DRUG TESTING IN THE PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SECTORS
More and more often, you are likely to see the statement, “Employment is
contingent upon a negative drug test” on your initial application form. You will probably
not hear more on the topic until after a job offer has been extended. In the majority of
situations, companies extend an offer and make it contingent upon you passing a drug
test; however, it varies by state and you will have to check the labor laws for a particular
state. Many states have drug testing laws that determine what an employer can and
cannot do. For more information, you may want to use internet resources, such as the
U.S. Department of Labor (www.dol.gov/asp/programs/drugs/workingpartners ) and
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;
http://workplace.samhsa.gov), to research the policies concerning your potential
employment. (www.ohsinc.com, www.usdoj.gov/dea, http://forums.monster.com)
FACING THE TEST
Be prepared for the possibility that you may be asked to take a drug test before
being hired. Employers can refuse to hire you if you do not take the test. Be sure to check
the state drug test laws , because unless an offer of employment has been extended
contingent upon a negative drug test, it is illegal in some states to ask someone to take a
HOW THE TESTING IS DONE
Individuals have a right to privacy, confidentiality, and accuracy in testing if the
employer tests for drugs. Policies for drug screening vary from one employer to another
and the employer should have a written drug testing policy readily available to
candidates. Different kinds of tests are available and many states have laws that dictate
which may and may not be used. There are a number of biological specimens that can be
collected and tested for drugs. Urine is the only specimen collected for Federally
regulated workplace drug testing and for private sector programs that use the Federal
Standards. Testing hair specimens is becoming more common in some unregulated,
private sector programs. Oral fluids and sweat are also used in some testing programs.
Non-instrumented, on-site test devices are available for screening of urine and oral fluids.
The technologies of hair, oral fluids, sweat and non-instrumented, on-site drug testing are
not currently approved for use in Federally regulated workplaces; however, the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through its Division of
Workplace Programs and Drug Testing Advisory Board (DTAB) is testing, in partnership
with industry, the accuracy of these other specimens and devices.
Drug testing can be done in three ways: immediate-results devices, which display drug
test results in 3-5 minutes, off-site specimen collections utilizing clinics or other
collection sites near your locations , or by on-site specimen collection, where trained Drug
Test Technicians go to the company locations, nationwide.
WHAT ARE THE CAPABILITIES OF DRUG TESTING?
Drug testing provides an objective or impartial measure of drug use and can
detect the presence of most drugs within 72 hours of use. After this window has passed,
most drugs become undetectable. Marijuana is the exception to this rule. It can be
detected in urine for up to 30 days. Most drug tests cannot identify previous use or drug
dependence. Drug tests can only stipulate whether an individual has used a particular
DO’S AND DON’TS FOR THE DRUG TESTING
DO take the test. You definitely will not receive an offer with a refusal.
DO take drug screening seriously. Applicants who test positive for drug use or who admit
to use illegal drugs may be screened out of the job immediately.
DO find out what the drug screening procedures and requirements are. Check with
employers directly and with people who work with them.
DO know the company’s policy on retesting.
DO make a list of all the medications you have taken in the last six months. The person
collecting the specimen will not ask you for your prescription drugs, that is a violation of
the Right to Privacy Act; however, the Medical Review Officer (a doctor) has the right to
ask you those questions, and will call you and ask you about any drugs that showed up in
your drug screen. Some prescription or over-the-counter drugs you are taking can result
in a false-positive test.
DO find out what type of laboratory testing is done to ensure fair and accurate procedures
are in place.
DON’T have poppy seeds or any food with poppy seeds because they may cause you to
have a false positive for opium or morphine.
DON’T plan to dilute a urine sample at the test site. “Observed” testing may be used or
companies use toilet disinfections that color the water.
DON’T plan to smuggle in a drug-free sample. “Observed” testing may be used.