Friday, April 3, 2009

Workplace Drug Testing Primer

Drug tests in the USA can be divided into two general groups, federally and non-federally regulated testing.

Federally regulated drug testing started when Ronald Reagan enacted executive order 12564, requiring all federal employees refrain from using illegal substances in specified DOT regulated occupations. Drug testing guidelines and processes, in these areas exclusively, are established and regulated (by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA, formerly under the direction of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA) require that companies who use professional drivers, specified safety sensitive transportation and/or oil and gas related occupations, and certain federal employers, test them for the presence of certain drugs. These test classes were established decades ago, and include five specific drug groups. They do not account for current drug usage patterns. For example, SAMHSA / DOT tests exclude semi-synthetic opioids, such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, etc., and other prescription medications that are widely abused in the United States

Non-federally regulated or General workplace drug testing allows for far more effective drug testing procedures. While SAMHSA / NIDA guidelines only allow laboratories to report quantitative results for the " NIDA-5 " / " SAMHSA-5 " for their official SAMHSA-approve tests, many drug testing laboratories and on-site tests offer a wider, " more appropriate " set of drug screens to better detect current drug use patterns. As noted above, these tests include synthetic pain killers such as Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), Oxymorphone, Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Hydromorphone. Some also include benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Restoril) and barbiturates in other drug panels (a "panel" is a predetermined subset of tests run). The confirmation test (usually GC/MS, or LC/MS/MS) can tell the difference between chemically similar drugs such as methamphetamine and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy). In the absence of detectable amounts of methamphetamine in the sample, the lab wold report the sample as negative, or report it as positive if present.

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