Innovative Technology Helps Combat Drug Use

Are you looking for new ideas to improve safety? Are you seeking different results than you got last year?

As business costs continue to rise and workplace safety and health become more important than ever, organizations are looking for new techniques and programs that will have an impact on these growing concerns. Implementing an effective drug testing program is one way that organizations can control risk and reduce the costs attributed to injury and illness, insurance or workers’ compensation, and disability leave.

Drug testing is a key component to protecting the welfare of all employees. Given the fact that drug users impact the productivity, quality, and morale of a workforce, many companies have turned to various drug testing programs as an investment and a way to reduce absenteeism, accident rates, workers’ compensation, and turnover costs while increasing productivity and employee morale.

You have probably seen the statistics: Did you know that an astounding 75 percent of drug users are employed, and the U.S. Department of Labor reports that drug abuse causes 65 percent of on-the-job accidents? You may even have a urinalysis testing program in place. But how effective is a urine test when it is often referred to as an “IQ” test?

To really make an impact on your workforce this year, consider exploring innovative technologies, such as hair testing. Hair analysis is a drug testing method that many companies now rely on to identify periodic and habitual drug use by applicants or employees, especially in safety-sensitive positions. The use of hair analysis has steadily increased in private sector workplace testing, and many Fortune 500 companies have been exclusively using hair for pre-employment testing for more than a decade.

Advantages of Hair Testing
Though it may be a new concept to some, the use of hair testing for drugs of abuse was pioneered by Psychemedics Corporation more than 25 years ago. One of the distinct advantages of hair testing is the wider window of detection that it offers over alternative drug testing methods. The typical hair sample (1.5 inches cut close to the scalp) identifies drug use as far as three months back, as opposed to urinalysis, which typically detects drug use from the past 48 to 72 hours.

Most of the commonly abused drugs are rapidly excreted from the fluids of the body (blood, saliva, and urine), and this leads to a very short drug detection window. In contrast, hair acts like a tape recorder, trapping drug ingestions over time as the hair grows, and thereby providing a much longer detection period. A hair sample’s wider window of detection is a distinct advantage for employers looking to identify applicants or employees who are repeat drug users.

Hair testing is also effective because it is extremely difficult to adulterate, or tamper with, when compared to a urine test, as the entire collection process is observed. The collection and handling process is simple and easy to do because there is no handling of bodily fluids. It is important to note that while illicit drug users can abstain from drug use in the days leading up to a traditional urine drug test in an effort to “beat” the test, the approximately three-month window of detection offered by hair testing makes it very difficult to hide previous repeat drug use. Hair samples, which are not a biohazard, also can be shipped from anywhere in the world without the risk of deterioration during transit. Another advantage of the FDA-cleared screen test is that it not only detects drug use, but also can provide information on the quantity and historic pattern of individual drug use.

For employers, especially those with workers in safety-sensitive positions, it is critical to identify illicit drug users. Many employers consider hair testing to be the most effective and stringent method for creating a drug-free workplace, especially considering that the risk of loss associated with an employee under the influence of drugs often extends beyond the health and safety of the employees and into the surrounding community.