Drug & Alcohol Testing: Everything You Need To Know

Drug & Alcohol Testing: Everything You Need To Know

Do I need a drug and alcohol testing policy? Well if you’re a regulated industry then the answer to that is absolutely! What about non-regulated businesses? Where does drug and alcohol testing come into play? Is it necessary? Or is it worth it? What are the benefits of testing? Let’s get to answering these exact questions! 

Drug & Alcohol Use in America

According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 1 in 5 people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the past year. Most of those – 43.5 million – used marijuana. 67.1 million were binge drinkers and 16.6 million were heavy drinkers.

Creating a Drug & Alcohol Test Policy

Drug testing may seem intimidating, but it isn’t meant to be. How you prepare for employee drug testing determines how anxious they may be.

Reassure your employee there is no accusation of using or abusing drugs or alcohol. Employee drug testing is meant to discourage drug use and maintain a safe work environment for all. Those working in safety-sensitive jobs as defined by the federal government are required to submit to drug testing before employment, after an accident, and at random times throughout the year. 

Depending on the employee pool and government entity regulating your company, your employees may be randomly tested up to several times a year.

Before you jump into testing, develop a clear drug and alcohol test policy to ensure fair treatment. If an employee believes discrimination takes place because you require some to receive drug tests and not others, you could face legal action. The same is true if you don’t give employees advanced notice of your testing policy or policy changes.

Ask yourself the following questions before creating your drug and alcohol test policy:

  • What are your drug and alcohol testing objectives?
  • What is your state law regarding marijuana products? What will you allow?
  • Will you subject employees to random testing? If so, how often?
  • Will you require applicants to submit to a drug and alcohol test as a condition of employment?
  • Where will drug and alcohol testing take place? Onsite or at a clinic?
  • Will you require drug and alcohol testing after a workplace accident (check OSHA guidelines to help you understand why and when to test after accidents)
  • How will you handle a suspicion of drug or alcohol use?
  • What substances will you test for?
  • What will you do if someone tests positive?
  • What will you do if someone refuses to take the test?

Lobdock Impairment Detection helps employers navigate these questions to create an effective drug and alcohol testing policy. You can call us today at 405-822-0553 to get started.

Explaining The Types of Drug Testing

There are a variety of ways to test employees and applicants for drug and alcohol use so let’s describe each of them: 

Urinalysis Drug Testing

This shows the presence of drugs for days or weeks after the effects of the drug have worn off. The detection window can vary widely based on the specific drug.

Saliva Drug Testing

A mouth swab is used to collect saliva or oral fluids from inside the mouth. The average detection window for oral testing is 5 to 48 hours, but can extend past this range if the one being tested is a heavy user of any particular substance. Results can be received within 30 minutes. 

Hair Follicle Drug Testing

Hair testing determines past drug use, often up to 90 days after use. Technicians cut 100 strands of hair close to the scalp to test for the presence of drugs near the follicle.

Blood Drug Testing

Blood is rarely drawn for employment testing. A blood test detects amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates, nicotine, and alcohol.

Breath Alcohol Drug Testing

BATs only show current levels of impairment or intoxication. Alcohol can usually be detected by a breathalyzer for about an hour after drinking, depending on the type of drink and size of the person.

Return-to-Duty Testing

If your business is federally regulated, you are required to send employees who have previously tested positive for drug or alcohol use to substance abuse training. Once they complete that training and their return-to-duty drug test returns negative, they may return to work.

You are free to decide how you handle employees who test positive for drug and alcohol use. You are legally allowed to terminate them unless you hired them knowing they had a substance abuse problem. Alternatively, you may determine it’s beneficial for your company to help that employee get well and return to work. Your drug and alcohol testing policy should include that their return-to-duty test must be negative for drugs and alcohol before they return.

Pre-Employment Testing 

Many companies ask applicants to take a drug test, although most don’t ask until offering a job, as final employment decisions often depend on the results of the drug test. Be sure to notify applicants ahead of time if pre-employment drug testing is part of the hiring process.

Random Drug Testing

Random drug testing requires that all employees have an equal chance of being chosen to take a drug test. Most businesses use a computer program to randomly select names for drug testing, making selection truly random. All employees are entered into the pool even if they were just recently selected for a random drug test.

Post-Accident Drug Test

Employees involved in a work accident may be asked to take a post-accident drug test. You’ll want to assure your employee that you aren’t accusing them of drug use. A drug test simply rules out drug and alcohol use so they can receive workers’ compensation.

