Category Archives: Alcohol Testing

Alcohol Testing

Should Companies Test for Alcohol Usage in the Workplace? Experts Weigh In

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Alcohol - Kimery Davis

With alcohol having legal status as an intoxicant, workplace testing for alcohol usage isn’t as clear cut as illicit drug testing (which isn’t that clear cut, either).

What is legal in one state is verboten in another, making laws about alcohol testing in the workplace a veritable minefield across the country that can cause problems for those who are unprepared and even those who think they are prepared.

Alcohol Prevalence

But, considering the numbers on alcohol abuse, it could be worth the effort for some companies to test for it. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 65.8% of full-time employed adults aged 18 or older drank, while 30.5% said they had engaged in binge drinking within the past month. Among the 58.5 million adults who were binge drinkers, 44.5 million (76.1%) were employed either full- or part-time. Among the 16.2 million adults who were heavy drinkers, 12.4 million (76%) were employed.

“If a workplace does not have a comprehensive drug testing program that includes alcohol testing then they are subjecting their workplace to the potential of more accidents, more disability claims, more injuries on the job, and more harassment claims — just because they do not have a comprehensive testing program,” said Gus Stieber, director of clinical outreach services at Kiva Recovery.

Stieber says if a company is not testing for drugs and alcohol, but their competition is, their competition is going to be in a better position to snap up qualified employees.

However, simply enacting an alcohol testing policy is no simple task, particularly with alcohol being a legal substance.

Separation

Companies should keep alcohol testing and drug testing policies separate, says Daniel Finerty, a management-side labor and employment attorney with Lindner & Marsack, S.C. in Milwaukee, WS.

“Problems typically arise when an employer’s policy fails to recognize that alcohol is lawful to purchase, possess, transport and consume,” Finerty said.

As a first step toward creating an alcohol testing policy, Finerty recommended companies check for any federal, state and local laws that could potentially affect their proposed policy. To help with this, they should engage the help of a knowledgeable employment lawyer who has experience advising companies.

As an example of the varying laws that companies have to look out for, Finerty points to Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, which all have laws to protect people from termination or discipline for alcohol usage (or usage of any lawful product) outside of working hours based on its legal status.

Policy

Once employers know the various laws that will affect it, they can create their policy, which must inform employees:

  • that alcohol testing will be taking place;
  • what circumstances it will take place under (random, reasonable suspicion, etc) and;
  • with a clear limitation on what it means to show up to work under the influence (a blood alcohol content above 0.04, for example).

Supervisors must also be trained on how to administer alcohol tests and how to appropriately assess situations where testing may be deemed necessary, particularly tests administered due to reasonable suspicion.

In extreme cases, an employer may implement a ban on the employee’s off-duty alcohol use, Finerty said. One such case could be if an employee is returning to work after a job-related injury that was caused by alcohol.

Instant Testing

As for using instant alcohol tests like breathalyzers and urine EtG tests, Finerty said, industries that are particularly safety sensitive could benefit from having them available to use, as they can more readily identify people who may be under the influence and remove them from the workplace.

“If an accident does occur, such tests would be helpful to secure the necessary evidence immediately following an accident (where appropriate) in order to ensure the employee may be lawfully terminated,” Finerty said.

Some industries tend to have more alcohol abuse than others.

“While alcohol abuse can be found in a wide range of industries, it is well known that it is a big problem in mining and construction,” said Joanne Sprecher, CADC and Treatment Consultant at The Discovery House in Southern California. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says more than 15 percent of adults in the mining and construction industries had alcohol abuse issues. They are dangerous jobs, made even more so when alcohol is brought into the equation. Other industries that see a high rate of alcohol abuse are the food services and accommodations field, the arts, entertainment and recreation.”

 

Alcohol Testing

Common types of alcohol testing in the workplace are via instant breath testing, digital breathalyzer, saliva testing, general urine testing and urine EtG testing. Instant breath tests, breathalyzers, saliva tests and general urine tests measure the amount of ethyl alcohol in the body. They can detect alcohol usage immediately after ingestion (or about an hour after for urine) and can detect usage for several hours after alcohol has been consumed.

Urine EtG tests, which can detect alcohol usage about an hour after it is consumed, do not test for ethyl alcohol. Instead, they test for the alcohol metabolite ethyl glucuronide, meaning they can detect alcohol usage in urine up to four days after it is consumed.

Regardless of which type of test is used, it’s also imperative to make sure the results are verified by a laboratory.

“Alcohol testing does have its place; however, it cannot be used as the sole means of determining alcohol abuse in the workplace,” Dr. William DePond said. DePond is the ‎COO of Medytox Diagnostics, Inc. “It must be used in concert with lab testing, clinical scenario, and physical findings. Because false positives can be difficult to expunge from an individual’s record, companies also have a responsibility to make sure that they are testing and interpreting accurately and completely.”

