Last updated: September 14, 2020
The most commonly used drug screen panel for drug testing in the workplace is the SAMHSA-5 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). This panel was established in the 1980s under the Drug Free Workplace Act. It tests for amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana (THC), opiates and PCP. That sounds like a good place to start. This panel was established by the government so it must be the way to go. Right?
In the 1980s, the most commonly abused drugs were the five listed above. And, although, they are still found in the drug culture of today, the search for the “latest and greatest” continues. Of course, drugs should never be described as such, but the hook to “try it” is bright and shiny and lures people in. If not, addiction and illegal drug use would not be the scourge it has become on our society.
If the SAMHSA-5 is your employee drug test of choice, there are some drugs you may want to consider adding to your test panel so you will stay on the cusp of most commonly abused drugs found in the workplace today.
Created to mimic naturally occurring opioids (such as morphine and codeine), synthetic opioids are used as pain relief medications to varying degrees.
The four most common synthetic opioids, brand names, and street names are:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lortab®, Lorcet®) Street Names: Vike, Watson-387
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®) Street Names: Dust, Juice, Smack, D, Footballs
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®) Street Names: O.C., Oxycet, Oxycotton, Oxy, Hillbilly Heroin, Percs
- Oxymorphone (Opana®) Street Names: Biscuits, Blue Heaven, Blues, Mrs. O, O Bomb, Octagons, Stop Signs
In addition to pain relief, these drugs induce a sense of euphoria in the user. Unfortunately, some may seek this response to the drug even when there is no longer pain associated with needing them. Experiencing the euphoric high is a prime draw for someone to initially try these drugs even if they have never sought medical treatment for pain. Synthetic opioids are highly addictive and their misuse has become a crippling factor on our society as a whole.
In 2017, overdose deaths attributed to synthetic opioids reached over 28,000. Projections for 2018, look no better. Employers who are concerned that prescription drug abuse or misuse could be a problem in their work environment are adding these synthetic drugs to their opiate testing panel.
It should also be noted that due to this being an expensive habit to maintain, many addicts often turn to heroine as an alternative.
There is another extremely dangerous synthetic opioid, similar to morphine, that is thought to be unheralded to-date. The fact that it has at least eleven street names may speak to its growing popularity in a very dark way.
- Fentanyl, (Actiq®, FentoraTM , Duragesic®) Street Names: Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, Tango and Cash, TNT
In December, 2018, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) updated their page stating that data being reported by individual state law enforcement is consistently showing an increase in synthetic opioid overdose deaths testing positive for fentanyl. However, this does not coincide with the fentanyl prescribing rates. This would indicate that the increase in deaths due to this drug are driven by illicitly manufactured forms of fentanyl rather than pharmaceutical.
The other amphetamine
Although classed as one and the same, there are differences between amphetamines and methamphetamine that require different testing measures on a drug test panel. The DOT (Department of Transportation) and SAMHSA have included the additional testing under their amphetamine category for mandated testing, other “typical” panels provided do not.
- Methamphetamine (Desoxyn®) Street Names: Meth, Speed, Crystal, Glass, Ice, Crank, Yaba
This drug is manufactured for use in treating narcolepsy, but for the most part is manufactured illegally in fly by night labs. There is really no way to measure the potency of any given batch made under these conditions. In addition, to obtain the same high, users must increase the dosage each time they ingest the drug.
Methamphetamines are highly addictive and dangerous. Users are impaired in a number of ways that would certainly adversely affect their work performance.
In addition to the fact that some employers are removing marijuana (THC) from their testing panels (possibly due in part to it becoming legal to varying degrees in states across our nation), cannabidiol (CBD) oils and supplements are becoming popular to treat pain and other maladies.
They are not identified as having any impairment properties, yet some employees have tested positive for marijuana use after using these products even though they have never used marijuana. Adding the specific test necessary to detect CBD in your drug testing panel could be beneficial in such a situation. Employers may want to weigh the options of CBD specifics a little more closely than their current No Drugs Policy allows.
Which panel is right for you?
There are options at your disposal. Your representative can explain the drugs included in their standard panel tests, but you may also make up your own exclusive panel with no problem. The typical panels are:
No matter if your testing method of choice is urine, hair follicle, or mouth swab, the panel of drugs that you test for is not set in stone unless you a required to follow DOT drug testing regulations. Standard test panels are at the ready at most labs. A discussion with your representative will bring you peace of mind if you are wondering if your test panel should be more inclusive.