The Department of Transportation has regulations set in place that any businesses and professional drivers must adhere to. These regulations also include policies about drug use and the requirement that all drivers stay clean and sober while on the job. To reinforce this, drug testing is also enforced.
However, the rules and regulations the DOT creates aren’t fixed and static. New developments and new lines of thinking always keep the possibility open for changes in how compliance works. In 2018, some major policy changes occurred, and if you’re not aware of them, we’re going to cover the most important points now.
The Opiates Panel Expanded
Opiates are the type of drug most commonly used for pain-killing but also became popular as a recreational drug. In the past, the DOT required testing only for the opiates codeine, heroin, and morphine. As of January 1, 2018, the DOT expanded that list to now test for additional opioids, semi-synthetic derivatives which are often prescribed legally as pain-killers but have now spread to the black market and recreational use.
The expanded panel now includes oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone. These opioids are more commonly recognized by various brand names such as Percocet® or OxyContin®.
As a result of the inclusion of these opioids, this has added some additional responsibilities for the MRO, or Medical Review Officer, that oversees results and decides what to do with them. The DOT now considers these additional opioids to be a safety concern that can impair performance. However, these opioids are legitimately prescribed to patients are part of their treatment or recovery process.
This means that, under ordinary circumstances, a positive result for these opioids should trigger a reporting obligation by the MRO to the employer, normally as a positive result that renders the subject medically unqualified to work and/or safety risk.
The MRO can now consult with the person tested, and give time to review a verified legal prescription for the opioid. At the MRO’s discretion, if the prescription is verified and the MRO is satisfied, the positive test result can be overturned, and treated as a negative.
However, if the MRO believes there is a safety concern, there may be a recommendation to change prescriptions to a non-opioid drug. Otherwise, a positive result and possible medical disqualification occur. It’s very important now for drivers, if possible, to request a prescription for something other than the opioids outlined above if a doctor believes a painkiller is necessary.