Urinalysis—the most common type of drug testing. Not only that, but it’s the recommended method according to SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) guidelines because of its proven accuracy, reliability, and fairness. It’s not being done for medical reasons, but a urine test is used exclusively in federally regulated programs precisely because of how effective it is in diagnosis.
Most people have been through a urine drug test at one time or another because of how often it’s used in drug screening. When an employer puts together a drug free workplace program, selecting the type of test to be used is only one part of the process. Mobile drug testing companies exceed at handling all aspects, from start to finish. Chain of custody has to be continuous, the custodian of test results has to be educated on proper confidentiality protocol, and the procedure has to be outlined for employees. Post-testing resources are also an option, including EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) if the employer decides to offer them to employees.
When an employee reports for urine drug testing, it may be to an off-site laboratory or more effectively, to a collection expert from a mobile drug testing company who has arrived at the workplace. Information is the first part of the collection process. The collector makes sure the samples will match the specimen and then the donor (employee) is asked to remove any jackets and heavy clothing and display the contents of their pockets and wallet or purse. Sometimes those items need to be left at the collection site in a secured location (like a lock box) until the collection process is complete.
On occasion there are items that appear to be brought with the intention of tampering with the specimen being given, but the collector doesn’t stop the process. In a DOT (Department of Transportation) test, for example, the collection would continue under direct observation. The collector tells the donor about the process, who then provides the specimen.
If the collection expert examines the sample and it’s in the correct temperature range and looks and smells like urine, then it’s transferred to plastic bottles and sealed in the presence of the donor, who initials the bottle seals and starts the chain of custody. The collector provides the donor with a copy of the CCF (Custody and Control Form) and the donor can return to work right away in the case of a mobile drug test performed in a mobile lab on-site. Once the sample reaches the lab, it’s tested and the results will be offered to the employer’s selected custodian, where decisions are made.
What types of drugs the lab screens is predetermined. For example, USAMDT’s 5 panel drug test screens for five different types of drugs. It’s the most common panel, so it follows that the drugs tested tend to be the 5 most common types—amphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP). Those aren’t the only drugs being abused in the workplace, however, so a 10 panel test might be used. A 10 panel test adds more of the most commonly abused drugs —barbiturate, benzodiazepine, methaqualone, propoxyphene and the synthetic opiates hydrocodone, methadone, and oxycodone.
DOT drug testing falls under federal regulations because of the nature of the work done by the employees. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) outlines the kinds of drugs required by the government. The list looks like the 5 panel drug test—marijuana, cocaine, opiates (including opium and codeine derivatives), amphetamine and methamphetamine, and phencyclidine (PCP). In addition, breathalyzer tests are required for alcohol, and emergency testing services are often handled by mobile drug testing companies in the case of accidents. An employer can still test for other drugs in a non-DOT test, but in that case it must be done entirely separate from the DOT testing program.
There’s a reason urinalysis is the federally required method of testing. It’s more reliable and accurate. It does require access to a private and secure restroom, but the effectiveness of a urine test more than makes up for that small part of planning.
Urine drug testing provides the lab with a specimen of metabolized chemicals. Hair drug tests or hair follicle drug tests do give a longer picture of abuse, but when drugs show up in urine, the testers can be sure that the drugs were used recently. Hair and follicle testing is also much more expensive and in the case of DOT testing, would have to be performed in addition to urinalysis, not just in place of it.
Testing oral fluids most often requires an immunoassay test, which means the samples either test positive or negative for drugs. Positive test results are then further investigated with chromatographic methods for identifying specific compounds. An oral drug test can always be monitored. A mouth swab drug test only takes a few moments, but do offer shorter windows than in urine tests. A saliva drug test that detects compounds from 5 to 48 hours after use, for example, wouldn’t stand up to the length of time (36 hours to 4 days) that urinalysis provides. Oral fluid testing is also not yet as sensitive as urine testing and it’s more expensive.
Urinalysis provides a longer window of detection than blood or oral fluid and is cheaper to implement than testing hair. There is no question when drugs show up in urine that it’s been metabolized by the body, so positive tests are much more reliable. It’s not just legal—it’s required by the government and unlike blood or oral fluid, it doesn’t require a physically invasive procedure.
If you would like to speak to one of our certified compliance specialists about managing a testing program, get in touch with us at 800-851-2021 or contact us online today.