Last updated: October 2, 2023
Every workplace has a culture as well as a set of rules and regulations that govern how employees should conduct themselves while within the work environment. There are also habits that are simply inappropriate and are to be avoided regardless of the organization or industry in which an employee works. For instance, drug use has been found to have a negative impact on safety and productivity in the workplace. However, the effects of substance abuse on the job are far-reaching, affecting both the employer and employees.
Effects on the employer
Drug use in the workplace can affect employers in a number of ways. When employees use drugs while on duty, there is likely to be increased cases of theft, employees sleeping on the job or reporting late to work, decreased efficiency and poor decision making. There is also a chance that employers will experience low morale of co-workers, high turnover that leads to increased costs of training new employees as well as higher costs relating to drug testing programs and disciplinary procedures. In the end, this could impact on the profits of the company.
Effects on employees
The effects of drug use among employees include long working hours, low job satisfaction, high stress levels, fatigue, isolation, irregular shifts, periods of inactivity and boredom as well as remote or abusive supervision. Lack of concentration, impaired judgment and other effects of drugs will also lead to more accidents, injuries and fatalities in the workplace. Such habits can also result in trouble with co-workers or illegal activities like selling illicit drugs in the workplace.
Drug screening and testing – Urine drug test
While it is important for employers, hiring professional and HR managers to familiarize themselves with common signs of workplace drug use, it is equally important to conduct drug screening and testing exercises periodically. Urine drug test is a method of checking for drug traces and metabolites by analyzing urine samples. Also known as a urine drug screen, this test is painless and can be used to detect the presence of a wide range of drugs and substances. Today, the urine drug test is the only method that is approved for use in DOT drug testing.
How does a urine drug test work?
As much as most employers will have urine drug tests done at their place of business, the tests are usually supervised by drug-testing laboratories outsourced by the company. The subjects are given the specimen cup and instructed by a qualified technician on how the sample should be acquired. In most cases, collection of the specimen will involve placing the cup in the stream of urine. The specimen is then given to the technician who labels and processes it.
The specimen is then taken to a laboratory where the actual testing is done. A test strip made of an absorbent material is immersed in the urine sample and left for a few minutes. In case the sample collected does not contain the drug metabolites being tested for, special molecules in the sample will react with drug-specific antibodies in the strip to turn color. If the molecules do not turn color, it means that the urine sample contains the specific drug that is being tested for.
If a urine drug test is to be considered to be reliable, the lab technician supervising the process has to maintain a detailed account known as a chain of custody form. This involves keeping an accurate record of how the urine sample was handled and stored right from when the specimen was collected to the time it is disposed after the tests.
Advantages of the test
A urine drug test is associated with a number of advantages, a factor that partly explains why it is a preferred drug test among employers.
- A urine drug test is non-invasive in nature, relatively hassle-free and comfortable for the subjects.
- The detection time for a number of drugs is quite long when using a urine drug test. This makes it more reliable than other methods of checking for drug use.
- Since the actual tests are done in SAMHSA-approved laboratories, the test involves standard procedures and cut-off levels. This means that the test will yield positive results only if the subject actively used the substance being tested for.
- The results obtained from a urine drug test are not only reliable but also defensible. The accurate values produced reduce the chances of legal challenges and court cases in case the subject wants to dispute them.
- The standard procedures involved throughout the process mean that there will be witnesses during collection of specimen, drug testing in the laboratory and when the Medical Review Officer reviews the results. The experts involved verify that the process followed the required procedures and can testify whenever there is need.
Disadvantages of a urine drug test
For all the advantages associated with urine drug tests, the method is not without a few disadvantages.
- Employees who are guilty can alter or tamper with urine specimens with a view to passing the drug test. This can be done through adulteration, dilution or substituting urine samples.
- Depending on the proximity of the collection site to urban areas, result turnaround could be as long as 48 hours.
- In case the set out standards are not adhered, subjects can choose to challenge the results obtained from such a test.
- It can be difficult to conduct the test and obtain results if the subject cannot produce urine when required to give a sample.
Drugs that can be identified
- Synthetic marijuana
- Opiates/ opioids
- Ecstasy (MDMA)
- Crystal meth
- Rohypnol (roofies)
THC – a urine drug test can detect the presence of THC in a subject’s system for up to 3 to 4 days in case of casual use and 6 to 11 weeks when it’s a case of chronic use.
Benzodiazepines – the detection window for this substance is as long as 6 weeks when testing a urine sample.
Barbiturates – a urine drug test can check for the use of barbiturates for as long as 6 weeks after it was consumed.
Cocaine – the detection time for cocaine is up to a maximum of 22 days after the drug has been consumed.
PCP – with PCP, a urine drug test will show traces of the drug for up to 8 days in case of casual use and 30 days for chronic use.
Methadone – the maximum detection window for methadone is between 2 and 3 days after it has been used.
Amphetamines – when testing urine samples, the presence of amphetamine can be detected for up to 2 days.
Ecstasy – the drug testing timeline for ecstasy is 2 days at most.
Codeine – the maximum period within which codeine can be detected in the system using this method is 1 to 2 days.
Heroin – urine drug test can check for heroin use for up to a maximum of 1 to 2 days.
LSD – the maximum length of the detection window for LSD is 8 hours.
Alcohol – a urine drug test can check for alcohol use for a maximum of 1.5 hours.