Do EMTs & Paramedics Get Drug Tested? (& How Often)

Drug testing is a common and controversial practice in many workplaces, especially in the healthcare sector. It can have serious implications for your career, reputation, and legal status.

But do EMTs get drug tested? How about paramedics?

If you are working or aspiring to work in the emergency medical services field, you may have wondered about these questions. In this article, we will answer those questions and to help you understand and prepare for drug testing in your profession.

Let’s dive in.

Do EMTs & Paramedics Get Drug Tested?

Yes, EMTs and paramedics do get drug tested as a condition for pre-employment. Organizations will drug test EMTs and paramedics either before starting their training program or during the hiring process for employment.

How Often Do EMTs & Paramedics Get Drug Tested?

The frequency of drug testing for EMTs and paramedics varies depending on the employer, the state, and the situation. Some agencies do not drug test at all while others do random drug testing at random times. 

Some common scenarios where EMTs and paramedics may be drug tested are:

  • Before starting the training program or the certification exam.
  • During the hiring process or the background check.
  • After an accident or an incident involving the EMT, paramedic, or the patient.
  • On a random or periodic basis as part of the employer’s policy or the federal grant requirements.
EMT getting drug tested

What Drugs Are EMTs & Paramedics Tested For?

EMTs and paramedics are tested for various types of drugs, such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs, also known as street drugs. EMTs and paramedics are expected to follow a zero-tolerance policy for drug use, as it may compromise their safety, performance, and integrity.

The specific drugs that are tested for will vary depending on the employer, the state, and the situation, but some common drugs that are screened for include:


This includes ethanol, which is the main ingredient in alcoholic beverages, and other forms of alcohol, such as methanol, isopropanol, and ethylene glycol. Alcohol can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time, which are essential for EMTs and paramedics.

Prescription Drugs

This includes drugs that a doctor legally prescribes for a medical condition, such as opioids, benzodiazepines, stimulants, antidepressants, and antihistamines. Prescription drugs can have side effects, interactions, or abuse potential, which can affect the performance and safety of EMTs and paramedics.

Illicit Drugs

This includes drugs that are illegal or prohibited by law, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and LSD. Illicit drugs can alter the mood, perception, and behavior of EMTs and paramedics, which can compromise their ability to function and care for patients.

Note: These are the same types of drugs EMTs and paramedics get tested for. See our other guide, “Do firefighters get drug tested” for more details on the emergency medical professional field.

What Happens If an EMT or Paramedic Fails a Drug Test?

The consequences of failing a drug test as an EMT or paramedic can vary depending on the employer and the situation. You could face an emergency suspension or summary suspension for your medical license.

All possible outcomes include:

  • Immediate termination of employment without any second chance.
  • Suspension or revocation of certification or license.
  • Legal or civil charges for endangering public safety.
  • Mandatory enrollment in a drug treatment program before reapplying for the job.

It is very important for EMTs and paramedics to avoid using any illegal drugs and to comply with the drug testing policies of their employers. Drug use can impair their judgment, performance, and ability to save lives in critical situations.

EMT and paramedic drug test screening report

Frequently Asked Questions

Are EMTs and paramedics randomly drug tested?

Yes, they may be randomly drug tested at any point before or during employment. EMTs and paramedics are subject to drug testing as part of their training, certification, employment, and in some cases, after an accident or incident. The frequency and type of drug testing varies depending on the employer, state, and federal laws.

Can you smoke while being an EMT or paramedic?

Smoking tobacco is not prohibited for EMTs and paramedics, but it may have negative effects on their health and performance. Smoking marijuana (or cannabis), on the other hand, is a more complicated issue.

Cannabis is still illegal under federal law, and some states and employers have zero-tolerance policies for marijuana use, even if it is medical or recreational. Therefore, EMTs and paramedics who use cannabis may risk failing a drug test and facing disciplinary action or termination.

Can EMTs or paramedics take CBD?

CBD is a compound derived from hemp or cannabis that does not have psychoactive effects like THC. CBD is legal in most states, but it may still contain trace amounts of THC that could show up on a drug test. Additionally, CBD products are not regulated by the FDA, so their quality and purity may vary. Therefore, EMTs and paramedics who take CBD should be cautious and aware of the potential risks.

What type of drug test do EMTs and paramedics take?

The most common type of drug test for EMTs and paramedics is a urine test and blood test, which can detect various drugs and substances in the body. However, other types of specimens, such as hair, saliva, or sweat, may also be used for drug testing. The specific drugs that are tested for may depend on the employer, state, or federal requirements.

What does a 10 panel drug test results look like?

A 10 panel drug test is a urine test that screens for 10 of the most commonly abused or misused drugs, including prescription and recreational drugs. The results of a 10 panel drug test are usually reported as positive, negative, or inconclusive.

A positive result means that the drug residues in the sample exceeded the allowed limit, and a negative result means that the drug residues were below the limit or not detected. An inconclusive result means that the test was unable to determine the presence or absence of the drug residues.

Does CBD show up on a 10-panel drug screen?

CBD is not one of the substances that a 10-panel drug screen tests for. However, since different CBD products may contain varying levels of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, a person who regularly takes CBD may test positive for marijuana on a 10-panel drug screen. The amount of THC in CBD products may depend on the source, quality, and type of CBD.

What is the most common false positive drug test?

A false positive drug test is when the test detects the presence of a drug or substance that the person has not taken. This can happen due to various factors, such as laboratory errors, cross-reactivity, contamination, or interference from other substances.

According to some studies, the most common false positive in drug testing is amphetamine and methamphetamine, caused by other stimulants, such as decongestants, antidepressants, or weight-loss drugs. Other common false positives include PCP, THC, and benzodiazepines.

Bottom Line

Drug testing is a reality for EMTs and paramedics who work in the emergency medical services field. By understanding the reasons, types, and consequences of EMTs and paramedics getting drug tested, and by following the policies and procedures of their employer, these medical professionals can protect themselves and their careers.