can make errors in filling out the forms causing labs to have to get affidavits signed. Affidavits typically add 2 days to the turnaround time. All DOT Specimens are shipped to a DOT Certified Laboratory. Courier services are subject to weather, airline delays, holiday schedules and varied pick-up times (rural versus urban areas). Time of collection, weekends, holidays etc… also all effect turnaround time, for example a specimen collected at 4:50pm might miss the courier pickup and would not get to the lab for an extra day. A specimen collected at 8:30 am will ship at the same time as every other specimen collected that day sometime between 3-5 pm when the courier picks up the specimens. A specimen collected on a Friday, might not be tested at the lab until Monday. In addition, although a result can be reported as negative it might have tested non‐negative first and had to go on for further testing.
Most importantly is that one understands the process:
1. Specimens are collected at a collection facility or on site at client facility.
2. Specimens are transported to a laboratory usually reaching the lab after transport from a courier to a plane and arriving at the lab usually the next morning.
3. Specimens are tested; negatives are released to the medical review office for review and reporting to the client ‐ which is typically the same day as released from the lab.
4. Specimens testing non‐negative at the lab are sent for retesting under GC/MS confirmation ‐ this is done a day later. These specimens whether negative or positive are released from the lab to the MRO for review when the confirmation process is completed. The Laboratory confirmation process can take from 2-5 days before the results are released to the MRO for review. Negative tests are generally reviewed the same day by the MRO and are available for reporting to the client shortly.
5. On confirmed positive results the MRO must speak to the donor; turnaround time is now a variable of getting the donor to communicate with the MRO which is sometimes a challenge. The MRO attempts contact with the donor several times each day and will also request assistance if having difficulties. If a donor does not contact the MRO, the MRO is required to wait 10 days before they can report the result.
Every major vendor and every major lab operates the same basic way. DOT dictates this process. Vendors making promises of quicker turnaround times may not be exactly telling the truth. When a result is delayed, it is important to contact your vendor to find out why so that any avoidable problems can be corrected and not occur in the future. Remember not all problems are avoidable and may just be the DOT process. Remember it is about accuracy not speed. Your drug testing vendor can help you with this, it is always important to have specific examples and details of a delayed result.
For questions or additional information please call Prime Medical Testing Inc. at 1 800-900-3926