Last updated: September 25, 2023
Not a day goes by where the news doesn’t report about America’s growing opiate epidemic. That has caused a marked increase across all demographics in heroin use for a drug once found mainly in poor, inner cities.
This poses a challenging situation for employers operating under the standards of the Department of Transportation, as a DOT drug test does not test for heroin. Most standard panels do, however, including the 5 panel, 10 panel, and 12 panel drug tests. The DOT drug test identifies the use of marijuana, opiates and opioids, PCP, cocaine, and amphetamines. Employers outside of the DOT are free to use any panel they wish, with the obvious differences among the tests being the cost and number of drugs identified.
Weeding out employees who use heroin leads to a safer, more productive work environment, and having a written drug testing policy is essential in accomplishing that.
Reasons to conduct a heroin drug test
There are five reasons a manager, supervisor, or employer may want to test a member of their workforce for drug use, including pre-employment, random, after-accident, reasonable suspicion, and return to duty. It’s important for both leadership and the workforce to have and follow a drug policy that is fair, reasonable, easy to understand, and complies with laws at all levels of jurisdiction, especially for multi-state corporations
Pre-employment drug test
In order to eliminate problems before they occur, an employer may perform a pre-employment drug test. This happens when you would expect it to—during the application phase of the employment process. This encourages a good workplace environment by immediately setting the ground rules of working for that company and filtering out would be drug users from ever setting foot in your workplace.
Random drug test
Random drug tests are perfect for creating a workplace environment that is perpetually free of drug use, thus providing a safer and more productive workforce. If an employee knows that they can be tested for drug use at any point in time, they will be less likely to use drugs.
Post-accident drug test
If an employee has an accident, the employer should (or may be required to) conduct a post-accident drug test. The company needs to be able to identify any root causes that led to an accident, including, the effects of drugs. The post-accident drug test discourages drug use as the employee is aware of the consequences, namely suspension and/or termination.
Reasonable suspicion drug test
A supervisor is allowed to give a drug test on the spot, provided the employee is giving off certain cues. These cues include, but are not limited to odors, movements, behavior, and emotions. The company’s drug testing policy should document the cues that would lead to a reasonable suspicion drug test.
Return to duty
After an employee tests positive for drugs, maybe after an accident or during a random drug test, an employer may administer a return to duty drug test. This is an absolute imperative to employees returning to roles where safety is a top concern. This lets the employer know if the worker has used since the previous positive test.
DOT drug test
The Department of Transportation has specific requirements for employers operating under the auspices of the DOT. The biggest difference between DOT employers and non-DOT employers is that employers operating under the auspices of the DOT are absolutely mandated and governed by the Department of Transportation regulations.
How is a heroin drug test conducted
There are many methods today for conducting a drug test, and each vary in terms of expense, convenience, and time. Employers who do not operate under the conditions of the DOT are free to use any methods they feel fit their circumstances. In contrast, DOT employers are mandated to use the urine drug test.
Mouth swab drug test
Popular for its convenience, the mouth swab drug test is as simple as it is fast. The test can be conducted at literally any location, including in the presence of other employees. With its narrow window for detecting drug use, this test is ideal for identifying recent drug use.
Here’s how it works: A collection specialist will arrive on site and swipe a sterile cotton swab along the inside of the candidate’s mouth to gather a saliva sample. This sample then goes into an envelope where the results will either be delivered instantly on site or taken to a lab and reported through our secure reporting portal.
Hair follicle drug test
The next most convenient drug test on this list, the hair follicle test, is a powerful option because it offers a much wider detection window—up to 90 days. This is another test that can be performed on site, but that comes with the concern among some employees who may not want their hair cut. Should these concerns arise, a hair sample may be collected from another part of the body.
To perform this test, the collection specialist arrives on site, and collects a hair sample from as close to the scalp as possible. This sample then gets placed into a plastic envelope and is taken to the lab for testing.
Urine drug test
One of the most common methods, the urine drug test is also the most inconvenient. The reason for this is two-fold. First, it requires a private bathroom that can be secured through the duration of the drug test, which may interrupt business operations. The second is that the collection specialist must be of the same sex.
Here’s how it works: The candidate urinates into a plastic cup, placing a tamper-resistant cap on top, followed by an adhesive label for extra evidence that the sample hasn’t been tampered with. The collector then either tests the sample on site or delivers it to the lab.
Please note: The urine drug test is the only method approved for DOT drug testing.
How an injury can lead to heroin abuse
Most people first begin taking opiate painkillers like OxyContin or Percocet as prescribed by a doctor after a surgery or an injury. They are not usually warned about the serious side-effects or powerful addiction that comes with these pills.
Healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
When their prescription runs out, even after taking painkillers exactly as prescribed, they may begin experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours, and because of federal laws, it’s often difficult if not impossible to refill depending on the circumstances.
Withdrawal occurs after stopping or dramatically reducing opiate drugs after heavy or prolonged use. Symptoms of withdrawal can last for up to a week and may include: agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia, runny nose, sweating, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, dilated pupils, goose bumps, nausea, and vomiting.
Unable to manage their pain or withdrawal symptoms, a growing number of people have started turning to heroin, a drug in the same family as opiate painkillers, as a replacement. While easier and cheaper to obtain, users can’t be certain of the purity or strength, putting them at greater risk of overdose. This has lead to a shocking increase in criminal charges and overdoses related to heroin.
The death rate from heroin overdose has doubled from 2010 to 2012.