Instant Drug Screen vs Lab Testing
09 December, 2022
Alcohol and drug tests are essential for keeping a workplace healthy, sober and safe. It could boost morale when applied correctly as part of a comprehensive drug testing policy. In addition, it can protect the workforce from possible conflicts and accidents brought upon by drug and alcohol use. There are different tests, such as instant drug screening and more comprehensive lab testing. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages depending on the context or the situation.
This article will review drug screening and lab testing, their importance to the workforce, and how companies implement them. Alcohol and substance use and abuse are detrimental and hazardous to any workplace. However, they are significant concerns, especially for companies in high-risk, safety-critical industries. These include manufacturing, aviation, transportation, healthcare and mining. Regular testing allows employers to ensure the safety of their workforce as well as avoid the legal and financial costs of possible incidents.
Instant Drug Screen In Comparison to Lab Testing
An instant drug screen is a type of testing where the results are immediate at the point of collection, usually within a few minutes. The purpose of such tests is to detect alcohol, drugs and other illicit substances in an individual. However, most rapid screening only detects the substance’s presence in the individual, not the extent or effect. Rapid tests may be reliable for surface-level screenings but carry a risk of false positives depending on the method.
In addition, there are certain risks to using quick methods for drug screening. For instance, workers taking Codral for flu or Panadeiene Forte for headaches will most likely confirm positive for opiates and methamphetamines, respectively. However, a further lab test will show that such concentrations are at an acceptable therapeutic range for dosage. However, workers who test positive for THC from cannabis will be penalised as the substance is illicit.
Alcohol breathalysers are the only exception to this rule. Instant drug screens may have varying degrees of success, but breathalysers are proven to be different. Workplace-grade breathalysers can quickly supply a blood alcohol concentration reading at high testing volumes. This is due to the simplicity of such devices, which detect alcohol through an electrochemical process that oxidises a breath sample to get a BAC reading.
Pros and Cons of Rapid Drug Tests
- Instant results – within just minutes of collection, results can be provided. Allowing testees to know their results immediately
- Cost-effective -such tests cost less to administer
- Can be done on-site
- Unlike lab tests, rapid tests only result in a pass or fail
- Failed tests still need to be confirmed
- It cannot be used in court
Lab Testing in Comparison to Instant Drug Screen
Unlike an instant drug screen, lab-based tests are done in a diagnostic lab. In addition, lab testing will result in a broader range of acceptable screening specimens. Furthermore, lab-based tests offer the maximum variety of testing methods. These include urine, blood, saliva, hair and nail testing to screen for various harmful illicit substances. In addition, lab-based test results are defensible as evidence in court hearings.
Furthermore, rigorous lab tests will produce fewer false-positive results than a rapid drug screening. Lab tests run samples to more advanced processes to confirm the concentration and specificity of the substance down to the quantity and chemical makeup. In addition, before the testing period, the company can determine the specific test panel to use and specific substances to watch out for. Thus, the results from drug tests are more specific and detailed.
The standard samples for laboratory-based tests include screening urine for metabolites, testing saliva, hair and follicles, and blood samples. A comprehensive blood test is the most thorough screening method that a lab test can apply. Compared to instant drug screens, lab tests are ideal for companies needing a comprehensive analysis of the presence of such substances in the workforce. After a thorough analysis, the laboratory will relay the detailed results to the company for them to take appropriate action.
Pros and Cons of Lab Testing
- Employers are not responsible for determining the results
- High levels of accuracy
- Wide variety of options
- Admissible in a court of law
- Lab-based testing may cost more depending on the nature of the test
- Results may require a significant waiting time
- Despite accuracy, they are not 100% fool-proof
Overall Benefits of Both Instant Drug Screen and Lab Testing for the Workplace Policy and Implementation
Regular screening of alcohol and illicit substances is highly beneficial to companies of any size. Drug and alcohol tests, especially with a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing policy in place, can help ensure a company’s long-term health and safety. Workers under the influence of such substances could have increased injury risks, high absenteeism, decreased productivity and strained professional relationships. Moreover, untoward incidents in the workplace could result in property damage and losses in revenue and productivity.
As a result, a workplace drug and alcohol testing policy is essential for maintaining a safe and healthy working environment for the company. Furthermore, high-risk and safety-critical industries often implement a zero-tolerance policy for such substances. Such companies apply both lab tests and instant drug screen tests regularly. With the right policy in accordance with Australian labour laws, a company can root out potential dangers at their source. As long as such policies are fair, everyone will benefit.
Companies with comprehensive drug and alcohol policies deter workers from possible use and abuse, improving productivity and company morale. Such policies will be effective as long as the employees are well informed and involved in the process of the policy’s implementation. This precaution helps companies avoid any legal repercussions for any possible misapplication of instant drug screen or laboratory tests.
Situations for Workplace Testing
- Pre-Employment Testing – to screen potential workers and determine any prior usage history
- Random tests – unannounced tests to deter employees from developing usage issues
- Blanket testing – these are scheduled tests for the entire company
- For cause testing – carefully applied tests when there is reasonable suspicion of use
The applicability of an instant drug screen or a laboratory-based test depends on a company’s context and specific testing needs. These testing methods have many pros and cons when it comes to implementation. An instant screening is ideal for companies that require quick results. In addition, such tests benefit companies that only wish to ascertain the presence of such substances in the workplace quickly. In addition, rapid tests are cost-effective and easy to administer on-site at the workplace.
On the other hand, compared to rapid tests, laboratory tests take time. Such tests have a higher accuracy rate and produce fewer false positive results. In addition, such accuracy has a steep cost. However, lab-based tests allow companies more testing options and the results are applicable in possible court cases. In conclusion, either kind of drug and alcohol testing is beneficial for companies depending on their size, industry and testing needs.