Drug testing has earned a massive following because of its importance in human life, particularly in office and industrial settings. Aside from reducing employee absenteeism, conducting drug tests helps increase employee productivity and promotes a healthier and safer workplace. Aside from that, implementing an effective drug policy could result to a significant reduction in workers compensation premiums.
In any testing program, the goal is to generate trustworthy results. Depending on the methodology of testing and the kind of medium, there are different levels of drug testing in terms of risk. It is important to select the testing method that caters to the needs of your company while providing an acceptable level of risk mitigation.
Drug and alcohol testing may help mitigate the dangers of injury and property damage. At the same time, it may strengthen corporate safety culture. Given the wide variety of drug testing options, you can decide on the testing service to use.
You may either conduct testing in your office or in an external clinic. You have the prerogative when to start the program and what method you are going to use. These are important considerations that you need to think about before conducting drug testing in your office.
The need for drug testing has increased dramatically, especially in high-risk industries.
Where To Conduct Drug Testing
If you choose to conduct your drug testing at a clinic or laboratory, ensure that the testing firm that handles the procedure is a reputable and certified one. Credible testing programs will usually involve two steps, namely initial and confirmatory.
With on-site drug testing, you can immediately see the results of the testing. On-site drug testing is becoming popular because the employer can make decisions at the time of the testing. For confirmatory tests, an employee can conveniently return to the testing facility and resume work immediately.
When the sample requires further investigation, your manager will immediately know and have the capacity to monitor your testing as indicated in your drug and alcohol policy. Your sample will be sent to a NATA-accredited laboratory for confirmatory testing. When the confirmatory test has been returned, your doctor will help you interpret the results.
On-site testing can be incorporated into your drug and alcohol testing program or you can train your staff to collect the samples based on the AS/NZS 4308:2008 or AS 4760. This way, you can test your own staff whenever you want.
On the other hand, laboratory-based testing is done at a NATA-accredited laboratory for screening and confirmation (if needed). This reduces the possibility of on-site false positive and false negative results. At the same time, it provides confidentiality of drug testing.
Negative results can be retrieved usually a day after the samples have been received in the laboratory. A confirmation positive result is usually available after two business days after receiving the sample within the laboratory.
Type of Drug Testing
Before proceeding to choose the right drug testing method for your business, let us first discuss the different types of drug testing procedures available in the market. A “panel” refers to a drug or family of drug that is included in a drug test. The more panels included, the wider the scope of the test.
5 Panel Drug Test
This panel examines a specimen in order to test for 5 different substances: THC, cocaine, opiates, phencylcidine, and amphetamines. This is the most common drug test method, and is used by the Department of Transportation and the Federal government.
There are other options available outside of the 5-panel drug test. With these procedures, you simply add more drugs to the panel. Although the number of drug panels is dependent on the employees being tested, combinations of drugs constitute a panel more frequently than others. If you want several panels tested, you will just add another drug to each additional panel.
6-Panel Drug Test
In this type of test, benzodiazepines are added. Benzodiazepines are designed for treating panic attacks, generalized anxiety, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Common examples of benzodiazepines are Valium & Klonopin. Although well-tolerated, the usual side effects associated with abuse of benzodiazepines include fatigue, dizziness, and weakness. The 6-panel drug test is recommended for industries that require alertness, such as jobs that involve heavy machinery.
7-Panel Drug Test
In a 7-panel drug test, barbiturates are added to the panel aside from benzodiazepines. These substances are sedative-hypnotic drugs designed to reduce anxiety and fight insomnia. Also known as downers, barbiturates can affect the brain in the same way alcohol or sleeping pills do. These substances are frequently used in suicide attempts and may result to death or coma. When abused, barbiturates can lead to drowsiness and confusion. The 7-panel drug test can be used in industries where safety is a major concern.
8-Panel Drug Test
With the 8-panel drug test, the drug quaalude is added to the equation. Quaalude is a brand name for the drug methagualone. It is usually used recreationally for relaxing the muscles of an aphrodisiac. Currently it is not frequently used in North America, and that’s why the 7-panel drug test is more recommended than an 8-panel drug test within the U.S.
9-Panel Drug Test
In a 9-panel drug test, the drugs benzodiazepines, barbiturates, quaaludes, & propoxyphene are added to the list of substances identified by the test. Propoxyphene is a highly addictive narcotic pain reliever. Once it interacts with other drugs, it can slow down heart beat, create confusion, cause fainting, and trigger seizures.
