Lab DAS: Definition, Types, and Results
29 September, 2023
Drug and alcohol screening (DAS) is an essential process used by many employers and organisations. It aims to identify individuals with impairment or potentially abusing illegal drugs. While many conduct onsite testing, a lab DAS is performed in a facility. The common types are urine, saliva, hair, and blood analysis. The results from these tests can confirm if a person is using or has used illegal substances or abused prescription drugs.
Laboratory tests play a significant role in diagnosing and monitoring drug and alcohol use. It helps individuals and organisations identify health issues and take appropriate actions. In addition, early detection can help prevent and manage safety risks. In this article, we will explore the significance of laboratory testing for drugs and alcohol, different types, and the handling of results. By understanding the concept, individuals can prepare better when undergoing such tests.
What is Lab DAS
A lab DAS is a test performed in a laboratory setting to detect the presence of drugs and alcohol in a person’s system. It is used in various settings, typically in workplaces, healthcare, and legal proceedings, to ensure safety and compliance with regulations. In contrast to rapid tests, lab testing is comprehensive, using sophisticated equipment and technology.
This testing involves collecting biological samples and analysing them through advanced techniques. It follows a strict chain of custody process to ensure accuracy and reliability. Testing centres adhere to the procedures for specimen collection and quantitation of drugs according to a set standard. Additionally, it allows for the confirmation of non-negative results to avoid false positives.
Laboratory tests usually have longer turnaround times due to the detailed analysis process. Moreover, these tests are more expensive and require more resources to conduct. Nevertheless, it is highly accurate and reliable, providing objective and quantifiable results. It can detect actual levels of specific substances in the body, even in small amounts.
Benefits of Lab Screening
- High compliance with drug testing laws and standards.
- Provide highly accurate test results and minimise the possibility of false positives.
- It can identify the exact drug class and its concentration levels.
- It helps organisations identify employees who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Lab screening can aid in diagnosing substance use disorder and other health issues. In effect, employers may offer assistance to those struggling with substance abuse.
- Regular workplace testing can deter or discourage potential abuse.
- It helps maintain a productive and safe work environment.
- Prevent alcohol and drug-related accidents and injuries.
Types of Samples Used in Lab DAS
The common types of tests in lab DAS are urine, saliva, hair, and blood. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Urine samples are widely used for drug screening because they are easy to obtain and cost-effective. However, it is susceptible to adulteration. Saliva samples can detect recent drug use due to their shorter detection window.
Hair analysis is efficient and reliable for determining the long-term consumption of a person. It can trace alcohol and drug metabolites for several months. Moreover, blood testing is the most precise method but also the most expensive and intrusive. It can provide real-time information about a person’s drug or alcohol use. It also requires a trained professional to collect the sample.
Alcohol testing services also use breath tests to screen for alcohol. They use a breathalyser to detect and measure the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of a person. This process is easy and non-invasive. A positive result from this test indicates an individual has consumed an alcoholic beverage within the past 12 to 24 hours.
What Can Be Detected
Drug and alcohol screens can detect a wide range of substances, including both illicit drugs and prescription medications. These tests detect common drugs of abuse, such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, ethanol, and hallucinogens. On the other hand, a breath test is specific to ethanol.
The window of detection also varies with the test method. For example, advanced urine testing can trace as far back as 80 hours, while blood has up to 6 to 12 hours only. This depends on the frequency of use and the individual’s metabolism. Therefore, it is vital to choose the right method, depending on the situation.
Handling Non-negative Results of LAB DAS
Lab DAS test results are generally accurate; however, they can be prone to errors. Non-negative results are outcomes indicating the presence of certain substances. This may happen due to various factors, such as improper sample collection procedure, storage, or contamination. Thus, it is essential to follow the chain of custody process to minimise these instances.
If a result is non-negative, it is vital to perform confirmatory testing to validate the initial screen. Laboratory GC-MS testing (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry) is more sensitive and uses different techniques and cut-off levels. It is a costly procedure, but it greatly minimises false positives and invalid results.
It is crucial to confirm the test to be positive before imposing any disciplinary action. Employers must handle the situation with sensitivity and caution. It may involve notifying the concerned individual in strict confidence. An employee may also explain the result if there is a valid medical reason. Overall, non-negative results can have serious consequences and are best managed with proper protocols.
A confirmed positive test result can have several legal implications. In many cases, employers have the right to impose disciplinary actions based on the workplace policy or employment agreement. It may include suspension, termination, or a referral to an employee assistance program. Moreover, it might have an impact on the person’s professional licence if applicable.
In probationary cases like drink driving, a person may face jail terms and other severe penalties. Therefore, employers must follow the standard test procedures to ensure the integrity of the test. This also helps to mitigate legal risks due to wrongful accusations.
Lab DAS is an important tool to detect substance use and ensure safety. It involves collecting and analysing samples such as urine, saliva, blood, and hair for potential impairment or abuse. The test can detect a wide range of substances, including recreational drugs and prescription drugs. Moreover, laboratory testing employs strict protocols to maintain the integrity of the test. They follow specific sample collection procedures and handling techniques to minimise false outcomes.
Furthermore, getting a non-negative result indicates the presence of prohibited substances in the system. Thus, it is essential for laboratories to conduct a follow-up test to validate the initial screening. In addition, a confirmed positive drug test result can have legal implications. It can affect employment and possible loss of professional licenses. Employers must handle these cases with care and caution. Overall, conducting these tests can help employers make appropriate decisions to manage health and safety risks.