Reasonable Suspicion Drug Test

If you suspect drug or alcohol impairment, you must drive your employee to a testing clinic, arrange for a ride, or request a mobile testing unit to come to you. Do not allow the employee to drive themselves to the testing clinic. Document your observations carefully and follow your policy before asking an employee to submit to a drug test

If your employee tests positive, you are within your rights to terminate employment or require the employee to complete a substance abuse program and submit a negative drug test before returning to work.

Follow-up Testing

Employees testing negative for drug and alcohol use on a return-to-duty test should submit to follow-up testing. If you are not federally regulated, you decide how often and when, but it must be clearly stated in your policy.

Periodic Testing

This is typically done at consistent times throughout the year, often in conjunction with annual physicals.

Top 5 Things to Know for Employee Drug Testing

1. Know Your Drug Testing Terms

Familiarize yourself and your employees with the following drug testing terms:

  • Collector – the person at the clinic or lab that conducts the drug test
  • Donor – the employee sent to take a drug test
  • Medical Review Officer – a licensed physician responsible for reviewing lab results
  • Sample – urine (most common), saliva, hair, or (rarely) blood used to determine drug use

Knowing the language of the drug testing process reduces anxiety in a potentially stressful situation.

2. Know Which Drugs to Include in the Drug Test

DOT regulations require a 5-panel test.

A 5-panel test detects:

  • THC (marijuana/cannabis)
  • Cocaine
  • PCP (phencyclidine)
  • Opiates (codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, heroin)
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine

If you aren’t regulated by a federal agency, you get to decide what drugs are prohibited. A Third Party Administrator (TPA), like Lobdock, can help you decide and determine what test you should require. Whatever you decide, you must clearly define it in your drug and alcohol testing policy and test consistently to avoid discrimination. 

You should know that some prescription medications result in a positive test result. Your employee or applicant should disclose if they’re taking prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal medications. If a drug test returns a positive result, a medical review officer (MRO) will contact the donor for proof of valid prescriptions and prescriber information.

Those working in safety-sensitive positions regulated by the federal government are prohibited from using THC and CBD products even if it’s legal in their state. Although CBD is legal in all 50 states to varying degrees, some CBD products could have traces of THC and may be detected on a drug test. A positive drug test could result in loss of job or career. To learn more about CBD in the workplace, read “Legalized Drugs and Workplace Safety.” Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you have to accept it. States give employers guidance on how to handle marijuana use among employees.

4. Understand the Collection Process

The process is simple. Either you choose where to send your employee for drug testing or ask them to find a clinic. Consider scheduling a mobile drug testing unit to come to you if you have many employees to test at the same time.

5. Prepare for Drug Testing Obstacles

Despite best preparations, sometimes the drug testing process isn’t as smooth as we think it should be. Here are some of the most common problems:

Shy Bladder

Shy bladder refers to the inability to provide a sufficient amount of urine for the drug test. In this case, a donor must remain at the clinic within view of the collector. The collector will encourage the donor to drink up to 40 oz. of water within 3 hours and try again. Leaving the clinic before finishing the test is reported as a refusal to test.

Refusal to Test

If a donor refuses to test, the collector documents it as such. However, leaving the clinic before leaving a sample (as mentioned above) and failure to appear within a reasonable time as determined by you, the employer, are also considered test refusals. Failure to cooperate with any of the testing procedures or undergo a medical evaluation as directed by the MRO also result in a refusal.

Off Temperature Samples

Urine samples must be between 90-100 degrees. The collection cup measures the amount and temperature of the sample. If urine measures outside of the range of acceptability, the donor must take a second, observed test. The collector sends both samples to the lab. If either one tests positive for drugs, the MRO calls the donor to determine if there is a legal or medical reason for drug use. Take the necessary action as outlined in your drug policy for positive results.

Adulterated or Substituted Samples

If a collector finds irregularities in a donor’s sample, the donor will be asked to provide a 2nd sample. The procedure is the same as for off-temperature samples.

The Benefits of Drug & Alcohol Testing

  • Did you know nearly 25% of workers have admitted to drinking during the workday at least once during a year?
  • Did you know that nearly one-fifth of workers and managers report that a coworker’s drinking jeopardizes their own safety or work productivity?
  • Did you know about 16% of patients seeking treatment for occupational injuries had at-risk drinking behavior?
  • Did you know nearly 70% of all drug users are currently employed and 1/3 of all employees state they are aware of illegal drug sales at work?
  • Did you know the retail sector produces the most positive drug tests?

