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Workplace Drug Testing

lab technician testing specimen for different types of drugs

The smooth and effective management of any company and business is predicated on many different factors. The culture of a workplace is important, as is the management and how they interact with each other and employees. Work practices are vital, the flow and handling of information is important, and, perhaps most critical of all, the health and well-being of all staff are essential. Any imbalance or neglect in one area can have a domino effect that spreads to other areas, and this can have a serious, negative impact on many aspects of a workplace in unforeseen ways.

One area that appears isolated, at least on first glance, is a policy for workplace drug testing. In one sense, this is a “yes and no” proposition. For staff members that aren’t using drugs to begin with, this has little impact on work, aside from taking a few minutes out of the day during testing periods to provide a test sample. But for people that are using drugs, this has dramatic, necessary impact, and in some ways can prevent a problem employee from even occurring in the first place.

How to Implement a Drug Testing Policy

One of the chief concerns that many have about implementing drug testing, if they’re unfamiliar with it, is an issue of interrupting operations. Some see the implementation of a system as invasive of someone’s privacy at best, and actually holding up workflow at worst. Modern drug and alcohol testing has come a long way from pioneering, time intensive methods with elaborate sample collection procedures. Today, aside from having the necessary materials on hand for sample collection during a testing period, there is little in the way of workflow disruption.

Workplace drug testing can occur in three ways. The first and most common is a urine sample. Most people are familiar with this as urine samples are usually collected at some point in a person’s life, usually for medical examination purposes. A urine sample only adds a few extra minutes to a person’s day at work, and does not have to be organized so that everyone must donate a sample in the same time frame.

Hair samples can also be collected and tested for drug use. This form of testing is more recent, but is rising in popularity. 50-70 strands of hair, at about 1.5” in length, are all that are needed in order to conduct this type of drug test. For people that are bald, or closely shave their head, any body hair is sufficient, it doesn’t need to come from the head. Hair follicle drug testing detects drugs going back about 90 days.

Oral fluid or saliva drug testing is becoming more popular. An oral fluid specimen is collected and sent to the laboratory for initial screening and if non-negative then confirmation testing. Many employers are collecting the oral fluid samples without the use of a traditional collection site. Oral fluid testing detects very recent drug use but not long term use. Drugs will not be detected after about three days with oral fluid testing.

man holding sign that says notice this is a drug-free workplace

Why Testing Is So Effective

Oral fluid, urine and hair sample drug tests have the convenience of being configurable. This means that the tests can be adjusted to detect a specific set of drugs that the workplace is most concerned about. These tests are conducted in “panels” of 5-10 or more, depending on the needs of the business. If prescription drugs are the concern, these can be configured, and if illegal substances like marijuana or cocaine are higher priority, these can also be included.

Attempting to cheat on the urine drug has become popular among drug uses. However, it is very difficult to “cheat” these tests, unless employees have sufficient warning in advance to clear their systems. In the case of urine samples, the majority of drugs will remain in the system, creating a detectable substance called metabolites that can be screened up to week after use. With hair sample testing, the metabolites are so highly concentrated in hair fibers that drug use can be detected up to 90 days after use, and can testers can even report how many times during a 90 day period drugs were used as each session is a separate “layer” of metabolites embedded in hair. Oral fluid testing will detect drugs used the same day or up to three days. It is very difficult to cheat on hair or oral fluid drug testing.

The Benefits Of Drug Testing

Implementing drug testing in the workplace has a number a quality-of-life benefits for any company or business. While drug use is not the only reason for reduced worker efficiency, when it is present, it can have a dramatic impact on everything from the quality of work to the ability to make clear, sensible decisions without impaired judgment.

For workers, it also significantly increases the safety of a workplace. Many accidents in the workplace can be traced to substance abuse, either as a result of drug use during work, or the effects of impaired working or thinking ability that come afterwards. This also has the added side effect of creating more trust and a higher sense of morale. Staff know that the people around them are unimpaired, and that everyone is working at or near their full capability.

If a workplace drug testing policy is widely known and announced, it also acts a preventive measure. New incoming employees will be of a more reliable, higher caliber, simply because the ones that do use drugs simply won’t apply for a job if they know ahead of time about the drug free workplace policy.

National Drug Screening has seen how much good a drug testing policy can do for a workplace. Give us a call and see how we can do the same for you.