SAMHSA ( Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) states that as many as 7 percent of adults employed full time, and 9 percent employed part time in the United States use illegal drugs, yet preemployment testing (mostly done by urine in the US) detects far less that this.

The reason is that drug abusers are two fold:

1.  Drug abusers can easily defeat urine-based testing, especially if they are sent to an offsite collection facility to donate urine.

2. Most urine tests are “5-panel” and based upon drug usage trends that are 30 years old.  Prescription drug abuse, especially oxycodone (Percoset, Oxycontin) lead as the number on threat to workplace safety, exclusive of alcohol, and are NOT detected by SAMHSA’S  / DOT’s 5-panel urine test.

Note:  Don’t be mislead by laboratory claims that they can detect most instances of adulteration or substitution.  This is patently false.  Even SAMHSA acknowledges that the only method to successfully mitigate “beating the test” is via observed specimen collection.

What is preemployment workplace drug screening?


The most common, be lest  effective way for companies to screen potential employees is through urine tests.  Specimen are typically conducted at offsite urine collection centers and drug abusers have plenty of opportunity to stop along the way and purchase substances to adulterate or substitute their sample.  Samples are then sent to an offsite an independent laboratory such as Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp. Urine tests supposedly provide results within 24 to 72 hours of when the test is taken, however delays are common.

Five Panel

The typical urine test includes testing of the following drugs: amphetamine and methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates (codeine and morphine – NOT oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone-Vicodin, or hydromorphone) and phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust). These tests typically only detect drug use within the past 72 hours.

Nine Panel

The more extensive, and expensive, nine panel test includes all of these mentioned in the five panel test as well as tests for barbiturates (i.e. Amytal), benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanax or Klonopin), methadone and propoxyphene (Darvocet).


Although more commonly used for employees than as a pre-screening method, rapid result drugs tests that test all the drugs in the nine panel exam can also be purchased by companies to administer drug tests.

Oral Fluid, Hair, Sweat, And Blood

Other types of drug screening is available including oral fluid / saliva drug screening (on-site and lab-based),  and oral fluid / saliva alcohol screens (on-site and lab-based). Hair testing is used as it can detect drug usage from as far as 90 days prior, however can only be done at a laboratory and can not detect recent drug usage (within the past seven days).  Sweat testing is rarely used as it involves placing a patch on the body and it subject to concern about accuracy and tampering.   Blood screen, the true “gold standard”, like oral fluid, detects recent drug abuse, however  is far more expensive and invasive, they are unlikely to be used at most pre-employment drug screenings.

The drug cut off concentration level is the defined level of drug or metabolite concentration in the specimen (blood, hair, oral fluid / saliva , urine , sweat ).

Any concentration of drug or metabolite at or above the cut off level leads to “non-negative” result while below leads to a negative result.

The amount of drug / drug metabolite that can be detected by and on-site screen , laboratory screen , or quantitative confirmatory test (GC/MS, LC/MS/MS) depends on factors like dosage, method of use, time, metabolism, sex, metabolism, frequency of use, specimen type, methods of drug testing, and other factors.

Immunoassay (IA) technique is used to initially screen the specimen ( lateral flow immunoassay for on-site devices) while a Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GS/MS), or Liquid (LC/MS/MS) test is conducted for confirmatory testing.

The five most commonly abused drugs are Cocaine, Amphetamines, Marijuana, Opiates, and Phencyclidine (PCP), however, these are ” outdated ” relative to current drug abuse patterns in society.  Prescription drug misuse is the dominant health and safety concern, in addition to alcohol. PCP using is virtually zero.  ” DOT ” testing does not produce “positives” for Oxycontin (Oxycodone ) or Lortab / Vicodine (Hydrocodone).

Urine Drug Testing
In Urine drug testing, the immunoassay (IA) technique is used to perform initial screening of specimen and detect the presence of drugs.

If the concentration of specified drugs is found at or above the cut-off level in initial screening, the results are declared as positive. Later a Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GS/MS) test is conducted in laboratory for confirmation.

The initial drug cut off concentration level for five commonly abused drugs using 5-Drug Test Card are:
Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine) — 300 ng/ml
Amphetamines (D-Amphetamine) — 1000 ng/ml
Marijuana (11-nor-?9-THC-9 COOH) — 50 ng/ml
Opiates (Morphine) — 2000 ng/ml
Phencyclidine (Phencyclidine) — 25 ng/ml

The Cut-off levels in urine drug testing are measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).

The major issues with urine testing is that it is easily and commonly defeated by drug abusers via adulteration and substitution.  Also, traditional five panel tests do not detect the prevalent prescription drugs abused.

Hair Drug Testing
The hair drug testing can show drug abuse history for as long as 90 days, however, has can only be performed at a laboratory, and can not detect drug use within the past week or longer… thus only viable for historical drug abuse.

Furthermore, there are issues with variability in results due to hair color.