Reduce Costs Associated with Substance Abuse

According to a report released by the Surgeon General in 2016, illness and injuries due to substance abuse cost the U.S. nearly $85 billion a year. The National Safety Council reports that businesses lose nearly $25.5 billion in lost productivity and absenteeism. Reducing substance abuse issues at work reduces associated costs.

Reduce Employee Turnover

Workers addicted to drugs and alcohol are less likely to keep their jobs. The National Safety Council states that 25% of them have had more than one job in a year. It costs about 21% of employee pay to replace them. The deterrent effects of drug and alcohol testing reduces employee turnover and saves you money.

Reduce Work Injuries Associated with Drug and Alcohol Use

The U.S Department of Labor reports that 65% of workplace accidents and 30-50% of workers’ compensation claims are due to drug and alcohol abuse at work. Regular drug and alcohol testing deters substance use at work.

Stop Drug and Alcohol Abuse Before You Have a Problem

By the time you discover one employee has a substance abuse problem, chances are there are more. A robust drug and alcohol testing policy that includes pre-employment and random drug testing discourages abusers from seeking employment at your workplace.

Drug and Alcohol Testing Deters Use

When your employees know they could be called for random drug testing at any time, and when the penalties for producing a positive drug test are severe, they are less likely to come to work under the influence. 

Reduce Missed Work Days Due to Substance Abuse

According to the National Safety Council, employees using drugs and alcohol miss two times more days at work than their peers per year due to illness, injury or other reasons besides vacation or holidays. How much does that cost you?

Reduce Insurance Rates

Higher illness and injury rates mean more workers’ compensation and health insurance claims. More claims equal higher insurance rates. Implement a drug and alcohol testing program to reduce the number of accidents and illness and reduce your insurance rates.

Increase Employee Morale

Reliable employees who must constantly fill in and cover for those abusing drugs and alcohol experience a great deal of frustration… with them and with you. Those employees are also at higher risk for accident and injury when they work side-by-side with an employee using drugs or alcohol while working. A consistent drug and alcohol testing program ensures workplace safety for all employees and your employees that you care about them and are committed to their safety. Workers are more loyal to employers who care about them.

Cost/Benefit of Drug Testing

Drug and alcohol testing programs serve to filter out users and discourage use in the workplace. Drug tests are typically less than $75 each – a very small investment in creating a drug-free workplace. The cost of drug testing is minimal compared to the costs without it.

Do You Already Have A Drug & Alcohol Policy? How Does It Stack Up? 

While you’re considering the best options for your employees, it’s a good time to re-evaluate your drug and alcohol policy.

  • What are your drug and alcohol testing objectives?
  • Do they need to change?
  • Is your current policy meeting those objectives?
  • Are your drug and alcohol testing vendors providing the support you need?
  • Is your Third Party Administrator relieving stress or adding to it?
  • OR do you need to hire a Third Party Administrator?

Understanding and communicating why you need a policy is key. Your policy should clearly state what is allowed and what isn’t, the reasons to test, as well as the consequence for testing positive

Employer Rights

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for your employees, as well as a right to require a drug-free environment. As long as you remain true to your policy and don’t discriminate through drug and alcohol testing, you can run a successful program. We recommend you require employees to sign a document stating they’ve read and understand your policy.

You have a right to fire employees for engaging in illegal drug use, but your suspicion must be reasonable and documented and a drug test must be given. If you’re terminating an employee specifically for drug use, you must follow your specific protocol and be consistent. In states that permit employment at will, some employers choose to terminate simply for poor job performance without referencing suspicion of drug or alcohol use.

Employee Rights

Most states require that your employer presents drug testing policies to you in writing so everyone knows what to expect. As an employee, you must be notified of the methods, procedures, and policies in detail. You also have a right to know the consequences of a positive drug and alcohol test. Drug and alcohol testing procedures must protect your privacy and results are confidential.

How Lobdock Supports You and Simplifies Workplace Safety

Lobdock Impairment Detection takes workplace safety seriously. We dream of a day when our services are no longer needed. Until then, we work with businesses to create and implement effective drug and alcohol policies.

  • We help ensure you hire confidently with pre-employment drug testing.
  • We help ensure continued workplace safety by managing random drug testing.
  • We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for post-accident drug testing.
  • We keep you updated on drug and alcohol law changes.
  • We offer training for your supervisors so they know when to test and how to help employees using drugs and alcohol.

When you choose Lobdock Impairment Detection, you’re choosing a partner who supports you and your employees by managing your drug and alcohol testing program for you. When you let us manage your drug and alcohol testing, you have more time and energy to manage your people. Call Lobdock at 405-822-0553 today so we can create your drug and alcohol test policy. It’s worth it.