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Drug-Free Workplace

After our company implements a drug-free workplace policy, do we have to test everybody in the company at once?

Although a company does have the option to do an initial "base line" drug test of all its employees, it is not required to achieve a drug-free workplace.

Explain post-accident testing?

The use of post-accident drug/alcohol testing has shown to decrease a company's number and severity of workers' compensation (L&I) claims, and consequently insurance costs.  All employers should require drug and alcohol testing after a major work accident.

How soon after implementing a substance abuse policy does our company begin testing?

Once a company has implemented its policy, it should start pre-employment testing immediately.  Drug Free Business recommends that you give your existing employees however at least 30 days notice prior to testing.

What are the merits of random drug testing?

Random drug testing is the most effective way to deter company substance abuse, and the fastest way to convey a drug-free workplace to employees.  Employees who value their job, will not give in to the temptation of drugs with the knowledge that they are subject to a company drug test on any given day.

What do most employers test for?

Most employers test for the five most common drugs of abuse, which include marijuana (THC), cocaine, amphetamines (methamphetamines), opiates (heroin, morphine, codeine ), and phencyclidine (PCP).  This combination is often referred to as the NIDA 5, SAMHSA 5, DOT 5 or SAP 5 panel.  In certain situations, employers also test for alcohol. Before adding additional drugs to your testing panel you should discuss your specific needs with Drug Free Business.

The federal Department of Transportation (DOT) restricts drug testing to only these five drug classes and alcohol. The DOT, and other federal testing programs added MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, and MDA and MDEA on Oct 1, 2010. These drugs are analogs of methamphetamine. It is highly recommended that employers with private testing programs follow the DOT and other federal guidelines in most situations. Contact DFB for recommendations on the makeup of a testing panel for your organization.

What does the company do when someone fails a pre-employment test?

By failing a pre-employment test, the applicant does not meet your hiring criteria.  The company would therefore rescind its job offer.

What if an existing employee fails the test?

Companies have the option of having either a No Tolerance, or Last Chance substance abuse policy.  If your company decides to adopt a No Tolerance policy, the employee would be immediately terminated.  If your company adopts a Last Chance policy, the employee is extended an offer to retain his/her job through the signing of a last chance agreement, whereby they agree to seek help through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  When the EAP professional determines that the employee is making satisfactory progress, he/she is allowed to return to work contingent on passing a return to duty test.

What is the benefit of having a drug-free workplace?

Having a drug-free workplace will improve the quality of your workforce, and reduce the tremendous costs associated with substance abuse (see reasons to test)

What testing provisions do most companies implement?

At a minimum, most companies will do pre-employment, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion testing.  Depending on their policy, companies may also do random, follow-up, base-line, and return-to-duty testing.

Drug Testing

But isn't drug testing against the law?

Absolutely not, any private employer in Washington State can do drug testing. In fact, certain federal laws require it.  There may be some restrictions in a few other states. Check with us first. We subscribe to professional publications that keep us up-to-date with changes in federal and local laws. Certain NLRB rulings require union employers to bargain before implementing employee testing programs.

But what about false positives?

All screening and confirmation testing is conducted through SAMHSA approved laboratories which require stringent quality control.  A federally approved laboratory can not afford to even have one false positive, as it would lose its certification and thus ability to do business. In addition, all positive test specimens are frozen and kept for a minimum of one year; so a contested result can be retested at another certified laboratory.

Can someone test positive because of second hand marijuana smoke, or because they ate a poppy seed muffin?

Drugs are tested for by the lab at fixed cut-off levels, designed to rule out the possibility of second hand smoke, or poppy seed ingestion causing a "false positive".

How long does marijuana stay in your system?

That’s a good question – and the answer unfortunately is “it depends”. All drugs of abuse are considered “toxic” to the human body; that’s why they are called intoxicants. The human body has various systems to eliminated toxins. Since most drugs of abuse are water soluble and the body is mostly water, it can easily get rid of most in a few hours, or a few days. Often, the body metabolizes the drug of abuse to a different form that makes it even easier to eliminate.

The only popular drug of abuse that isn’t water soluble in its initial form is delta-9 THC and its cousins found in marijuana. They are considered lipid (fat) soluble, i.e. substances capable of dissolving in the same organic solvents as fats and oils, which are stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body. Therefore, they are “stored” and metabolized and eliminated much slower. Think of DDT, the pesticide which was similar to THC in that the body took a long time to eliminate it, which is why it was taken off the market. DDT was highly lipid soluble.

Dr. Dick Garey from Tulane University Medical School was a friend of mine who did some of the original research on smoking marijuana and its hazards in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. He used this example: An 18 year old smokes just one joint a day for a year, then stops and never smokes marijuana for the rest of his life. If he lives another 60 years then dies at age 78, we can still easily find THC in his brain with common methods used to perform autopsies.

Now of course this example isn’t going to be anywhere close to the levels that would cause a positive workplace drug test. However, because it takes so long to eliminate from the body, repeated use of the drug becomes cumulative, i.e. it builds up over time.

