Drug testing is an important part of making companies safer and healthier. It also contributes to a healthy and safer community.
With the increase in substance abuse reaching epidemic levels, drug testing is more important than ever. Benefits range from direct, short-term savings in health care costs, absenteeism and employer liability claims from on-the-job accidents. Long-term benefits are a more productive workforce with an increase in performance and higher quality work. It is a smart business practice.
It is common for employers to administer drug tests, most frequently pre-employment. Employers also may administer drug tests if they have reasonable suspicion an employee is using drugs, after an accident involving an employee, randomly, periodically and when someone returns to duty.
Other times can include a followup after completion of a rehab program, voluntary, probationary, pre-promotion and return after illness.
The pre-employment drug testing is conducted to prevent hiring employees who use illegal drugs. The most common test is urinalysis. Other kinds used less frequently include breath, hair, sweat, oral fluids and blood. Hair analysis is used when the purpose is to determine a longer period of time, going back as far as 90 days. It doesn’t provide evidence of current impairment.
There are companies who specialize in collecting specimen and certified labs that run the tests. A medical review officer is an important part of any drug testing program. That individual has to be a licensed medical doctor with special training in substance abuse. The information should only be accessed by the manager/administrator administering the program and the medical review officer. Even if termination is the result, the reason should remain confidential.
Employers should have a clear, written policy regarding substance abuse, training for supervisors on the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse and education about the dangers of substance abuse for all employees.
Substances vary in the length of times they are in a person’s system. Estimated times that certain dugs are detectable are:
- Alcohol — 1 ounce for 1.5 hours
- Amphetamines — 48 hours
- Barbiturates — 2-10 days
- Benzodiazepines — 2-3 weeks
- Cocaine — 2-10 days
- Heroin Metabolite — less than 1 day
- Morphine — 2-3 days
- LSD — 8 hours
- Marijuana — casual use, 3-4 days; chronic use, several weeks
- Methamphetamine — 2-3 days
- Methadone — 2-3 days
- Phencyclidine (PCP) — 1 week
Employers interested in having a drug free workplace will not only utilize drug testing but also offer Employee Assistance Programs to provide help to employees who may have an alcohol or drug problem. Self identification is generally the accepted method of approving time off if needed for treatment. When an employee gets a positive result on a drug test is not the time to then agree to go to rehab. It should be done voluntarily before a drug is found in the employee’s system through a drug test.
Substances most commonly tested for are:
- Amphetamines (meth, speed, crank, ecstasy)
- THC ( cannabinoids, marijuana, hash)
- Cocaine ( coke, crack)
- Opiates ( heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
- Phencyclidine ( PCP, angel dust)
The typical 8-Panel Test includes the above mentioned substances plus:
- Barbiturates ( Phenobarbital,butabital, secobarbital, downers)
- Benzodiazepines ( tranquilizers like Valium, Librium,Xanax )
- Methaqualone ( Quaaludes)
If the business has a zero tolerance policy, drug testing must be administered across the board for all employees, regardless of position. Businesses starting up a testing program should consult their attorney in writing their policy and ensuring adherence to state and federal regulations. The Department of Labor has an online Drug Free Workplace Advisor to help employers develop and customize their policy. It is prudent to use DOT guidelines even though all of your employees may not be subject to DOT rules.
A comprehensive program will contribute to workplace safety and the health of employees. Word will get around that your business is a drug-free employer and will be a deterrent for users of illegal drugs to apply.
Some applicants and employees will try all kinds of tactics to “beat” the test but almost always fail. Taking another person’s urine and placing in cup is detected because the temperature of the specimen is too low.“Watering down” the urine test with adulterants is easily detected. Some try diuretics and drinking large amounts of water or other fluid in an attempt to “fool” the test trying to flush out their system.
Individuals and businesses and online sources offer methods to pass a drug test even though the person is a user. None of these methods is 100 percent effective. But because of the attempts by applicants and employees, a company should never give notice of an upcoming test or be allowed to leave the premises after notification of a random test.