Last Updated on 2024-01-05

Breaking Down Amazon’s Drug Test: When, What, and How [2024]

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Davis Porter

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

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Alex Rodriguez

T1 Asssociate with experience across Decant, Waterspider, Stower, Packer, and Receive Dock roles

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Paul Avila

T3 Asssociate with 1+ years of experience working in the Packer, and Waterspider roles.

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James Enright

L5 having worked in a Fulfillment Center, Sortation Center, and in Reverse Logistics with 6+ years of experience across Receive Dock, Decant, Waterspider, Stower, Picker, Count, Packer, SLAM Operator, Problem Solver, and Unloader roles

The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The content contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments or changes. Any reader should consult with a legal professional to obtain legal advice tailored to their specific circumstances.

As a global e-commerce and cloud computing giant, Amazon ranks among the world's largest employers. To maintain order, minimize risks, and optimize productivity across such a vast workforce, the company continues to implement various measures for preventing substance abuse in the workplace. 

Among them is its strict drug testing policy, which applies to both applicants and employees. Amazon is especially keen on maintaining it in positions involving logistics and operations, as this is where employees often handle sensitive materials and operate heavy machinery. 

With that in mind, we call upon everyone eyeing roles like an FC associate, DS associate, SC associate, or another role to follow along as we demystify Amazon's drug testing process. In this guide, you’ll find answers on when Amazon conducts the tests, what substances they screen for, and how the testing is carried out.

Does Amazon drug test? 

Yes, Amazon does indeed conduct drug tests on job applicants and employees.

The principal rationale behind the policy is workplace safety. In environments where employees operate heavy machinery, handle packages, or drive delivery vehicles, drug-induced impairment poses significant risks. 

For applicants, passing a pre-employment drug test is one of the basic warehouse job requirements. A positive result may otherwise lead to disqualification. 

The testing is also performed randomly on existing employees to check and confirm their continued compliance with the company’s drug-free workplace policy. Amazon additionally has the right to screen individuals after they’ve been involved in workplace accidents. 

Any employee found to be under the influence of drugs may then end up facing disciplinary action or termination. It all depends on the severity of the situation and the employee's history. 

Our warehouse randomly tests 4 workers per shift, and up to 16 per week,” attests James Enright, who’s worked at Amazon for six years now. 

He then goes on to explain the process. “The selection process uses a digital random number generator. Employees chosen for testing are subsequently escorted from their work area by PXT (People Experience and Technology) and Operations staff.”

“The test itself is usually conducted in a private space, such as a break room or isolated office. A test kit and a Kindle are provided, after which a PXT representative from another Amazon location makes a call to guide the employee through the procedure.” 

Job positions with drug tests

Amazon's drug testing policy applies to various sensitive job positions, each with specific operational demands and safety requirements. The primary ones include:

  • Warehouse Workers: Given the physical nature of their work and the potential safety hazards in their workplaces, warehouse associates are screened for drugs when applying and after getting hired. They need to be sober enough to safely operate machinery, handle products, and process orders with precision. 
  • Delivery Drivers: In compliance with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) guidelines, Amazon administers drug tests on all its delivery drivers for the sake of public safety on the roads.

The drug testing protocols are also dependent on the geographical location of the job. For instance, in states where marijuana is legal, Amazon has adjusted its policy to accept candidates who test positive for THC – except for roles regulated by the Department of Transportation.

Corporate workers, on the other hand, face less stringent policies than their operational counterparts due to lower physical risk. That notwithstanding, Amazon still reserves the right to screen them when it’s necessary. 

Drug screening for seasonal hires

Seasonal employees – who are typically hired during peak shopping periods – face the same drug testing policies as permanent staff. This includes pre-employment screening and the possibility of random tests during their tenure. 

Amazon's commitment to a safe and efficient work environment is consistent across all employment statuses. It does so to maintain operational integrity and fairness across its entire workforce. 

So, should a seasonal worker fail a drug test, their engagement could eventually be terminated. Amazon's policy of deleting drug test records after four months does, however, provide them with an opportunity for future reemployment.

When does Amazon screen for drugs?

Before hiring

Amazon's drug testing process begins in the initial hiring phase, usually at the pre-hire appointment before orientation. 

“More specifically, it’s the next step after having your ID verified and badge picture taken,” clarifies Alex Rodriguez, a California-based T1 associate who’s been on the job for over two years. 

The principal method used here is a mouth swab test, as it’s non-invasive to candidates yet reliable in detecting recent drug use. A sample of saliva is collected from your inner cheek or under the tongue, and then sent to a lab for analysis. Once you’re done, you can expect the results to be relayed within a few days to three weeks.