Here’s another example: If you and I for the first time in our life smoke marijuana this coming Friday after work – and we smoke enough to get “high”, can we pass a urine drug test? Well, there are a lot of variables involved. What was the THC content of the marijuana? How long did we hold it in our lungs? What is our metabolic rate? How much ‘fat’ is in our body? Did we exercise strenuously in the days since using it? Did we drink a lot of water to ‘dilute’ our urine (but not enough to be called ‘dilute’)?, and probably most importantly, how many days after smoking did we take the test? So, in our case where we are complete novice users, in about 2 or 3 days one of us might pass and one of us might fail (depending on the variables above).

However, after one week, I’m pretty sure we would both pass a workplace urine drug test for marijuana, because the marijuana test has a threshold level of 50 ng. i.e., anything under 50 ng. is considered negative. That threshold level is in place to avoid claims of passive inhalation (e.g. at a rock concert). Let’s say that one week later we only have 20 ng. of THC left in our system. However, if on next Friday we both smoke the same amount again; we may be adding 100 ng to the existing 20 ng. left over from the previous week. Then the next Monday, in spite of the elimination of a great deal of the THC we both would be well over the 50 ng. threshold level and both of us would fail the test.

The above is just an example but you can see that a person who smokes just once a week will in fairly short time accumulate enough THC in his system that his urine drug test will be over 50 ng. for well over one week after ceasing use. In the case of someone who smokes marijuana daily, it could take several weeks of not using before his urine level falls below 50 ng. The longest time I have seen in the scientific literature is six (6) weeks; but this was a very heavy user.

So, what does this mean in the workplace? First, it is important to remember that although marijuana users report the “high” from the drug as lasting 2-4 hours, and that they feel completely normal after that time, that scientists and medical researchers have documented considerable impairment that lasts 24 or more hours from first use. So don’t be fooled by the person who says “I only use it after work or on the weekends” – it still affects safety and productivity.

The common response from a person testing positive for marijuana is “I only used it once, and that was a long time ago”. As you can see from my explanation above that either he was extremely unlucky to be chosen for a drug test within two days of that “one time” of he isn’t telling the whole truth.

Is there a simple explanation of this program for new contractors?

Yes, What Contractors Need to Know - A Quick Guide is available in the SNAP Documents section on your left. It is also printed inside the first page of the Admin Guide.

What good is drug testing if there are products on the market to "beat" the test?

Despite their popularity, there currently exists no adulterating agent on the market that can mask the presence of drugs in a donor’s system.

Why should I do drug testing? I can tell when an employee or applicant is a drug user.

Sometimes not even well trained chemical dependency counselors can identify drug users.

Why should I do drug testing? It's not the employer's business what an employee does on his or her time.

On average, a weekend drug user will cost your company upwards of $14,946 per year.  Drug abuse adversely effects your employees, both on and off the job.

DOT Compliance

Our company has been out of compliance for some time now, what should we do?

Drug Free Business can assist your company in catching up on its compliance status.

What are the current DOT random testing rates by Agency?

The following chart outlines the annual minimum drug and alcohol random testing rates established within DOT Agencies and the USCG for the current year. Current Random Testing Rates.

What happens if a company does not comply with these regulations?

Companies that ignore DOT drug/alcohol testing responsibilities are subject to fines in excess of $20,000 per day the company is out of compliance.  A company in Oregon was recently fined over $100,000 for non-compliance.

Who must comply with these regulations?

Companies in the aviation, motor carrier, railroad, mass transit, and marine vessel industry that have safety sensitive positions (i.e. commercial drivers, airline pilots, aviation maintenance, engineers, vessel captains, etc...)

Many employees and employers have asked "How do I know if I am subject to the U.S. Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing regulations? Go to AM I COVERED BY DOT DRUG & ALCOHOL TESTING REGULATIONS? for an easy-to-use decision tree.

Reference documents for our clients

Commonly Abused Drugs Chart

Drugs of Abuse  PDF - Large File 4,260KB
This DEA magazine delivers clear, scientific information about drugs in a factual, straightforward way, combined with scores of precise photographs shot to scale. We believe that Drugs of Abuse fulfills an important educational need in our society.
Table of Contents:
1   The Controlled Substances Act
13 U.S. Chemical Control
16 Introduction to Drug Classes
18 Narcotics
20 Opium
20 Morphine
21 Codeine
21 Thebaine
21 Heroin
22 Hydromorphone
23 Oxycodone
23 Hydrocodone
24 Meperidine
25 Methadone
24 LAAM
25 Buprenorphine
25 Dextropropoxyphene
25 Fentanyl
26 Pentazocine
26 Butorphanol
31 Stimulants
32 Cocaine
34 Amphetamines
35 Methcathinone
35 Methylphenidate
35 Anorectic Drugs
36 Khat
39 Depressants
40 Barbiturates
41 Benzodiazepines
41 Flunitrazepam
42 GHB
42 Paraldehyde
43 Chloral Hydrate
43 Glutethimide & Methaqualone
43 Meprobamate
43 Newly Marketed Drugs
48 Cannabis
49 Marijuana
50 Hashish
50 Hashish Oil