Last updated: January 25, 2021
Normally prescribed as pain pills, the semi-synthetic drugs hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone are highly addictive. And, the use of them (both, prescribed and illegal) has gotten vastly out of control, placing the United States in crisis mode.
Drug testing panels have long included screening for the opiates codeine and morphine. But, nearly a year ago now, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expanded it’s mandatory Department of Transportation DOT drug testing regulations to include testing for the above listed commonly prescribed opioids.
Those who drive professionally for a living are not the only people that must submit to company drug testing by their employers, however. Expanded opiate screening has become very popular in many private sector workplaces.
Choosing to test for expanded opiates, whether mandated by the government or in the private sector, is seen as being a proactive step in fighting the war against opioid addiction.
That’s a good thing, right?
In theory, yes. Except, there are a few things you should be aware of in regard to the 5 panel and 10 panel drug tests.
- Although, both of these widely used panels test for opiates, it most likely is just for codeine and morphine and does not include expanded opiate testing.
- Depending on the lab used, these panels may or may not automatically screen for 6-Acetylmorphine (6-AM) metabolite for heroin.
You should check with your drug test provider to assure that screenings for expanded opiates and 6-AM are included in your drug test panel of choice.
Requesting a “DOT LIKE” 5 panel or 10 panel drug test will assure that 6-AM metabolite for heroin detection is included.
Regarding expanded opiate testing, most SAMHSA certified labs do automatically test for them in their drug panel screenings. Some do not include oxycodone on the panel test. It is conducted as a separate test. So, again, you should ask your drug test provider to be certain all four are included.
What’s a SAMHSA certified lab?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a division within the Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1992 by Congress, it’s purpose is “to make substance use and mental disorder information, services and research more accessible. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on American communities.”
It is SAMHSA that publishes the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing. Laboratories that have been certified by HHS/SAMHSA have passed strict quality control measures and are held to quarterly inspections to ensure all stipulations are consistently being met. If you want your drug tests analyzed by the best, make sure your drug test provider uses a SAMHSA certified lab!
Is there more to know?
Yes, besides the “DOT LIKE” panels and non DOT panels for testing expanded opioids and heroin, there are panels specifically reserved for medical professionals that test for drugs such as Tramadol, Fentanyl and Meperidine.
It can, certainly, be confusing because often times panels are called by different names at different laboratories.
It might be best to make a list of specific drugs you want to screen for on your company’s drug test. Then, pass it along to your drug test provider. They should be able to contact the laboratory and have a test panel made up specifically to your request. If not, you might consider choosing another provider.
The long and short of it
People can become addicted to opioid pain medications while under a prescription from their doctor. When the prescription is no longer provided, they often turn to obtaining these drugs from an illegal source. They, then find this is a very expensive way to feed their addiction. Heroin as an alternative often turned to because it is not as costly, but very dangerous.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that there were 70,237 deaths attributed to drug overdose in 2017. That’s nearly 200 people a day!
That figure includes an increase of 45% in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone from 2016 to 2017.
Wait. It gets even more grim.
The highest number of opioid related overdose deaths, by far, were adults aged 25-54.
There is no doubt. We are a country in crisis.
Due to this horrifying rise in opioid use, we, as a country united, must do all we can to regain control. Education is a key to prevention. Children are our most valuable resource. We must continue outreach programs alerting them to the dangers of addictive drugs. In doing so, many will choose to walk away when presented with the opportunity to “use.”
Still, many will fall victim. With the majority of expanded opiate deaths by overdose being in the age range of 25 to 54 years old, drug testing in the workplace has become an important tool in identifying individuals that have a problem.
The odds are greatly in favor of someone testing positive for drugs in the workplace. Employers need to check their panel 5 and panel 10 drug tests with their providers and ensure expanded opiates and heroin are on them.
In doing so, you are being responsible to your employees by providing a safer environment for all. But, also, you are acting responsibly for any others that come into contact with your workforce. This does not just include human to human, but products made or assembled by employees under the influence are at greater risk of malfunctioning in some way.
Discovering an employee is using drugs is not something for which we hope; but, it may be the first step in helping that individual find it.
That reason alone should make any additional costs incurred to ensure you are testing for expanded opiates very worthwhile indeed.