The need to be comprehensive with an alcohol testing policy becomes even more important in a situation where the workforce is unionized, Finerty added, as collective bargaining agreements will sometimes have grievance procedures that allow employees to challenge terminations. This puts the burden of proof on the employer.

Helping Employees

Alcohol testing — particularly the EtG urine tests — could play a role in helping people who are in recovery for alcohol abuse, said Bill Heffernan, founder of Employee Resource Systems, which provides employee assistance programs to companies.

“The tool that can detect alcohol use within the last 80 hours would be useful in safety sensitive positions for people who have had a previous positive alcohol test and who are in a ‘last chance’ situation. This would also have potential for those who are new in recovery who are struggling with staying sober – this becomes an external resource to prevent drinking until their internal resources are sufficiently strong.”

In that same vein, Chris Ayala, CEO of smartphone breathalyzer tool and app Alcohoot, said although alcohol testing can be extremely beneficial to companies, it’s important for them to remember that ultimately, catching someone under the influence of alcohol at work could be beneficial to the employee in the long run, which is what the company should focus on.

“If alcohol testing is approached in a manner that is educational and personally rewarding to employees, then it can be highly successful,” Ayala said. “If it becomes a watchdog process where the employer is only out to punish offenders then it becomes an activity that is actively hidden ​– delaying treatment and raising costs.​”

With its legal status, alcohol testing at work continues to be a contentious issue. However, some companies, particularly ones that perform extremely safety sensitive duties, may want to consider it for their own benefit and the benefit of employees who may be in the clutches of alcohol addiction.

[Photo courtesy of Kimery Davis on Flickr]

Alcohol Testing Drug Testing

New Report Says Drug Testing Market to be Worth $6.3 Billion by 2019

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The drug testing industry is set to be worth an estimated $6.3 billion by 2019, up from $4 billion in 2014, growing at a CAGR of 9.5% from 2014 to 2019, according to a recently released report.

The “Drug Screening Market by Products and Services (Immunoassay Analyzers, Chromatography, Breath Analyzers, Rapid Testing Devices, Assay Kits and Reagents), Sample Type (Urine, Breath, Saliva, Hair, Blood, Skin, Sweat) – Global Forecast to 2019″ report takes an in-depth look at the drug testing market. It explores the major drivers, restraints, challenges, opportunities, current market trends, and strategies impacting the drug and alcohol testing market along with estimates and forecasts of the revenue and share analysis.

The report segments the drug and alcohol testing market on the basis of

  • products and services,
  • sample types,
  • end users, and
  • regions.

Some highlights from the report include:

  • Urine samples accounted for the largest share in 2014.
  • The breath sample segment will grow at the highest CAGR in the forecast period.
  • Breath testing is the most common test performed for driving under influence (DUI) cases.
  • Factors such as the rise in the number of roadside accidents due to DUI and government initiatives to curb DUI are the factors driving the growth of drug and alcohol testing market for breath testing.
  • The oral fluid testing segment has also gained prominence in the market due to the noninvasive nature of this test where samples can be collected under direct observation, which prevents adulteration of the sample.
  • With oral fluid testing, the concentrations of many drugs can be closely correlated with blood concentrations.

Based on region, the market is dominated by North America, followed by Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Rest of the World (RoW). North America is estimated to account for the largest share of the market in 2014, while Asia-Pacific is likely to witness the highest growth in this market.

Click here to download the pdf of the report.

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Alcohol Testing Health & Wellness

Alcohol Ignition Vehicle Device May Help Prevent Drunk-Driving Fatalities

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Would you believe that installing a device in your car may prevent you from figuring in an accident caused by drunk driving?

This seems to be the objective of a group of researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the University of Michigan Injury Center, as they looked into the impact of alcohol ignition interlock devices. Results of the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, showed that the vehicle installation could decrease drunk-driving car crashes by 85 percent, equivalent to more than 59,000 fatalities in a span of 15 years.

In addition, the device could also prevent more than a million alcohol-related injuries on the road over the same time frame. Return of investment for the purchase and installation of the alcohol-sensing device is projected at three years, with the U.S. government able to save close to $350 billion within 15 years.

Although the researchers were confident with their study, lead author Dr. Patrick Carter of the university’s Department of Emergency Medicine expressed their surprise over the numbers. “Our analysis clearly demonstrates the significant public health benefit and societal cost savings associated with including alcohol ignition interlock devices as standard equipment in all new cars,” Carter said in a news release.

Data collated by the study proponents showed that 35 percent of DUI accidents involved drivers between 21 and 29 years of age. “By capitalizing on recent technological advancements that make alcohol-detecting sensors seamless to the driver and applying such technology more broadly to all newly built vehicles, we can actually have a substantial injury prevention impact among traditionally hard-to-reach high-risk populations,” Carter added.

