Last updated: March 30, 2020
Benzos, otherwise known as benzodiazepines, create a calming effect in the brain. Physicians normally prescribe them to treat things such as alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorders. Those that use the drug while at work risk testing positive on a drug test.
The Controlled Substance Act lists benzodiazepines as a Schedule 4 drug. Whether or not someone has a prescription for the drug, they should not be under their influence in the workplace. The most common side-effects are drowsiness or sleepiness. An employee impaired by benzodiazepine use is at a far greater risk of being involved in an accident.
So is every other employee that’s nearby.
If your employer tests for benzos, your busted.
So, how long do drug tests identify them?
Drug testing methods
There are three commonly used drug testing methods. They are the urine, hair follicle, and saliva drug tests.
Blood testing is also an option, however, it’s very expensive, extremely intrusive, and has a very short detection period compared to other tests. Blood tests identify the parent drug rather than drug metabolites, though, so employers often reserve their use for post-accident testing. Proving or disproving drug impairment at the time of the accident is useful information for investigators.
Urine drug test
The urine drug test is the most cost-effective and widely used employee drug test on the market. That may be due in part to the fact that the DOT has exclusively used the urine test for all safety-sensitive employees. That’s about to change, however, because the HHS released oral fluid testing guidelines that go into effect January 1, 2020. Employers now have an option when testing their safety-sensitive workforce.
Moreover, a DOT request to replace the urine test with the hair follicle drug test is currently passing through the chain-of-command with no resistance. It’s possible that the urine test may eventually lose its #1 ranking, but it will probably take a while. Currently, over 90% of the 55 million drug tests submitted for evaluation each year are urine tests.
This test identifies benzodiazepines for various lengths of time depending on the type of drug. Some forms of the drug, such as Valium and Nordiazepam, remain in the system for up to 10 days. Others, Xanax, Librium, or Klonopin, for example, are identified for up to 5 days. Lastly, urine tests identify short-acting forms of the drug, Halcion or Dalmane, for just 2 days.
Saliva drug test
This test is also called the oral fluids or mouth swab test. Employers often choose this test when trying to determine recent drug use. It detects most drugs within minutes of use and is often used for random or even post-accident testing when warranted.
Saliva tests identify drugs for a shorter length of time than the urine test. Benzodiazepines show up with a positive result for about two and a half days.
Hair follicle drug test
The hair follicle drug test is unique in that it detects any and all drug use for three months! It’s more expensive than the urine or saliva tests, but the extended detection period makes the cost factor less relevant to many employers. In fact, some employers in the trucking industry willingly incur the added expense of using both the DOT required test method and the hair test as well.
Drug metabolites store themselves throughout the body until they are excreted. Those that wind up in hair follicles grow out into the hair shaft leaving a permanent record of drug use.
Varied detection times
We mentioned above that the type of benzodiazepine that one ingests affects the amount of time its identified on a drug test. It also makes sense that the dosage amount and how often one takes the drug effects the length of time it remains in the body. Moreover, the type of drug test taken also plays a part.
There are other factors, though, that come into play regarding how long a certain individual retains drugs in their system.
- Metabolism—Overall, our DNA has the most to do with it. The way we metabolize is the way we metabolize. It’s specific to our unique DNA make-up. There’s nothing we can do about it.
- Body mass—Drug metabolites collect en masse in the fat cells, therefore, someone who is heavier is likely to retain the drug longer.
- Age—Our metabolism tends to slow down as we grow older.
- Overall health—A healthy body functions better than an unhealthy one.
What’s the buzz about?
The buzz is that there’s not one.
Rather than experiencing an intense burst of energy and feelings of euphoria, benzodiazepines induce a sense of blissful serenity. Sadly, abusers increase their chance of death by overdose when mixing any form of benzos with opioids or alcohol to intensify their effect.
Let’s cut to the chase
The Controlled Substance Act lists benzodiazepines as a Schedule 4 drug. They’re highly addictive, moreover, our bodies quickly develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines requiring a higher dosage to achieve the desired effect.
Users who abuse the drug quickly develop a dependence on it and suffer withdrawal effects when discontinuing use.
- Aches and pains
- Muscle spasms
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Abnormal body sensations
- Grand Mal seizures
- Delirium or detachment from reality
The reason we drug test
Every employee deserves a safe work environment. It’s a proven fact that drugs in the workplace increase the chance of accidents. Someone impaired by drug use is likely to lose their focus and train of thought.
Accidents happen in an instant.
Employee drug testing is a useful tool to establish a drug-free workplace. And, we’ll all agree that a drug-free workplace is a safer workplace.
Employees who test positive for drugs could be forced to acknowledge that they may have a problem with their lifestyle for the very first time. Employers who are prepared to point an employee in the direction of help could be the pinpoint of light illuminating a very dark place.
Does your drug policy include giving employees a list of rehab opportunities in the area? Even if you’re not offering to pay for rehab costs, displaying concern for the employee’s well-being and encouraging them to seek professional help could give them the confidence to move forward.
We hope so.