The initial drug cut off concentration level for the five commonly abused drugs using 7-panel test are:
Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine) — 0.5 ng/mg
Amphetamines (Amphetamine) — 0.5 ng/mg
Marijuana (cannabinoids) — 0.005 ng/mg
Opiates (Morphine) — 0.2 ng/mg
Phencyclidine (Phencyclidine) — 0.3 ng/mg

The confirmatory drug cut-off levels for these drugs are:
Amphetamines (Amphetamine) — 0.1 ng/mg
Marijuana (cannabinoids) — 0.1 ng/mg
Opiates (Morphine) — 0.1 ng/mg
Phencyclidine (Phencyclidine) — 0.1 ng/mg

Oral Fluid / Saliva Drug Testing
Oral fluid is the proper term, as only 20% of substance in the mouth  is saliva. Oral fluid drug testing is an effective way to detect the presence of drugs consumed in last few days, thus well suited for most employers that are primarily concerned with recent and/or “on-the-job” misuse.  It is also generally concerned superior for post accident or reasonable suspicion testing as it most closely mimics the results obtained from blood testing.

It is convenient, non-invasive, and gives quick results.

The immunoassay technique is used for initial screening of oral specimen for detection of drugs for on-site devices and/or at a laboratory.  A GS/MS or LC/MS/MS test is used for confirmatory purpose if initial screening test is non-negative.

The initial cut off concentration for five common drugs in oral drug testing:
Cocaine (Benzoylecgonine) — 20 ng/ml
Amphetamines (d-Amphetamine) — 50 ng/ml
Marijuana (THC-COOH) — 4-50 ng/ml
Opiates (Morphine) — 20 ng/ml
Phencyclidine (Phencyclidine) — 10 ng/ml

The cut-off concentration, drug class detected, and specimen type are crucial parameters to detect the presence of drugs and conclude whether result is non-negative or negative.

As a non-negative and eventually positive test result can have a significant impact on safety in the workplace as well as providing employee assistance.

Traditional urine-based drug screening suffers from the prevalent practices of specimen substitution and adulteration.

Also, employers and employees alike view urine testing as degrading and generally distasteful, and most urine samples are analyzed at a lab, which is an expensive and inefficient process.

Oral fluid-based testing cannot be ‘cheated’ because specimen collection is directly observed, is a socially acceptable practice and enables employers to implement random testing, which experts consider the most effective method of deterring on-the-job drug abuse.

At the national level, random drug testing such as this can significantly impact occupational safety and health by reducing injuries, accidents and fatalities.

Properly implemented drug testing programs that use random, oral fluid-based testing, in addition to educational and associated employee assistance programs, can reduce on-the-job accidents by up to 50% or more.  Further benefits may include lower employee turnovers rates and absenteeism as well as reduced inventory shrinkage and workplace violence.

The U.S. consumes over 60% of the world’s illicit drug production,” he adds. “Each year, the costs to U.S. employers exceed $140 billion, as 77% of all drug abusers are employed, and eight to ten percent of workers in any company abuse drugs. On average, each drug abuser costs a corporation $10,000 per year.

Given these statistics, it is no surprise that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) actively and openly supports drug testing in the workplace.

OSHA is working with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to manage the Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, “a cooperative agreement that focuses on improving workplace safety and health in the construction industry through substance abuse prevention and intervention.”

While SAMHSA and DOT related agencies are considering expanding their practices to include alternative testing (oral fluid and hair), this process will likely take years due to the general nature of government and lobbying on the part of urine testing providers.

DOT testing accounts for only about two percent of all testing done in the U.S. Additionally, it should be noted that the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Causal Study for Large Truck Crashes cited driver error as the number one factor, with prescription painkillers as the number one associated variable.

Drug abusers can negatively impact employee morale and corporate viability as well, which makes the need for drug testing among U.S. employees great.

Drug abuse in the U.S. is worse than ever. The use of prescription painkillers is becoming more widespread than marijuana in our school systems and in the workplace, and the results are insidious.  However, based on our experience, a successful, company-wide, random drug-testing program can improve annual productivity rates while lowering medical and workers’ compensation costs.

One of our customers within the construction sector tested all of its workers after providing a 90-day notification that it was about to do so. Despite the notification, 30% of the workforce tested positive and was terminated. But within six weeks, the company was more productive—with 30% less workers. This is not a unique experience in industry.

Safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals who work with with us are receptive to the idea of drug testing in the workplace because they understand the need to proactively address drug abuse in the workplace through a combination of drug testing, education and support programs.  The are  on the front lines, and they deal with day-to-day accidents, workplace violence and related issues.

Many are capable of educating senior management on the strategic importance of a drug-free workplace and the need for the company to play an active role in developing, implementing and monitoring the success of drug-free workplace initiatives. Sometimes they must rely upon human resources personnel to implement the drug testing programs, as there are no internal structures such as corporate wellness departments. In this instance, it is key that human resources understand the criticality of a comprehensive drug-free workplace program.

