Drug Alcohol Screening Test: The Need To Know
13 September, 2023
A drug alcohol screening test is a process of analysing biological specimens to detect alcohol and illegal substances in the system. It plays a vital role in diagnosing substance abuse and ensuring a safe environment. The procedures involve several techniques, including collecting urine, saliva, blood, or breath samples. Moreover, each type can detect substances for varying periods and accuracy levels. Therefore, it is vital to know how and when to use the right type of test method.
The use of alcohol and illicit drugs presents detrimental effects on public settings, especially in workplaces. It can impair a person’s judgment, perception, alertness, and motor functions. This increases the risks of accidents and injury and can lead to absenteeism, tardiness, and poor performance. In this article, we will explore the purposes of drug screening in the workplace, the types of test methods, and how to handle the results.
Purposes of Drug Alcohol Screening Tests
Drug alcohol screening tests serve various purposes and advantages. One of the primary aims of testing is to identify individuals who may be impaired while working. It also helps to determine if a person has a substance use disorder and needs treatment or intervention. Therefore, employers can manage the risks and prevent potential accidents.
Another use of screening tests is to maintain and improve productivity. Substance-related impairment affects a person’s capacity to perform tasks efficiently. It causes poor concentration, reasoning, memory, and mental alertness. As a result, the quality of output declines. It is also prone to errors, which can have serious consequences. It also minimises interpersonal conflicts in the workplace.
Moreover, drug and alcohol screening helps employers comply with legal requirements. it is mandated in high-risk industries, such as mining, transportation, and construction. These sectors implement zero-tolerance policies to ensure a safe working environment. This helps mitigate legal risks that may arise due to accidents. Lastly, these tests help maintain a stable workforce.
Reasons to Conduct
- Reduce safety hazards – screening for drugs and alcohol identify employees who are posing risks to themselves and others.
- Make hiring decisions – ensure employers hire a suitable candidate without abusive or risky behaviour that may compromise workplace safety.
- Confirm reasonable suspicion – employers administer drug and alcohol testing to an employee displaying signs of impairment. This can help substantiate suspicions that a person is using illicit substances.
- Confirm substance use – tests after an accident or near-miss can help determine whether drug or alcohol use is a contributing factor to the incident.
- Ensure sobriety – employees must prove they are fit for duty.
Types of Drug Alcohol Screening Tests
Drug alcohol screening tests come in many forms. Employers may choose from several methods depending on the purpose, accuracy, and detection required. One of the most common forms is urine testing. It involves collecting and analysing urine samples to trace alcohol or drug metabolites in the system. Urine screening is non-invasive and easy to administer.
Another method is saliva testing. This involves swabbing the inside of the mouth to detect drugs. The saliva collection procedure is easy to perform and can be done in plain view, minimising the risks of tampering. In addition, it is suitable for determining recent usage due to its shorter detection window.
Breath testing is a non-invasive method of detecting alcohol in the system. It involves blowing into a breathalyser device to measure Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The device yields quick results and is suitable for random testing and reasonable suspicion tests. Finally, a blood test provides the most accurate results. It is also intrusive and costly, limiting its use for confirmatory testing.
What Substances Can Be Detected
Drug and alcohol screening can detect various drug classes, including the possible misuse of prescription drugs. The common drugs of abuse it include are marijuana or cannabis, amphetamines, cocaine, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and phencyclidine or PCP. These substances can have adverse effects and have high risks of developing an addiction.
In breath tests, a device can detect alcohol molecules through its sensors for 24 hours after use. Furthermore, each method can detect these substances for varying periods. A urine test can trace drugs for up to 48 to 72 hours. Meanwhile, saliva has a detection window of 24 hours and blood for 6 to 12 hours.
Handling Drug Alcohol Screening Test Results
Handling drug alcohol screening test results require careful attention and adherence to established protocols. Firstly, screening tests may yield negative (pass) or non-negative (fail) results. Negative results may be released as soon as the procedure is completed. Meanwhile, a non-negative outcome implies that one or more substances are present in the sample. It has also reached the cut-off level, which is the minimum level of drug concentration to trigger a failed result.
For non-negative results, it is necessary to send the samples to a laboratory for testing. It undergoes advanced procedures like GC-MS (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry) to validate the results. This eliminates the possibility of false positives, which can happen due to incidental exposure or incorrect testing procedures.
A Medical Review Officer (MRO) will confirm whether the final result is positive or negative. Once confirmed, the employer can take appropriate actions based on the workplace policies. Moreover, employers must ensure the confidentiality of employees and their test results. It is vital to protect the privacy rights of the individual to maintain the integrity of the testing process.
Implications of Non-negative Results
Non-negative or positive drug test results can have serious consequences. Employees may face disciplinary actions, such as suspension or dismissal, depending on the situation. This can put a financial strain on the individual and their family. Likewise, it can impact the eligibility of a person applying for a job or promotion.
Organisations may extend assistance to employees who have positive drug test results. This includes providing access to rehabilitation programs and other resources, such as counselling services. It is important to help the individuals affected by substance abuse and addiction for their rehabilitation and long-term recovery.
Drug alcohol screening tests are an effective tool for detecting impairment due to substance use. It is a common practice in workplaces to minimise the safety hazards of drugs and alcohol. Employers can choose from various methods like urine, saliva, breath, or blood testing. Each type differs in the collection procedure, quantitation of drugs, and detection windows. Moreover, these tests can help determine if a person has alcohol or drug abuse issues.
These tests can detect various drug classes, including marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and opioids. If the initial drug screens yield a non-negative result, it is necessary to conduct confirmatory testing to verify the results. These results can have serious implications, including disciplinary actions or termination. Therefore, it is vital to adhere to regulatory standards to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the test. Finally, employers must handle the test results in strict confidentiality.