Alcohol Drug Screening. What Are Its Different Purposes?
04 July, 2023
Alcohol and drug screening is a process for identifying the presence of impairing substances in the system. It is mostly for detecting drug and alcohol use in healthcare, roadside, and workplace testing to promote safety. Likewise, it can determine misuse of prescription medications. It is also helpful in accidents and medical emergencies. In addition, it uses various specimen samples. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Thus, it is suitable for particular testing situations.
The misuse and abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs can have serious consequences, not just for the individual but for society. That is why substance screening is valuable to help minimise safety standards. Various testing devices help employers determine individuals who are posing risks. In this article, we will explore how each alcohol and drug test method works, its purposes in workplace settings, and factors for consideration.
How Does Alcohol Drug Screening Work?
Alcohol drug screening examines biological specimens to detect the presence of alcohol, drugs, and their metabolites. Instant test kits give can give rapid results at the point of collection. These tools use immunoassays to detect specific substances. It uses antibodies to look for particular chemical compounds within a sample. This method is quick, accurate, and affordable.
However, most drug test kits can detect if substances are present but not quantify the amount taken. A test strip shows a number of lines to indicate a negative or non-negative result. Therefore, they are suitable as screening tools. To verify the results, the samples must undergo further laboratory methods, such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS).
A GC-MS test gives more detailed information about the compounds present in a sample. Another device is a breathalyser. It is a handheld electronic device that measures Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) through expelled air. It utilises sensors that produce a chemical reaction when it comes in contact with alcohol in the breath. The device measures the electrical currents and converts them into BAC.
Types of Test Methods
- Urine test: detects a wide range of illegal drugs within the last three days. Advanced tests can trace them even longer.
- Saliva test: it is a non-invasive technique for detecting common drugs of abuse within the last 24-48 hours.
- Blood test: examines all drug classes accurately. Moreover, it detects the parent drug rather than its metabolites. However, it is intrusive and costly.
- Hair follicle test: drug metabolites enter the hair and remain there for extended periods. It can trace substances for up to 90 days after use.
- Breath test – measures BAC or alcohol within 15 minutes to 24 hours from the last intake.
Purposes of Alcohol and Drug Screening at Work
Alcohol and drug screening at work is essential for various reasons. Employers use them to monitor substance use and impairment, minimise safety hazards, and improve productivity. Alcohol and drug abuse are widespread across all industries. Employees under impairment pose safety risks that may lead to severe accidents and injuries. Therefore, regular screening helps employers identify these hazards because it causes harm.
Substance abuse affects attendance and job performance. Affected employees lose focus and concentration. Thus, it leads to errors and poor decisions. It also results in reduced productivity, strained relationships, and high costs. Moreover, employers implement zero-tolerance policies to deter drug and alcohol use. Individuals found with any prohibited substance are subject to disciplinary actions.
Substance screening also identifies employees struggling with addiction and offers intervention. Through Employee Assistance Program (EAP), affected workers undergo rehabilitation and return after a successful recovery. Furthermore, it is helpful in different scenarios. Therefore, employers conduct these tests depending on necessity, the urgency of the situation, or safety needs.
Workplace Testing Programs
One of the common purposes of workplace testing is for pre-employment. This is required for jobs with safety-critical nature to ensure that job candidates are free from substance abuse issues. Another reason is to test after an accident. This is done to determine if alcohol or drugs played a role in the accident.
Some employers also conduct random drug and alcohol testing. The purpose of this test is to monitor employees who may be impaired while working. Therefore, it discourages employees from consuming alcohol and drugs. Lastly, for-cause testing is for an individual showing reasonable suspicions of substance use.
Factors to Consider for Alcohol Drug Screening
It is essential to look at several factors when screening for alcohol and drugs. Firstly, it is important to consider the purpose of the test, whether it is for pre-employment, post-accident, or random testing. This will help determine the right test methods and substances to be tested for. It also includes accounting for the detection windows and turnaround time.
A vital factor in drug and alcohol tests is the sensitivity of the equipment and level of accuracy. Testing devices or services must be reliable and have a low margin of error. Therefore, it reduces the likelihood of false positives or negatives. Moreover, the effectiveness of workplace screening depends on the implementation of the policies.
Employers should also consider their legal obligations when setting up a drug and alcohol testing program. These programs must be clear, precise, and conducted in a fair and consistent manner. Hence, it mitigates legal liabilities that might come up due to an accident. Additionally, there must be clear guidelines for handling positive results.
Positive Test Results
There are several implications when screening comes back with a non-negative outcome. It means that the procedure has detected prohibited substances in the samples. Employees have the right to request confirmatory testing to validate the initial screen. This involves laboratory testing to identify and quantify the exact compounds.
In the event of a positive result, employers must take appropriate action. This may include suspension or termination, depending on the company’s policies and disciplinary protocols. It also involves providing support to affected employees and sending them to rehabilitation programs if necessary. Moreover, employers must ensure they follow all legal requirements and standards in these cases.
Alcohol and drug screening serves a variety of purposes. Its main benefit is to improve workplace safety by managing drug and alcohol-related hazards. A healthy and safe working environment also leads to a more stable workforce and increased productivity. The tests are done under several grounds, including pre-employment, post-incident, random, and for-cause. In addition, it employs various procedures, such as urine screening, oral fluid sampling, blood testing, and breath testing through a breathalyser.
Employers can choose the most suitable methods according to their needs. It should be accurate, reliable, and cost-effective. Furthermore, the drug and alcohol policies must adhere to state laws or relevant standards on safety practices, employee privacy, and data protection. Employers must also provide assistance and support for those affected by substance abuse. Understanding the different purposes of workplace testing helps employees appreciate the important role it plays in their safety and well-being.