Companies that implement comprehensive, oral fluid-based, company-wide, random drug testing programs can generally expect the following:

  • Up to 50% fewer reportable accidents (which translates into lower workers comp premium costs)
  • 30% less employee turnover
  • Lower health benefit utilization rates
  • Up to a 40% reduction in inventory shrinkage
  • Fewer incidents of workplace violence

Unless required, companies should avoid basing their drug-free workplace polices on the “DOT standard” as their outdated technologies don’t confirmatory test forOxycontin ®, Percoset® or Vicodin ®, which are widely used misused in the workplace.

Most companies  can benefit from a tailored and comprehensive drug-free workplace program that includes:

  • Corporate-wide buy-in.
  • Goals, objectives and metrics.
  • Drug policy development and review with appropriate consideration for federal, state and local regulations.
  • A drug and testing program inclusive of all testing modes (pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty).
  • GC/MS confirmatory testing.
  • MRO services.
  • Education and training.
  • EAP/SAP programs.
  • Links to business goals and reports on quantitative metrics.

The goal is prevention and employee wellness and, not punishment.

Advanced Oral Fluid Drug Screening Technology

via American Society of Safety Engineers.

Gil Kerlikowske, recently named director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, met with local leaders at the United Way of Broward County office, seeking advice on President Barack Obama’s drug-control strategy.

“We have been back and forth and up and down the country,” Kerlikowske told the group, made up mostly of members of the United Way of Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse. “Your help and your advice is most important.”

During the roundtable discussion, Kerlikowske recognized Broward’s rank as the nation’s top site for obtaining the prescription painkiller oxycodone.

So did Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti. More than a million pain pills are dispensed in the county each month, he told Kerlikowske.

“Those are shocking statistics,” Lamberti said.

Part of the focus should be on children, said Broward Judge Gisele Pollack. Addiction to pain killers has spread at an alarming rate among them, she said.

“It’s so scary because they’re so vulnerable,” Pollack said. “I have lost a lot of my juveniles to prescription drug overdose.”

Drug enforcement officials, child advocates and other leaders also stressed a need for tougher regulation of pain clinics and stricter guidelines for filling out-of-state prescriptions.


via United States’ drug czar seeks advice in Broward County on battle against prescription drug abuse — South Florida

PORT ANGELES — While methamphetamine use is down on the North Olympic Peninsula and across the state, abuse of narcotic prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet are taking meth’s place, state Attorney General Rob McKenna said Monday.

Community action teams like those used to curb meth use earlier this decade should be used to fight prescription drug abuse now, McKenna told the Clallam County Community Meth Action Team at the Clallam County Courthouse.

“The community meth action team has proven to be an effective model,” McKenna said.

“I think it’s the model we’re going to need to use when it comes to prescription drug abuse as well.”

Two appearances

McKenna met with local leaders in Port Angeles on Monday, speaking to the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce at noon before addressing the meth team in the afternoon.

“I predict this problem [of prescription drugs] is going to be more difficult even than meth,” McKenna said.

“As difficult, challenging and dangerous as meth is, I’m guessing this is going to be a harder problem for us to really start to make progress on.”

Advanced Oral Fluid Drug Screening Technology Targets Prescription Drug Abuse –

via State attorney general in Port Angeles targets prescription abuse — Port Angeles Port Townsend Sequim Forks Jefferson County Clallam County Olympic Peninsula Daily news.


Random Drug Testing On Hold For Now

A federal judge has granted the request for a preliminary injunction the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers had filed.  The group is challenging Kanawha County’s random drug testing policy for teachers and school workers.

The Kanawha County Board of Education approved the policy back in October.

Attorneys for the WV-AFT are arguing that random drug tests qualify as illegal searches and are prohibited under the Fourth Amendment.  Attorneys for the Kanawha County Board of Education had argued that teachers and school service workers are in safety sensitive positions and, because of that, should be tested.

Another disgraceful action by the once proud Unions?

Source: WCHS-58 Charleston
Drug Free Workplace Information

There is no doubt that random drug testing is an effective deterrent to drug use. When done on a “regular” basis, it delivers the strong message to the youth that they cannot use illegal drugs and be able to “hide” it all the time.  – Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI

( 2008-September)

The San Juan City  (Phillipines) government,  after passing an ordinance authorizing the City Mayor and the city health officers to conduct random drug testing among students of both private and public schools,  has already rolled out plans for the full implementation of the measure.

R.A. No. 9165 provides, among others, that all drug testing expenses shall be borne by the government.

Local governments should prioritize the appropriation of funds for drug testing because it is undoubtedly the wisest use of public funds – an “investment” that will surely yield the highest “gain” for the people and the society. All other “investments” made by the government for the people and the country’s future like in education, infrastructure, and programs to alleviate poverty will mean nothing as widespread illegal drug use will certainly negate developmental gains. Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI

But more than being just a deterrent, random drug testing can likewise serve as a venue for the government to address the rehabilitation needs of those who are already hooked to illegal drugs.

All local governments in the country should implement a random drug testing program in schools. It is the best service they can provide to the people and their indispensable contribution to the creation of a truly drug-free Philippines.

Next Page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.