Man using microscope in lab

SAMHSA Certified Laboratories

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA was established in 1992 and is relied on heavily for all employee drug testing programs in the United States. The mission of SAMHSA is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Laboratories performing employee drug testing in the United States look to SAMHSA for guidance in best practices for accurate and efficient drug testing. For drug testing required by the federal government or the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), the use of a SAMHSA certified laboratory is a regulatory requirement.

At US Drug Test Centers, our priority is to utilize laboratories certified by SAMHSA. The current list of SAMHSA certified labs can be found on the SAMHSA website. These laboratories perform at the highest standards and have rigorous quarterly inspections to ensure their quality and accuracy. The SAMHSA certification helps to guarantee the legal defensibility of actions taken based on a drug test result.

National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP)

SAMHSA administers the laboratory certification program through the National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP), which includes comprehensive performance testing (PT) and laboratory inspection programs. To become certified, an applicant laboratory must successfully test three rounds of PT samples and successfully complete a laboratory inspection that occurs at the time the third set of PT samples are being tested by the laboratory. In addition, a newly certified laboratory must undergo an inspection three months after achieving certification.

To maintain certification, a laboratory must participate in and satisfy the requirements for the maintenance PT program (samples sent quarterly) and achieve successful performance on every semiannual inspection.

Why Utilize a SAMHSA Certified Laboratory?

SAMHSA Certified Laboratory
  • These labs are required to meet quarterly performance proficiency testing and semi-annual inspections in order to remain HHS certified
  • These labs have met requirements for rigorous quality control and chain-of-custody procedures
  • These labs test each specimen using the same procedures in a consistent method
  • They must undergo compliance audits that are performed by nationally recognized toxicology experts every six months
  • They perform all work by their own personnel and equipment. No subcontracting to other labs may occur

Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB)

Drug Testing Advisor Board

SAMHSA works with a drug testing advisor board (DTAB) for industry input and guidance regarding the direction, scope, balance, and emphasis of the agency’s drug testing activities and the drug testing laboratory certification program. Working with this advisory board, SAMHSA seeks to:

  • Improve the quality of services for forensic employee drug testing
  • Assess the science and technology used in drug analyses
  • Improve the quality of related laboratory services and systems for drug testing
  • Generate standards for laboratory certification for federal employee drug testing programs
  • Guide national policy in these areas

Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Employee Drug Testing

SAMHSA certified labs must meet the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Employee Drug Testing. These are published guidelines for drug testing programs in federal agencies. These guidelines are generally considered the best practices for all employee drug testing.

The SAMHSA laboratory certification program applies only to urine drug testing and specifically to testing for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and phencyclidine. Starting in January of 2018, the opiates testing became opioids testing to include codeine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone. SAMHSA is responsible for specifying the required cut-off levels for laboratory testing for the drugs listed above.

One area that is critically important about SAMHSA certified lab is the requirement to conduct validity testing to determine if the specimen has been tampered with or substituted. With urine drug testing today, many donors attempt to cheat on the test.

State College of American Pathologists — CAP Accreditation

Many labs receive accreditation from other agencies, including the State College of American Pathologists — CAP accreditation. This accreditation can be obtained by laboratories and testing centers that perform confirmation drug testing on urine, oral fluid, and hair for non-medical purposes like employee drug testing, for example.

CAP accreditation is internationally recognized. The CAP accreditation is not a substitute for SAMHSA certification. For Federal workplace testing and DOT drug testing, the SAMHSA certified lab must be utilized.

SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities. SAMHSA certified labs are dedicated to providing efficient turn-around time on results, use the most technologically advanced systems, and provide the highest level of customer service. This results in higher quality, legal defensibility, and a more efficient testing program for you.