If it comes back positive, Amazon might drop you from the hiring process. Disqualification is never permanent, though. Drug test records are cleared from Amazon’s database after four months, allowing rejected individuals to reapply and take another test.

After hiring

For current employees, Amazon's drug testing schedule varies based on the role and specific circumstances:  

  • Random Drug Testing: Workers in safety-sensitive positions are normally tested randomly, without any prior notification. This is Amazon’s way of maintaining fairness while ensuring constant compliance with its drug-free policy.
  • Post-Accident Testing: Following workplace accidents – especially those involving injury or property damage – Amazon may choose to administer drug tests. This is mostly in the form of urine analysis, as it’s more accurate than saliva tests. The aim is to establish if substance abuse contributed to the incident, upon which the appropriate disciplinary actions are taken. 
  • Testing on Suspicion of Substance Abuse: If there are signs of possible substance abuse – such as noticeable changes in behavior or performance issues – Amazon may initiate drug testing.
  • Testing After Extended Leaves or Role Transfers: Employees returning from extended leaves or transferring to new roles might undergo drug testing to confirm their compliance with Amazon's drug-free policy.

How they’re conducted 

Amazon performs most of its analysis on saliva swabs. The technique itself is simple, cheap, non-intrusive, and capable of detecting drug use over a short timeframe. It can pick traces of substances taken up to 48 hours before the test.

“Your picture is taken and then you’re ushered into another room,” explains Alex

“They’ll subsequently play you a short video explaining how to administer the saliva swab. There will also be a timer that indicates how long you should hold the swab in the mouth. On collecting the sample, you’re supposed to transfer it into a tube and seal the provided envelope for collection.”

To prevent contamination, individuals are advised to refrain from eating or drinking immediately before the test. A sample is then taken by gently rubbing a cotton-tipped plastic swab on the subject’s inner cheek or under their tongue.

For roles that are otherwise regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), Amazon uses urine testing instead of saliva swabs. It captures a wider range of substances for much longer after use, sometimes reaching even a week. Urine tests are also sensitive to elements like opiates and methadone, which might not be immediately detectable in saliva.

Types of drugs

Amazon's drug testing program is capable of catching the following substances from your system:

  • Opiates: These can be detected in saliva for 24 to 36 hours and in urine for 1 to 3 days.
  • Amphetamines and Methamphetamines: Detectable in saliva after five 5 to 10 minutes of use and the window stretches to 48 hours. In urine tests, they remain discoverable for 1 to 4 days.
  • Cocaine: Saliva tests can identify cocaine 10 minutes to 48 hours after use. Urine tests can do the same over 1 to 4 days.
  • Marijuana (THC): Can be discovered in saliva about an hour after use, up to 18 hours. In urine, the allowance is 1 to 10 days for most people and up to a month or for chronic users.
  • Phencyclidine (PCP): Can be recognized in saliva for up to 48 hours and in urine for 1 to 8 days. 

Saliva tests are highly sensitive to recent drug use but have a shorter detection window. Urine tests, on the other hand, have a longer detection window and can identify drug use over a more extended period.

Policy on marijuana/THC

In June 2021, Amazon updated its marijuana policy and announced it would no longer disqualify job applicants who test positive – except for positions regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

This shift is seen as a response to the evolving public perception of marijuana and its widespread legalization across US states. When applying for non-DOT roles, you won’t be rejected for testing positive in your pre-employment screening.   

This move benefits Amazon by expanding its pool of potential job applicants, especially in states where marijuana use is legal. 

According to Alex, “Amazon no longer counts marijuana as an offense for pre-employment drug screens at any of their sites nationwide. They’ve even been outspoken on their public stance for federal legalization.”

That, however, doesn’t mean that the company is entirely open to marijuana use. While Amazon may take you in with traces of marijuana, it won’t allow you to use the drug while working in its warehouses. 

Alex himself emphasizes, “using it right before work or arriving under the influence is strictly prohibited. Only tobacco is allowed to be used during breaks in designated Smoking Areas outside the building.”

In light of this, Amazon continues to test for marijuana following workplace incidents or whenever they notice signs of impairment.

Policy on alcohol

Although Amazon does not explicitly test for alcohol, showing up to a drug test - or on the job - while visibly intoxicated is very likely to cause issues.

According to James, the company has even designed its process to be foolproof and clear of any bias from subjective judgments on intoxication. Whenever a warehouse employee is suspected of abusing alcohol or drugs at work, their manager cannot dismiss them based on personal opinion alone. 

