Drug Screening Overview, Types, and Purpose
22 August, 2023
Drug screening is a common practice that involves testing for drugs or metabolites in the person’s system. It is a way to determine if a person abuses illegal or prescription drugs, as well as alcohol. It can be used for medical, legal, and workplace purposes. Various procedures can trace substances, such as oral fluid, blood, breath, and urine testing. Each method has its advantages and levels of accuracy. They also promote awareness of better health and safety practices.
Tests for illegal drugs are vital in many areas where health and safety are critical. It is used by employers, law enforcement agencies, and health professionals to ensure safety and monitor compliance with laws and regulations. In this article, we will provide an overview of drug tests, including the different types and purposes behind these tests. Gaining a better understanding of these tests can help protect the well-being of individuals and communities.
Definition of Drug Screening
Drug screening is a process of analysing biological samples to detect the presence of illegal drugs and alcohol in a person’s system. It involves testing urine, saliva, and blood samples for traces of these substances. Drugs, alcohol, and metabolites are detectable in most body fluids, including hair and breath. In addition, these substances have varying periods of detection, depending on the type of test used.
Screening procedures use immunoassays to detect drugs. They use antibodies to identify and bind specific substances, which can reveal the drug’s presence in a person’s system. These tests are cost-effective and provide quick results. Moreover, a non-negative result indicates a person has taken a drug within the past several days.
In addition to recent substance use, a non-negative result means that a certain compound has reached a threshold or cut-off. This indicates that the drug concentration in the system has reached levels that may be hazardous to health and safety. However, an initial screen test does not measure the exact amount of a drug present.
Benefits of Screening
- Screening for drugs and alcohol identifies present safety hazards and prevents potential accidents.
- Ensure a safe and hazard-free environment by removing impaired individuals from the premises.
- Deter substance use or abuse among employees.
- Identify individuals with substance abuse problems and provide them with the necessary support and treatment.
- Helps health professionals devise a treatment plan for patients with substance use disorder.
- Improve workplace productivity and performance by ensuring that employees are not under the influence of drugs that may diminish their abilities.
- Reduce absenteeism and tardiness due to drug-related issues.
- Mitigates legal risks due to compliance with state or federal laws.
Types of Drug Screening
Drug screening has several types to detect drugs. A common method is a urine drug screen. It can test for a wide range of illicit drugs and prescription medications. The tests are usually non-invasive and provide quick results. Urine samples can also trace drug metabolites for an extended period.
Another type is a saliva swab, which detects drug use in the previous 24 hours. This method is fast and convenient, making it ideal for on-site testing. Blood tests are also used to detect recent drug use since they provide accurate results of drugs within a limited period of time. However, since it is an intrusive process, it is mostly suitable for confirmatory testing rather than screening.
Hair drug testing is another method that is beneficial in determining long-term drug use. Hair follicles may trace drug molecules for months, giving a more accurate picture of an individual’s drug history. However, it is more expensive and may not be as readily available. For alcohol screening, a breath test can detect alcohol in seconds. It can also measure Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) without laboratory testing.
What Can Be Detected
Saliva and urine screening can detect various drug classes simultaneously. It can reveal the common drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, marijuana, MDMA, heroin, and amphetamine drugs. The number of substances depends on the panels in a test kit. A urine test can also show prescription medications like opioids and benzodiazepines.
For alcohol screening, urine, saliva, and blood samples can trace ethanol and metabolite like EtG (Ethyl Glucuronide) and EtS (Ethyl Sulfate). However, most workplaces and law enforcement use a breathalyser to detect alcohol in seconds. A positive BAC result indicates that a person has recently consumed alcohol within the past 12 to 24 hours.
Purpose of Drug Screening
Drug screening serves several purposes in various settings. Firstly, it is a cost-efficient preventive measure to ensure the safety of individuals. It helps employers and law enforcement agencies identify those who are posing risks. A person may face legal charges for drug or drink driving. Police officers conduct roadside drug and alcohol screening to check for impairment.
In the workplace, this procedure is usually part of pre-employment or post-accident requirements. Employers administer these tests through a workplace drug testing program. A person may face disciplinary actions for violating a policy. Moreover, it helps companies maintain a safe environment. It helps detect current impairment and make informed decisions.
Workplace screening helps identify employees with substance addiction or disorder. Therefore, employees can offer treatment or rehabilitation support for affected individuals. Likewise, it helps deter drug and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, employers are able to comply with state and federal laws regarding drug use. Finally, drug testing is an important part of addiction treatment. Doctors may use this to monitor a patient’s progress to recovery.
How To Handle Non-Negative Results and False Positives
Handling non-negative results and false positives requires careful consideration. A non-negative result should be followed up with confirmation testing. On the other hand, a false-positive result may occur due to technical errors or cross-reactions with other substances or medications. In both cases, it necessitates sending the samples to a laboratory for analysis.
Confirmatory tests include advanced methods like Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) for validation. If the positive drug test result is confirmed, employers should follow their policies and guidelines in dealing with the employee to avoid legal challenges. However, false-positive results must take corrective action to minimise similar errors in the future.
Drug screening is a useful tool in various settings. An initial screen analyses biological samples to detect various drug classes and common drugs of abuse. It helps employers and police officers identify individuals posing safety hazards to the public or community. Moreover, the common methods include oral fluid and urine drug testing. Instant test kits can give rapid results, helping organisations make informed decisions. Companies may employ drug and alcohol screening services to ensure the reliability of the results.
Consistent monitoring or testing of abused drugs can significantly help improve health and safety. Increased roadside and workplace screening help minimise accidents and injuries. In the case of non-negatives, confirmatory testing is vital to eliminate the possibility of false-positive results. Lastly, employers must ensure to follow strict guidelines in implementing these tests and handling positive drug testing results to prevent legal challenges or liabilities.