Last updated: May 29, 2023
On April 7, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it wants comments regarding proposed revisions to both the urine and oral fluid drug tests. The HHS is accepting comments on the revisions through June 6, 2022.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) must follow the HHS scientific guidelines for DOT-regulated drug testing laboratory procedures. Therefore, the HHS encourages the involvement of employers of the safety-sensitive workforce. Once the comment period has ended, the HHS makes its final ruling. However, the DOT gets a final say on the matter too. It conducts its own rulemaking following the HHS’s final decision.
Make your voice heard
The DOT wants to get the word out regarding the proposed changes to the oral fluid and urine drug tests. After all, the regulations put in place heavily affect employers of the safety-sensitive workforce.
The Department urges employers, employees, and testing service providers to make themselves aware of the HHS proposals. Then, if you have any views or concerns, leave a comment between now and June 6th. Just click the “submit a comment” button and follow the instructions.
You can also submit comments by regular mail. Your written comments need to refer to the file code SAMHSA 2022-0001.
Mail comments to:
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Division of Workplace Programs
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 16N02
Rockville, MD 20857
Please mail your comment soon enough with sufficient time allowed for SAMHSA to receive it before the close of the comment period. Mail overnight or express mail comments to the same address.
If you live close by, you’re welcome to deliver your comments by June 6, 2022. However, access to the SAMHSA building is secure, so you need to call (240) 276-2600 in advance to schedule your arrival.
Your comment will be available for public viewing. SAMHSA posts comments in their entirety, including any personal or confidential business information.
Proposed urine drug test changes
The proposed changes to the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs using Urine include:
- Establishing a process to annually publish the authorized drug testing panel to be used for Federal workplace drug testing programs;
- Revising the definition of a substituted specimen to include specimens with a biomarker concentration inconsistent with that established for a human specimen;
- To establish a process for publishing an authorized biomarker testing panel for Federal workplace drug testing programs;
- Revise the morphine confirmatory test cutoff;
- Changing the Medical Review Officer (MRO) verification process for positive codeine and morphine specimens;
- And requiring MROs to submit semiannual reports to the Secretary or designated HHS representative regarding positive and negative laboratory results;
- Additionally, some changes in wording have been made to the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs using Oral Fluid for clarity and consistency.
MRO guidelines regarding opiates
The MRO plays a very significant role in the federally regulated workplace drug testing program. It includes performing the review of laboratory results and any supporting documentation. They are also responsible for interviewing the donor when necessary and making a final determination of the test result in question.
The proposed revisions regarding the detection of codeine or morphine have to do with whether or not the current decision point should be changed. The change is being considered due to the role that poppy seed food products can play in someone testing positive for opiates.
The debate has raged for decades now as to whether or not eating poppy seeds before a drug test could cause a positive result. Many recipes include poppy seeds as an ingredient in bagels, cakes, and curries, for example. However, doing so rarely results in urine opiate concentrations above the 2,000 ng/mL cutoff specifications.
It seems that might not be the case if the products contain poppy seeds that were raw or unwashed. It’s possible that those poppy seeds can contain enough opiates to cause positive drug test results.
In addition, the HHS reviewed information relating to 12 reported deaths related to using tea prepared with unwashed poppy seeds. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a warning back in 2019 stating that unwashed poppy seeds were a danger to the user and may result in death.
The HHS has determined that the reviewed information doesn’t warrant a change in the test levels. If you think differently, your comment could make a difference in the decision.
Wording change is an addition
Regarding changes to wording, the HHS proposes rewording the section that states that ingesting marijuana food products is not an acceptable medical explanation for a positive marijuana test. They plan to add “and poppy seeds containing codeine and/or morphine” to the verbiage.
The HHS is proposing changes to the federally mandated urine and oral fluid drug tests to make the workplace—and our highways—safer for everyone.
When someone is impaired by drug use—even unintentionally—they risk being involved in an accident. They could bring harm to themselves or anyone around them. Drug testing employees who work in the safety-sensitive workforce helps ensure that the public—which includes families like yours and mine—is safe while traveling the roads and highways across the nation.
What do you think about the revisions proposed by the HHS? Get involved. Leave a comment.