The Drug Testing Cocktail: Types and Programs

  • By Mark Ridgeway
  • 09 Aug, 2017
employee drug testing

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health , 8.9% of full-time employees and 12.5% of part- time employees are illicit drug users. In fact, the survey showed that 67.9% of illicit drug users aged 18 or older are employed.

Employee Substance Abuse is Pricey

The costs associated with employee substance abuse quickly accumulate for employers. The financial impact on businesses include reduced productivity, lower morale, higher absenteeism rates, employee theft and injuries or fatalities in the workplace. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that drug abuse costs employers $81 billion every year.

Methods and Types

There are several methods for drug screening, including testing urine, oral fluids and hair for traces of illegal substances. Each option offers benefits, and your screening provider can help determine which method is best for your applicant pool and organization.

Urine testing is the most popular method and can detect recent use up to 7 days. Oral fluid testing uses saliva to test for drug use within the past 24 to 36 hours. Hair testing provides employers with a much longer history of up to 90 days, and can identify habitual patterns of regular drug users.

If you are new to drug testing, you might be wondering which drugs the tests include. Drug testing is typically administered by a “panel”, which is a bundling of common drugs of abuse. For example, urine testing is typically five, seven, nine or ten panel, depending on the provider. Saliva and hair testing are usually five or six panels depending on the provider. A panel, therefore, refers to the drugs or analytes being tested for and can include:

• Amphetamines and Methamphetamines

• Cocaine Metabolites

• Marijuana Metabolites

• Opiates

• Phencyclidine

• Barbiturates

• Benzodiazepines

• Methadone

• Propoxyphene


Most drug screening providers offer both laboratory and on-site testing, which can be used in different situations. 

Many employers use laboratory-based testing for pre-employment (new hires) and post-hire situations, such as reasonable suspicion, post-accident, and random selection. Some employers also opt for onsite testing, which could include use of a self-administered instant testing device or having a qualified collector come to the employer’s premises to collect specimens for testing.

Interpreting The Results

Terminology can also trip up employers who are new to drug screening. Typically, a “positive” result means that illicit drugs were found in the specimen, and a “negative” result means that no substance included in the employer’s testing panel was found.

A “negative” result can also be reported when legal use of a detected substance has been determined. However, there are also instances when a “positive” result can be reported without the individual having taken any drugs. For example, if an individual consumed poppy seeds, their drug test may be positive for opiates.

As a best practice, “non-negative” laboratory results should be reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (MRO) to identify potential false positives, legal use of substances, and if there may have been an attempt to cheat a drug test.

Recognizing the costly effects of substance abuse in the workplace, employers routinely rely on drug testing to help weed out illicit drug users from their hiring pool, and deter current employees from participating in drug use on the job. By implementing a compliant drug-free workplace program, organizations can protect themselves from the negative effects of employee drug use.







The CHC Blog

By Mark Ridgeway 16 Aug, 2017

“Human resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.”  -Steve Wynn


It’s easy to ignore the human resources side of your business when things are flowing smoothly. After all, there are far more pressing concerns nagging us each day. Relations with employees can be enjoyable and fulfilling or time-consuming and terrifying, depending on the situation.

Being proactive in the area of HR, recognizing and rectifying HR mistakes before they become serious problems, can save you countless headaches and protect your business against costly legal claims.

HR mistake #1: An outdated employee handbook

Every business, no matter how small, should have an up-to-date employee handbook. If you don’t put the most current dos and don’ts in writing, you’re asking for trouble. In addition, laws change, which may significantly alter the applicability of your policies.

Even a few pages outlining acceptable and expected behavior provides employees with tangible guidelines. The employee handbook should be updated about every two years, and all employees should sign an acknowledgment form stating that they received the publication and will abide by its policies.

Include information such as your company’s:

  • Code of Conduct
  • Communications policy
  • Non-discrimination policy
  • Compensation & benefits
  • Employment & termination guidelines

HR mistake #2: Failing to document performance issues

Written policies and standard operating procedures are the boundaries that govern employee conduct. When a violation occurs, it must be accurately and thoroughly documented. Although it may seem time-consuming to jot down in a file that someone was reprimanded for repeated tardiness, it’s important evidence that can support a decision to terminate that individual for unsatisfactory job performance, for example.

In addition, when a company is consistent in its application of performance issues, it’s better able to address potential legal issues that may arise in the future, such as a discrimination claim.


HR mistake #3: Incomplete employee files

For compliance reasons, it’s very important to keep records of all the personnel documents attached to your employees’ work histories.

It’s also a good practice to make sure the proper documents are kept in the employee performance file. Some documents that contain personal information, such as leave and disability forms, should be kept in a separate folder since these are personal in nature and aren’t needed to manage an employee’s performance.

It’s helpful to have a binder for all valid I-9s, which verify employee identity and work eligibility in the United States. They should be easy to access and updated when necessary. Fines can add up quickly if you can’t produce current and accurate documents upon request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

And because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it may be wise to store your employees’ health and welfare-related benefits information separately as well.


HR mistake #4: Disregard for training

Taking time to train your employees is a valuable investment in the future of your business. By including training in the onboarding process, your employees may become more fully engaged and understand how to use their skills to best benefit your company.

Employers who spend time on training also get training’s indirect benefit: employees who feel like they’re valuable and capable of doing more for your organization.

And remember, it’s important that the employee’s performance, including skills and areas of opportunity and growth, are accurately reflected in their performance reviews.


HR mistake #5: Inadequate HR policies

Don’t overlook the importance of an internal HR audit. Set aside time annually to make sure your HR policies are current and complete.

Also, sometimes the unthinkable happens and disaster strikes. By providing clear guidelines on how to respond prior to an incident, you can help minimize the impact it might have on your employees and your business.

A well-thought-out plan will help protect you, your employees and your customers. Consider these questions when developing your plan:

  1. Who will be in charge?
  2. What circumstances do you evacuate or take shelter?
  3. Do you have an off-site meeting place for people to gather?
  4. How will you communicate with your employees during a disaster?
  5. What is the vacation payout policy if an employee quits?

Having policies and plans for handling unexpected events reduces the stress, liabilities and costs to your business.

HR mistake #6: Lack of knowledge in employment compliance

Managers must be fluent in employment laws and regulations. In addition, they must have access to a resource that can keep them up to date in the changing employment environment.

Misclassifying employees as independent contractors when they’re not, or as exempt from overtime when they shouldn’t be, can be costly oversights.

Failure to comply with OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) regulations for your industry may also yield stiff fines.

Prevention is key. Take time to identify what regulatory agencies govern your industry and what laws must be followed.




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