Instead, at least two operations managers at L4 or higher positions are brought in to interrogate the suspected associate,” he says

“They’re supposed to check for any visible signs of inebriation, as well as establish if the suspect is otherwise fatigued, sick, or on meds.” 

He adds, “After the two have confirmed and agreed on a potentially positive case, two of the three warehouse departments must investigate further to eliminate any chance of bias. Either the Safety, Loss Prevention (LP), and/or People Experience and Technology (PXT) teams may proceed to verify the intoxication case, document it, and then get the suspected individual off the floor for drug tests.”

Alex also cautions Amazon warehouse associates to strictly avoid taking alcohol before their shifts. “Even if it is only a beer or two with dinner or whatever the occasion, there’s always the risk of a manager or any other employee smelling it on your breath and reporting you.”

How long do they take? 

Under normal circumstances, the duration from the moment of testing to when results are received is usually about 1-2 days. However, during busy periods like the holiday season, the volume of applicants may surge and extend the wait by up to 3 weeks.

For accurate timeline estimations, you might want to consider the following factors:

  • Type of Test: The saliva test is quicker to administer and process compared to urine tests. But, for roles regulated by the Department of Transportation, the time-consuming urine tests are the standard. 
  • Laboratory Capacity and Efficiency: This is basically the speed at which the laboratory processes your sample. High-capacity labs with efficient processing protocols tend to deliver results faster.
  • Volume of Tests: During peak hiring periods, the sheer volume of tests can overwhelm lab capacities, leading to longer wait times.

Amazon drug test results

How to know if you’ve passed

Receiving a formal notification from Amazon is the surest way to confirm you’ve passed the drug test. You’ll get it in the form of an email that clearly states the test result.

Successful candidates are subsequently advanced to the next hiring stage of hiring, which is typically onboarding. By then, you’ll have sailed through both the Amazon background process and drug testing, which are the two most critical qualification stages for job hopefuls. 

In Alex’s words, “You will get an email stating a contingent offer of employment, subject to the outcome of your background check.”

For existing employees, passing a drug test usually means they’ll be continuing their jobs as usual. Any follow-up actions would only arise if the test was conducted due to a workplace incident or suspicion of impairment.

How to know if you’ve failed 

In the event of a failed drug test, Amazon will also communicate via email. You’ll get a notification that outlines the test results and all the substances detected.

For job applicants, such a negative result could have Amazon withdrawing the employment offer. Existing employees may otherwise face termination – although the specific consequences can vary depending on the role, the substances found, and the context of the test (routine screening versus post-accident, for example).

“We've also had employees on various prescription drugs fail their drug test,” clarifies James. “They are often placed on paid leave, during which time they may submit their medical paperwork and then return to work after about a week.”

Whatever the outcome when applying, your failed drug test won’t permanently bar you from future employment opportunities at Amazon. The platform will expunge your records after four months, allowing you to start afresh. 

False positives

False positives, though uncommon, can indeed occur in Amazon’s drug tests. They may be due to cross-reactivity with certain prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, or selected foods.

For example, some cold medications or poppy seeds can trigger false positives for opiates or amphetamines.

Amazon understands this, and has thus established formal procedures for resolving false positives. You just need to contact their Human Resources and then provide evidence that could explain the discrepancy. They might then conduct a retest or a detailed review of the initial test.

Tips for preparing for Amazon drug tests

To pass your Amazon drug tests, you should consider taking the following measures:

  • Abstinence from Prohibited Substances: Start by avoiding all the substances that are usually screened. This includes illicit drugs, prescription medications, and over-the-counter substances that could cause false positives. 
  • Disclosure of Prescription Medications: Before the test, remember to disclose any prescription drugs you are taking. Some of them might otherwise trigger false positives that could complicate the testing process. For example, sertraline may be detected as benzodiazepine, and ibuprofen could be mistaken for marijuana. 

“So many people aren't upfront about their medication usage and think they can disclose that information after their test. It's much safer to give that information in advance,” advises Paul Avila, a college student who doubles up as an Amazon warehouse associate.

  • Diet and Hydration: Maintain a balanced diet and stay well-hydrated. But, avoid excessive water intake as it could dilute your urine and potentially raise suspicions that may lead to a retest. You should especially prioritize foods that are rich in antioxidants and fiber – like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, – because of their natural detoxification capabilities. 

Get started

With these insights, you should be able to prepare for the drug test and take the next step in your career journey. Apply now to get started. 

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