Drug Testing 101

Pre-employment drug testing is an important protective measure employers can take to improve workplace safety, reduce absenteeism rates, increase productivity, and keep medical costs down. Read on for a basic introduction to pre-employment drug screening.

What are pre-employment drug tests?

Pre-employment drug tests are used to determine if potential new hires are using illicit substances. These types of drug tests are reasonably common among employers, and job offers are often made contingent upon a clean drug test. While employers are able to specify which drugs they’d like to include in their screens, the following substances are the most common:

  • Methamphetamines, including speed, crank, and ecstasy
  • THC, including all cannabinoids
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates including heroin, opium, codeine, morphine
  • Phencyclidine

How are drug tests conducted?

Certified labs conduct drug test using blood, hair, urine, or saliva samples submitted by the candidate. Urine tests are by far the most commonly conducted because they are quick and inexpensive to run. Urine tests have about a 5-10 day detection window for most substances. For a longer detection window, hair tests are the answer as drugs and alcohol can be detected in hair for up to 90 days. Blood and saliva tests have short detection windows but may be the answer if candidates are unable to provide sufficient urine for the test.

What’s the value of drug testing in the workplace?

The first and most important value of workplace drug testing is safety. Workers performing their jobs while impaired pose a significant risk to your organization. In addition, drug testing provides the following benefits:

  • Decrease in workplace injury claims
  • Fewer accidents on the job
  • Reduced absenteeism rates
  • Improved productivity

Is drug testing legal?

The short answer is yes, but it’s important to consult the laws of your state to make sure your testing program is fully compliant. Best practices include the following:

  • Offer full disclosure that drug testing is part of the application process
  • Conduct consistent testing for all applicants
  • Use certified occupational health labs to conduct all tests

It’s also important to remember that many jobs mandate drug tests. Examples include healthcare workers, educators, and drivers. Understanding the laws of your state and the requirements for your positions will help you develop and maintain a compliant testing regimen.

The Bottom Line

Whether you hire 10 employees a year or 100 employees a year, drug testing is critical to keeping your workplace safe and healthy for everyone. Certified occupational health labs are a good resource for advice on many of the complicated issues surrounding workplace drug screenings. They understand the applicable state and federal regulations, help streamline the process, and provide substance abuse resources to assist you and your employees.

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