Testing an employee using the 9-panel drug test may make sense. Employees who experience so much pain will require a narcotic pain reliever, but the risky complications and the addictive nature of propoxyphene cannot be denied.
10-Panel Drug Test
In a 10-panel drug test, methadone is added to the previous nine drugs. It can be abused as a pain reliever and result to extreme exhaustion and numbness.
When the test is conducted in the laboratory, the results are usually available 24 to 48 business hours after collecting the samples. Confirmatory tests will take 48 to 72 hours after completion of the test.
11-Panel Drug Test
An 11-panel drug test includes everything on an 8-panel drug test but adds methadone, oxycodone, & tricyclic antidepressants. The latter is no longer popular as an anti-depressant mainly because of its many side effects. The drug is known for causing moderate cognitive impairment, anxiety, and exhaustion.
12-Panel Drug Test
A 12-panel drug test usually tests everything a 10-panel drug test does, but adds on percoset/oxycodone and Ecstasy/MDMA. This type of drug test essentially checks for additional opiates and painkillers that may not be detected in fewer panels. This fairly comprehensive drug test is utilized in industries that have great responsibility for public welfare.
The 12-panel drug test is an accurate method for detecting recent drug use. It is widely popular for drug testing due to its speed and accuracy.
Employers need to know which type of drug testing works for them.
Which Drug Testing Method Is Best For You?
If you are not legally required to conduct testing beyond these substances, the 5-panel drug test is the most recommended procedure for drug testing. The test is designed to detect the presence of commonly abused street drugs. Larger panel drug tests aim to detect prescription drugs and painkillers as well.
However, determining the best drug testing method that is best for your company depends on several factors such as the industry you are in, the laws that govern the industry, and company culture.
Industry-Based Drug Testing Standards
- In the Department of Transportation, the standard testing method for all drivers is the 5-panel drug test. They are required to undergo a pre-employment test, random drug test, and an annual drug test.
- For home health aides, the recommended test method is the 8-panel drug test.
- For construction and heavy machinery firms, the usual testing type involves 9 or more panels. These jobs entail alertness, and one of the side effects that need to be checked is fatigue, which can be extremely dangerous in high-activity industries.
- Those who work in the civil service industry need to undergo and pass a 5-panel drug test, although some states require passing a 10-panel drug test.
- For some employers looking to strictly enforce a drug-free workplace policy, employees need to pass a rigid 12-panel drug testing.
For companies who employ wealthy and white collared workers, it is recommended to test them for designer drugs as well. These substances are designed to enhance focus. Although cocaine is still the most commonly abused substance, there has been a rise in the popularity of substances such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Provigil.
In addition, there are also companies that may have a culture that does not have any objection to a commonly tested drug. With the legalization of marijuana now extending to other states as well as different corporate views about the drugs, some companies might opt for a 4-panel drug test – that is, testing drug metabolites found in a 5-panel drug test but with the exception of THC panel.
More Details About Drug Testing
Although not unlimited when it comes to the number of drugs that can be tested, there are still several drugs that are available which includes: marijuana, cocaine, PCP, amphetamine, Ecstasy, methamphetamine, opiates, oxycodone, methadone, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, buprenorphine, tricyclic antidepressants, propoxyphene, tramadol, fentanyl, sufentanil, zolpidem, carisoprodol, meperidine, antihistamines, synthetic cannabinoids, designer stimulants (bath salts), dextromethorphan, direct ethanol biomarkers, high potency opioids, ketamine, propofol glucuronide, & Ritalin.
There is also an option for testing alcohol but since it cannot be detected from urine and the bloodstream, it is usually implemented for random testing and due to reasonable suspicion. Breathalyzer tests are best for detecting alcohol abuse.
Depending on the drug and testing medium, screening can make use of urine, hair, blood, or saliva for testing. The selected testing medium can have an effect on how far back the substances can be detected. Aside from that, the size, weight, health, hydration level, and similar factors may affect the extent of detection of drug abuse.
Bear in mind that opioid use can lead to further addiction (such as heroin), and so the standard 5- and 10-panel drug tests may not be enough to fulfill your requirements. A 12-panel drug test may be the right procedure that will satisfy your need as it also detects opiates and painkillers that will not be detected by a test that uses fewer panels.