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Alcohol Testing Drug Testing Substance Abuse

Study Finds Drug and Alcohol Violations at Nuclear Power Plants have Increased Dramatically

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Drug Free Workplace SignThe people working at real life nuclear power stations might just be a little more like Homer Simpson than you’re comfortable with.

That’s because a new study has found that incidences of drug and alcohol violations have continually risen over the past five years from about one per month to averaging about one per week now.

The findings come from the non-profit group Fairewinds Energy Education, who found the majority of drug and alcohol violations occurred in the southeastern states. Those violations included drinking alcohol in a protected area, and positive tests for marijuana and cocaine.

The report looked at violations of the Fitness For Duty program, which nuclear reactor owners are required to implement to ensure that all personnel who have access to the power plants are drug and alcohol free and have no psychological impairment that might comprise the safe operation of the plant. The report found during the past five years, Fitness For Duty violations in the United States have more than doubled. Those are led by alcohol related events, which have nearly quadrupled during the same time period.

“The data unequivocally demonstrates that workforce personnel and licensed reactor operators are under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs while on-duty, despite the knowledge that such actions when caught can end careers, and that programs are in place that have been designed to identify those who are under the influence, indicating serious addictive issues not occasional social consumption of alcohol and drugs,” the report states. “Not only are workers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while on the job, they are also bringing that same contraband into work with them, in some cases with documented evidence to determine there was intent to distribute.”

 

Alcohol Testing Substance Abuse

Alcohol Makes Skin Problems Worse

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If you’re aiming for a smooth complexion and overall healthy skin, you might want to put down that glass of liquor.

alcohol skin flushA recent feature by CBS New York revealed that alcohol can lead to detrimental effects on the skin. In some cases, existing skin problems can be aggravated by taking alcohol into the bloodstream.

New York dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad shared how his patients are surprised by the link between alcohol and their skin health. “Most people do not make the association that alcohol does have an effect on their skin condition,” he said. He added that minor skin problems can be made worse by alcohol. People suffering from eczema, dry skin and psoriasis find out later on that drinking that extra glass of alcohol makes their skin more irritated. “Conditions that are exacerbated by sweating… will get worse,” Ostad warned.

Regular folks were asked about their experiences with alcohol and skin problems, and here’s what some people shared:

Deanna Kugler said “when I drink alcohol, I tend to break out,” talking about her inflammatory acne. Luckily, she says, makeup is always there to conceal the evidence.

Samantha Kucher had experiences of her skin turning red and hot. “When I put people’s hands on my skin they’re just surprised by how hot I am,” Kucher shared.

While alcohol may lead to worsening of skin problems, Ostad said that the main key is moderate drinking. “Once you really make that lifestyle change where you drink less … the effects are absolutely reversible,” he advised.

Alcohol Testing Workplace Testing

Canada Supreme Court Rejects Mandatory Workplace Alcohol Testing

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Ensuring safety in the workplace should not cross the right to privacy of any employee.

workplace alcohol test rejected by canada supreme courtThis appears to be the drive behind the decision of Canada’s Supreme Court June 14 against the employee policy of Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd. implemented in 2006. The company’s policy required all unionized employees to be subjected to random alcohol testing in order to ensure safety of the company’s manufacturing plant, according to a news report.

Local 30 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) filed a grievance against the company in 2006.

According to the supreme court decision, the paper company’s policy encroaches on the rights of employees to privacy, even if the workers are employed in a critical area within the facility. The high court voted 6-3 against the company.

Furthermore, the decision stated that mandatory workplace testing only applies in the work setting under the following conditions: (1) the company has experienced worker impairment while employed; (2) an employee figured in a work-related accident or safety issue; and (3) the worker has a history or case of substance abuse, and has returned to work following necessary treatment.

CEP president David Coles was hopeful that this supreme court decision could lead to another triumph in a similar case in Alberta’s Suncor Energy, where plans to implement a random alcohol and drug testing system are being laid out.

Furthermore, he said that the ruling shows that policies on random testing in high-risk facilities do not guarantee employee protection. “It turns out to be nothing more than an invasion of ones’ privacy with no net gain for the consequence of safety,” Coles added.

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Elderly Sober Man Charged with DUI Plans to Sue Arizona Police

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A seemingly simple DUI case has turned into a racist issue and a possible lawsuit.

Jessie Thornton, 64, was stopped in Surprise, Arizona by police who claimed that he was drunk driving. According to Thornton, the police officers pulled him over because he ran the white line in the middle of the road. The cops then declared that his eyes were red, as reported in the Daily Mail.

“An officer walked up and he said, ‘I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes.’ I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes,'” Thornton said. But the Ohio native said that he just came from swimming at LA Fitness, hence the red eyes.

