Drug and Alcohol Screening: What Are The Different Types?
28 June, 2023
Drug and alcohol screening has many forms. The common types are urine, blood, oral fluid (saliva), and breath tests. Each method has different procedures and criteria. It is also used in various settings, depending on what suits best. Moreover, it helps prevent accidents and diagnose a person with substance abuse. These tests examine the specimen to detect alcohol and other impairing drugs. It also utilises different tools to collect and analyse the sample.
The use of illegal drugs and alcohol has detrimental impacts on health and safety. It can severely impair the senses, reasoning, and coordination. As a result, it poses hazards when driving or working. Additionally, it may lead to long-term health problems and alcohol poisoning in excessive amounts. Therefore, many organisations have implemented testing policies. This article will present the uses and benefits of substance screening and the different methods of detection.
What is a Drug and Alcohol Screening?
A drug and alcohol screening is a test to check whether an individual has consumed alcohol or illicit substances. It can also determine if a person has been misusing a prescription drug. Monitoring for drug and alcohol use is essential because it poses risks not only to the individual but also to others.
The test helps ensure that a person is not under the influence of drugs and alcohol while driving or performing critical tasks. Firstly, law enforcement conducts a roadside screening to monitor drink and drug driving. A person with a drug content or exceeding the legal alcohol limit can incur hefty fines and penalties.
Secondly, it is a standard procedure in high-risk workplaces. Companies implement drug and alcohol testing programs to minimise preventable hazards. In addition, regular screening helps ensure employees do not harm themselves and others. Having a stable workforce does not only maintain a healthy working environment but improves productivity as well. It also complies with state or federal laws and mitigates legal liabilities.
- Determine individuals with substance impairment while driving or working.
- Maintain a hazard-free work environment. In addition, prevent accidents and severe injuries.
- Deter substance use and potential abuse. Likewise, identify individuals with drug or alcohol problems and offer assistance for treatment.
- Minimise health risks, such as lung and heart problems, liver dysfunctions, cancer, stroke and mental disorders.
- Decreased absenteeism, tardiness, downtime and turnover.
- Reduced healthcare costs and other expenses.
- Maintain a stable workforce. Boost employee morale and company reputation.
- Improve work productivity and output.
- Compliance with relevant laws and avoiding legal liabilities that may arise due to an accident.
Drug and Alcohol Screening: Different Methods
There are several methods to facilitate drug and alcohol screening. They vary depending on the substance being tested and whether the samples need laboratory analysis. The first type is the urine test. It is mainly used for checking cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, PCP, and opiates. Rapid screening involves using a test strip that changes colours or draws a line when the specimen has drugs.
The second type is saliva testing. It involves using a swab stick to collect oral fluid samples inside the mouth. Other collection methods include spitting or suctioning the saliva. It undergoes a chemical reaction process to indicate drug and alcohol use. It is an ideal alternative when a person cannot provide a urine sample.
The blood test is considered the most accurate method. Drugs and alcohol are detectable in the blood within minutes to hours. Thus, it is a good indicator of recent substance use. The analysis and results are more detailed. However, it is also the most intrusive procedure. Lastly, a hair test can trace usage from the last 90 days. It is ideal for determining the history or consumption patterns of a person.
Factors for Consideration
Drug screening methods involve specific requirements and criteria. Each test has cut-off levels and a detection window for consideration. A screening result will return non-negative when a substance has reached a certain limit. This indicates that it has a significant amount of drugs in the system.
The detection window is the period in which a substance remains detectable before being completely eliminated. The duration depends on the frequency and amount of use. Furthermore, other considerations are medicine interactions, underlying health conditions, and the presence of interfering substances. Individuals must declare they are taking OTC or prescriptive drugs before the test.
Drug and Alcohol Screening: Breath Analysis
A breath test can measure the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream through expired air. Alcohol is detectable in breath for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the amount of intake. It utilises a breathalyser device to determine Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) or intoxication level. In addition, it returns the results within a few seconds.
A breathalyser can give a real-time update of the BAC or alcohol level. It is non-invasive and easy to use. Hence, it is suitable for checking current impairments. The device captures the breath sample and analyses them through its sensors. It produces a chemical reaction corresponding to the volume of alcohol in the blood. Afterwards, it converts the output into the BAC value.
Police officers use breathalysers in roadside screening. Likewise, workplaces find them cost-efficient for monitoring employees. It is highly reusable and reliable for consecutive testing. Unlike other drug and alcohol screening methods, a breathalyser does not need further laboratory examination. However, it requires regular maintenance to maintain its accuracy.
Each person has different responses to alcohol. Therefore, two people are unlikely to have the same BAC despite consuming the same amount and type of drink. The BAC levels depend on weight, fat content, food and water intake, metabolism, interactions with medicines, and alcohol tolerance.
The body metabolises alcohol at a fixed rate regardless of the amount taken. The more a person consumes alcohol, the longer it stays in the system. Therefore, a breathalyser can detect alcohol as long as it remains in the blood. It is also essential to use reliable sensor technology to get accurate results.
There are various drug and alcohol screening methods to determine if a person is under the influence of impairing substances. Urine and saliva tests are often used in workplace drug testing. On the other hand, a breath test can detect and measure blood alcohol levels. Moreover, a blood test can provide a detailed analysis of drug and alcohol usage. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Thus, it is vital to choose the appropriate procedure in varying situations.
Rapid test kits are available for individual or workplace use. They are a practical solution for companies to monitor drug and alcohol use. Employers may purchase a breathalyser with police-grade accuracy to ensure reliable BAC readings. Likewise, it is also available for personal use. The professional alcohol testers from Breathalysers New Zealand offer workplaces and individuals dependable devices for alcohol testing. In conclusion, the choice of testing or devices will depend on specific situations and requirements.