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Why is drug testing so important? Drug abuse in the workplace costs many billions of dollars each year. It also has a negative effect on the security of the work environment. Drug and alcohol abuse has become such a growing concern that law enforcement agencies and hospitals routinely test as part of assessing the overall condition of an individual. Due to the fact that drug users miss more days of work and are late for work more often than non-drug users, some employers include a drug screening test as part of the application process.

When might an employer consider asking an existing employee to submit to a drug test? Employers may ask an employee to submit to a drug test if there is a suspicion that the employee may be using or abusing drugs or alcohol. The employee might suddenly be exhibiting episodes of short-term memory loss, slow learning, confusion, anxiety and what appears to be toxic delirium. Also, some employers will perform a drug test if the employee is being considered for a promotion.

What drugs are being tested for? Predominantly, the drugs of abuse being tested for include: marijuana, cocaine, barbiturates, amphetamine, methamphetamine (Ecstasy), Oxycontin, opium, heroin, morphine, methadone, phencyclidine, angel dust (PCP) and valium.

What kinds of test kits are used for drug testing? There are a number of FDA-approved, relatively low-cost urine drug testing kits available for purchase by individuals or professionals. These tests follow the guidelines of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There are a numerous urine test kits, some of which test only for one drug and others which can test for up to as many as ten different drugs. Other means of drug testing are the sweat patch, hair tests and saliva tests.

How reliable are the urine drug tests? The one-step test kits can be used to detect various traces of drugs and their metabolites with up to 99% accuracy, but they provide only preliminary analytical results. A more specific scientific method (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) must be used to confirm the results. In other words, when drug of abuse preliminary test results are positive, clinical consideration plus professional judgment should be used for verification.

What are the dip strip urine drug testing kits like? The dip strip urine drug test kits contain a THC test cassette, a disposable sample dropper and instructions for use. Other items required but not provided in the kit are a specimen collection container and a clock or timer. The subject of the test collects a urine specimen in the container. Then the tester removes the test strip or test disk (depending on the kit) from its foil pouch. Have the subject collect a urine specimen in the container. The tester either dips the test strip into the urine specimen or places the test disk on a dry, flat surface and uses the dropper to drop two drops of the urine specimen into the well located on the disk. Results can be interpreted in 3 to 5 minutes.

What is the urine drug testing kit using the split cup like? This test provides a high-quality screening method with 99% accuracy. There is no need for any additional materials and the tester does not have to handle the urine sample. The subject of the test collects a urine sample in the cup. The tester only has to turn the key to activate the drug test cup. The test cup also includes an adulteration test to check the integrity of the urine. With this drug test cup, the tester can read the results at his or her convenience.
What is the sweat patch test like? With this test, a patch (similar to a Band-Aid) is attached to the subject’s skin. The patch collects sweat for approximately seven days and is then tested in a lab for drug residue. This test is generally used in criminal and child custody cases to determine whether the user has been rehabilitated. This test is not that reliable because the patch is susceptible to contamination from environmental sources. In other words, a false positive result can be caused by drug molecules adhering to the patch when the wearer is near other people.

What about hair tests? When 1.5 inch long strands of hair cut close to the scalp are lab analyzed, a drug history covering 90 days can be obtained. However, hair testing is a very controversial new technology because of concerns that it might be considered discriminatory and the results can be wrong due to environmental contaminants. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has done studies which show that some drug molecules are attracted to the pigment melanin and adhere more strongly to dark hair than they adhere to light hair.

What about saliva testing? Drugs show up in saliva faster than they show up in urine, hair and sweat. Saliva testing may reveal whether a person is high, making it a useful post-accident test. Saliva testing is just beginning to be used, so its effectiveness is yet to be determined.



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