Last updated: October 2, 2023
If you’re considering implementing a drug-free or zero-tolerance protocol, you may be considering which testing method to use. How long it takes to administer a drug test may be one of the questions you’d like answered.
Employee drug testing is an important element in promoting workplace safety. Some employees view it as if their employer is “out to get them.” Of course, those would probably be the ones that abuse drugs, however, that’s really not the case at all.
First of all, whether or not your company requires employees to leave the workplace for testing is a consideration. However, you also have the option of having the drug test being performed on-site. Mobile drug testing is becoming more and more popular. It’s a great time-saving approach.
There are four types of drug tests used for drug testing employees. They can detect all types of drugs. No matter what type of drug test used, it takes a few minutes for identification purposes and for the technician to explain the process.
Urine drug test
The majority of employers use the urine test. The United States Congress recognized the need for drug and alcohol testing in the transportation industry, prompting them to pass the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act in 1991. Consequently, the Department of Transportation began requiring employers of certain safety-sensitive workforce to administer urine drug tests under the DOT drug testing program.
The majority of employers of the general workforce followed their lead.
They are cost-effective and highly accurate. Depending on the drug, they detect drug metabolites retained in the body for up to 30 days. Urine test results are also admissible in court. The urine test is now so commonplace that employees and prospective employees expect one if they hear the words “drug test.”
The length of time that it takes to administer varies, only because it depends on the amount of time that it takes the employee to provide a specimen. If someone suffers from shy bladder syndrome, for instance, it can be difficult for them to do so. The test requires about one and one-half ounces of urine. If they are unable to provide the required specimen amount, they will be asked to remain at the test sight for up to three hours in hopes they will get the job done.
Employees that provide the specimen immediately complete the documentation process and are free to return to work immediately.
The technician delivers the specimen to the laboratory for testing. Employers obtain the results in about 72 hours.
Mouth swab drug test
The mouth swab drug test is also called a saliva drug test. These tests are cost-effective and are becoming more widely used. They are often the choice of employers hoping to discover recent drug use. These tests provide drug detection for a period of up to 24 hours prior to the test.
These tests are very non-invasive. The swab is placed in the employee’s mouth between their cheek and lower gum. It remains until saturated with saliva. The process takes approximately three minutes depending on the amount of saliva in the mouth. The tech completes the documentation process and employees are free to leave.
Laboratory results are typically received within 72 hours.
Hair follicle drug test
Hair follicle tests detect all drug use for a period of 90 days. The only exception is if an employee or job applicant has used drugs for the first time within a few days of testing. Drug metabolites are stored in the body. Some of them find their way to the hair follicle. It takes a few days for them to begin to grow out into the hair shaft.
Once they do, they leave a permanent record of drug use. Human hair grows approximately one-half inch a month. Lab technicians cut the hair to a length of one and one-half inches. Thus, the 90 day detection period. However, if requested, longer detection periods are possible.
The test consists of snipping a small amount of hair (about the thickness of a pencil) as close to the scalp as possible. The employee completes the documentation process and heads back to work.
Blood tests are more expensive than other drug tests. They are also the most intrusive method used for employee drug testing. That’s due to the needles, of course. For these reasons, employers rarely use them for employee drug testing. However, workmen’s comp insurance agents often request them if a catastrophic claim is filed. Some employers also require them for post-accident testing.
These tests are unique in that they detect the parent drug rather than drug metabolites. This makes them extremely effective in detecting current impairment.
Drawing blood requires a qualified technician and administering the test in a proper setting is mandatory. It can take up to a week to receive the results.
The decision is yours
If you employ the general workforce, you’re free to choose the type of employee drug testing used in your company. The amount of time it takes to administer the test or receive results is of little comparison when considering the benefits. However, if you have further questions, contacting a drug testing company is the quickest way to obtain answers.
Many also offer assistance with establishing your drug-free or zero-tolerance policies and procedures. Management training to learn the procedures and recognize signs of drug impairment is another advantage of hiring a drug testing company. They may also offer employee courses regarding the dangers of drug use.
Educating employees on the benefits of living a drug-free life rather than taking a chance of living the life of a drug addict will let them know that you aren’t out to penalize a drug user. Instead, it enforces the fact that drug use is far more dangerous than pleasurable. The risks far outweigh the “fun.”
Not only can it be the reason employees choose not to do drugs. It can be the cause for someone that has a problem to seek help. If an employee comes to you with a confession, help them. Losing a job due to popping positive on a drug test is quite an eye-opener. Having resources available might make all the difference.
You don’t have to assume the cost of their rehabilitation, however, your employee insurance policy can certainly include it.