Apparently the cops weren’t convinced, and proceeded to conduct a sobriety test. True enough, the breathalyzer read a blood alcohol level of “0.00”, which means that there was zero alcohol in his bloodstream. Thornton confirmed this, saying that he did not drink any alcoholic drinks prior to driving.

Despite this, the officers brought him to the station, where he was subjected to drug tests for possible substance abuse. The station’s drug recognition expert declared him completely “free from impairment” caused by drugs.

After being released, Thornton learned that his driver’s license was going to be suspended for the time being, and his vehicle impounded for three days.

Thornton claims that the arrest was fueled not by DUI but by race. He says he was DWB — driving while black. He is now in talks with a lawyer for a possible lawsuit against the Surprise police station, amounting to $500,000 in damages.

Alcohol Testing

Critics: Reducing Blood Alcohol Content Limit Is Not The Answer To Drunk Driving Fatalities

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A recent proposal to decrease the blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold for drivers is getting flak from anti-drunk driving advocates.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a comprehensive report lobbying to reduce the legal limit of a non-commercial driver’s blood alcohol level from 0.08 to 0.05. By logic, this seems common sense, since drivers with lower alcohol content in their blood tend to function better on the road than drunk drivers.

However, critics and advocates are not pleased with this effort, according to a news release. In fact, the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) believes that the government’s focus is slightly off-base. MADD President Jan Withers expressed her opposition to the proposal, saying that reducing the BAC limit “will take a lot of effort for a potential result that is many, many years down the line.”

In its report entitled “Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving”, the NTSB discusses the relative crash risk of a driver with varying blood alcohol content levels. The study shows that drivers with a BAC of 0.05 have 38 percent likelihood of figuring in a drunk-driving accident, while at 0.08 the driver has more than 150 percent risk.

Despite the clashing sides, the NTSB and its critics agree that drunk drivers should be kept off the road, and that effective policies must be in place to reduce incidents of drunk-driving accidents. Driver education on the effects of drinking must be strengthened, while technologies to prevent drunk people from driving should be further developed.

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman says that the statistics of road fatalities due to alcohol impairment may have plateaued, but the issue has not been totally solved yet.

Alcohol Testing

Primary Care Screening Recommended For Alcohol Misuse

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A recent study by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) formed the basis for updating its own recommendations on screening and counseling interventions related to alcohol misuse.

As representative of USPSTF, Virginia A. Moyer, MD, MPH conducted a comprehensive literature review in order to update the 2004 USPSTF recommendations related to screening and clinical counseling of people immersed in alcohol misuse. New evidence on the effectiveness of alcohol screening procedures was reviewed, particularly in the sections related to the improvement of health outcomes, procedural accuracy, impact of behavioral counseling on long-term results, disadvantages of screening and counseling interventions, and influence of the health care system on the effectiveness of alcohol screening and counseling interventions.

Based on the results of the literature review, Dr. Moyer and colleagues updated the 2004 recommendations by strengthening the definition of alcohol misuse to include the entire array of unhealthy drinking behaviors instead of limiting the meaning to hazardous or harmful drinking.

The team recommends the primary care screening of adults 18 years old and above for alcohol misuse. Meanwhile, people engaged in risky or hazardous drinking should be subjected to short behavioral counseling interventions in order to reduce alcohol misuse (Grade B recommendation). However, the same statement cannot be said for alcohol misuse in adolescents due to insufficient evidence.

While the recommendations were based on strategic and systematic review, USPSTF declares that the decisions should be based not merely on evidence presented, but also on other factors. Intervention and clinical decisions should still be tailor-fit to the specific patient or condition.

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Swedish Study Finds Several Illegal Substances Can be Detected Using Breath Tests

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Drug use detection in individuals is often performed by means of urine, saliva, and blood tests. But a new study showed several banned substances can also be detected using breathalyzers.

In a study conducted by a group of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, more than 10 substances were successfully identified in the breath of 47 patients, who were recruited from a drug addiction emergency clinic, using a simple, commercially available breath test. The breath samples were analyzed using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, and later revealed the presence of cocaine, amphetamines, methadone, methamphetamine, and marijuana, among others.

The researchers’ findings were published on April 26 in the Journal of Breath Research.

Professor Olof Beck, lead author of the study, said they were surprised that there was still “high detectability for most drugs” even though the samples were taken 24 hours after intake of drugs.

Breathalyzers are rapidly becoming a preferred drug detection device particularly in DUI cases because they are non-invasive and less prone to adulteration. Early this year, the U.S. Navy announced the fleetwide rollout of breathalyzer tests in the hope of discouraging irresponsible drinking among sailors. Even a growing number of schools are subjecting their students to breath tests to prevent drunk driving.

“In cases of suspected driving under the influence of drugs, blood samples could be taken in parallel with breath when back at a police station,” Beck explained in a news release. “Future studies should therefore test the correlation between blood concentration of drugs of abuse and the concentrations in exhaled breath.”