USCG Captain's License Drug Testing

Find a facility, take a DOT 5-panel test, and check the results.

2 mins read・Nov 21, 2023
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There are three main ways to meet drug testing requirements for Coast Guard licensing. Professional mariners will typically be part of a Coast Guard random drug testing program with one of the marine employers and have taken a pre employment drug test with one of the marine employers. Some semi-professional mariners are part of a random drug testing program with a maritime consortium.

For everyone else you will need to take a DOT drug test and include the negative results signed by a Medical Review Officer MRO as part of your USCG license package.

Download the MM-SEAS How to Get Your Drug Test free guide

We're going to go into detail and answer all of your Coast Guard drug testing questions.

What do Drug Tests for Captain's Licenses Look For?

To get and keep your USCG license you need to be free of dangerous drugs as determined by the DOT 5 Panel drug test. This drug test is looking for Marijuana, Cocaine, Phencyclidine, Opioids and Amphetamines.

You always need to make sure your drug test results are signed by a certified medical review officer. If anyone else is signing teh form such as a licensed physician it will not be accepted. Your DOT drug test results must be signed by a medical review officer.

Which Captain’s Licenses Require a Drug Test?

All first time USCG license applications require drug tests. This means that if you're getting an OUPV, a QMED or a Captain's license you need to be free from dangerous drugs.

Passenger boat on river.

If you are renewing your USCG license you will also need to provide documentation of being in a random drug test program with your marine employer or documentation of a negative DOT 5 Panel drug test within the last 185 days. If you are adding STCW or moving from one tonnage category to another you will not need to provide drug testing information.

USCG Drug Testing Requirements for Licensing

You must always test negative for your drug tests no matter if it's part of an employer program for random drug tests or you are going on your own to a take a DOT 5 Panel drug test.

If you are part of one of the random drug testing programs either from your employer or a maritime consortium you just need to get a letter on their letter head with the right verbiage for your USCG license application.

What Kind of Drug Test does the Coast Guard Accept?

Only a DOT 5 Panel (SAMHSA 5 Panel, formerly NIDA 5), testing for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines will be accepted.

What does the Coast Guard consider dangerous drugs?

The USCG considers dangerous drugs to be:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine - PCP, “angel dust”
  • Opioids - codeine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone
  • Amphetamines - amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA, and MDA

You will need to only take a DOT 5 Panel (SAMHSA 5 Panel) which tests for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines to prove you are free of dangerous drugs.

How to Schedule a Coast Guard Drug Test

You need to find a facility near you that can collect a sample for a DOT 5 Panel drug test (SAMHSA 5 Panel, formerly NIDA 5), testing for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines.

Guide for USCG drug testing.

Make sure the location you schedule will be sending your sample to one of the SAMHSA accredited labs across the United States.

They will take your sample and send it to a certified testing facility. Below is one website that can help.

If this sounds confusing, that's okay. Contact (via phone, or email, or website, etc.) the collection facility you found in step 1 and ask if they do DOT 5 Panel tests. DOT stands for Department of Transportation.

Giving you Drug Test Sample

USCG drug testing is very simple and it typically takes a few minutes. The hardest p[art is making sure you are taking the right test. The United States Coast Guard will only accept a DOT 5 Panel drug test, testing for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines that is going to be signed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO).

Download the MM-SEAS How to Get Your Drug Test free guide

It's built to fit on your phone and we strongly suggest you bring it with you to your appointment. It will help you ensure you are taking the right drug test!


The facility that collects the sample is rarely the same location as the test processing facility. The sample will likely be set to a testing facility somewhere else. This is normal.

Make sure your Drug Test Results Have the Right Information

Check for these things on the test results:

If your drug test results do not have all of the above information you have the wrong document.

It's easy to get the right documentation but often it takes a conversation with the collection site. Typically they will end up emailing the negative MRO results documentation to you one or two weeks after you take the exam.

Sailboat deck at sunset.

Additional FAQ –

What happens if you fail a drug test for captains license?

We recommend never failing a drug test related to your USCG license. Positive drug tests do happen for a few different reasons but dealing with it will depend on the USCG. When you test positive the MRO is and your employer is required by law to notify the nearest USCG Sector to your home and they will open an investigation into you. You may not hear about the investigation for up to 2 years but know that your license is in jeopardy and the consequences are very serious.  

Is Negative-Dilute on a Drug Test Accepted?

No. Negative-Dilute is considered the same as a positive drug test. Negative-Dilute results do happen and if you do get a negative dilute on your results, we recommend taking another test as soon as you can. They can happen if you are accidentally too hydrated so make sure to drink less water and you will be fine.

How long are my Drug Test Results Good For?

Your drug test must be turned into the USCG as part of an application within 185 days of obtaining your negative result.

Need to renew, upgrade or get your first USCG license? We're here to help.

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About the author

Nate Gilman
Nate Gilman

Nate has over 15 years of professional maritime experience and has hawsepiped his way to a 3rd Mate Unlimited Endorsement with full STCW compliance. He is proud veteran of the NOAA Commissioned Corps.

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