Tuesday, November 6, 2007

DOT Urine Drug Testing Not Working - New Government GAO Report

Now even the US Government knows the obvious ....

Drug testing without observed specimen collection, is a waste of time and money.

Private interest groups, consisting largely of urine drug testing laboratories, urine-centric TPA's, occupational health clinics, some unions, as well as a select group of archaic government bureaucracies (DOT, FAA, etc.) continue to exclusively support urine-based testing vs. superior, user-friendly technologies - most notably oral fluid / saliva and hair-based drug screening.

Oral fluid / saliva and hair-based drug screening technologies allow for observed specimen collection and are relatively non-invasive vs. traditional urine drug testing. Oral fluid delivers information on "current" / "on-the-job" drug and/or alcohol use, while hair detects "historical drug abuse".

  • Oral fluid / saliva is suitable for random, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion testing, and also can be used for pre-employment testing.
  • Hair is most appropriate for pre-employment testing, especially for employers that wish to track drug use history for a period of up to 90 days.

The DOT and other government agencies, including "regulatory agencies" such as SAMHSA are largely to blame for the continued emphasis upon traditional urine-based testing, and ultimately serving to help perpetuate America's problem with substance abuse.

Why? Government agencies resist moving to newer technologies either due to the fear of having to "do more work", and/or are impacted by private interest groups with heavy lobbying budgets and well established "old boy networks".
In their defense, the DOT claims "success" by noting a "2% positive rate". This is a blatant misuse of statistics. Of course the is only a 2% positive rate... as most drug abusers are cheating the test!
As noted below, if drug testing involved observed specimen collection, and/or more stringent techniques the positive rate soars to 10%.

Urine-based drug testing is simply:
1. too difficult, costly, and noxious to apply consistently and on a corporate-wide / industry-wide basis,
2. prone to drug abusers "beating the test".

Several documented cases support the above facts:
For example, a recent construction site that had a low "positive rate" using tradition urine drug testing, but had several site issues and eventually discovered hypodermic needles on-site.
When they implemented Avitar's oral fluid-based testing, conducing a full site-based random screen, the positive rate registered 20%!

Urine testing laboratories, in most cases, are not able to determine if urine samples are adulterated or substituted, other than in the most basic and severe cases.
Despite this fact, they continue to spread misinformation, claiming the opposite.
The Director of Workplace Drug Testing for SAMHSA is on record, testifying before Congress, that detect adulterants, that labs can only detect a very small fraction of the many products available on the Internet available to beat urine-based drug tests, and that substituted drug free urine and synthetic urine also are undetectable.

GAO: Easy to cheat on trucker drug tests
Three-quarters of testing sites don’t provide secure conditions, report finds
The Transportation Department estimates that fewer than 2 percent of truck drivers test positive each year for controlled substances.
But when Oregon conducted its own tests, 9 percent of truck drivers tested positive.
Dozens of products on the Web are marketed to truckers as fail-safe ways to defeat the mandatory drug tests.
WASHINGTON - Undercover federal investigators discovered that it was surprisingly easy to cheat on random drug tests designed to catch truck drivers who use drugs, NBC News has learned.
Undercover investigators with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, used bogus truck driver’s licenses to gain access to 24 drug-testing sites.
They found that 75 percent “failed to restrict access to items that could be used to adulterate or dilute the [urine] specimen, meaning that running water, soap, or air freshener was available in the bathroom during the test.”
The GAO team also bought drug-masking products over the Web and was able to mix them with real specimens at the drug-testing sites “without being caught by site collectors,” the agency said in a report scheduled to be made public ThursdayDrug - screening labs never realized that there was a problem.
“Every drug masking product went undetected by the drug screening labs,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News.Rep.
Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the report was “frankly astonishing and shocking and dismaying.
You can manipulate the tests, you can mask substance abuse and go undetected on the roadways.”Oberstar, who planned to hold a hearing Thursday, said the drug-testing system was broken and was placing other drivers in danger.“It fails, it is not sufficient, it is not protecting the public interest,” he said.
How many are cheating?
The Transportation Department estimates that fewer than 2 percent of truck drivers test positive each year for controlled substances in random federal tests.
But when Oregon law enforcement officials conducted their own random tests this year, 9 percent of truck drivers tested positive.
Dozens of products widely available on the Web are marketed to truckers as fail-safe ways to defeat the mandatory drug tests.
“My first reaction was total disbelief. I just felt sick,” said Kathleen Ellsbury, whose husband, Tony Qamar, was killed two years ago when a truck driver in Washington state lost his load of logs on a curve, crushing Qamar’s car.
Also killed was Daniel Johnson, a fellow seismologist at the University of Washington.Ellsbury learned later that the truck driver, who was sentenced to 4½ years in prison for vehicular homicide, had previously been convicted of possessing methamphetamines and that he had meth in his blood at the time of the crash.
“The system has big holes, let’s say that,” said Ellsbury, who said she had a message for truck drivers who might be tempted to cheat:
“I’d like to be standing right outside the bathroom and hold up a picture of my husband — remind them there's consequences.”
Truckers promise to do betterSpokesmen for the trucking industry said truck drivers were among the safest drivers on the road, with much lower rates of drug use than the general population. Still, they said, having roughly 30,000 drivers test positive each year was unacceptable.
Lisa Myers is chief investigative correspondent and Richard Gardella is an investigative producer for NBC.