Sunday, August 11, 2013

Going for Employment? You will probably be drug tested. What you should know.

Gainful employment is exciting, rewarding, and is patriotic.  Being able to support oneself and family without public assistance is quite patriotic in this present economy where so many are under-employed or out of work completely.  Seeking employment can be stressful as well as hard work.
Once a position is offered to a candidate a series of checks are completed by the employer to make sure the candidate is who they say they are and meets hiring standards for that organization.  Credit checks, criminal record background checks, driving records, credential checks can all be included in the checks process.  Commonly one of the hiring standards is a no drug policy but can include no tobacco use as well.  Many organizations will send perspective employees to a reference lab to have specimens collected for drug screen testing.  Many health care facilities will perform some or all of the screening tests within the organization facilities.  What you must know is if you are abusing drugs you will test positive.  If the organization has a No Smoking policy screening tests for tobacco use may be performed as well.  Perspective applicants will be rejected based on the outcome of these screening tests.

The Drug Screen:  Drug screens can vary by laboratory or what an employer is specifically looking for as abused drugs or for prescription drug use.  Years ago there was a great amount of folklore about drug testing, what can cause a false positive, how to avoid testing positive when abusing, and even common dietary intake that can cause a false positive.  Today, drug testing is very sophisticated and thorough.  The most common drugs of abuse employers test applicants for are:
  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine 
  • Methamphetamine (also Ecstasy)
  • Benzodiazepines (Valium)
  • Methadone and Opiates (also Heroin)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • ETOH (Alcohol/booze)
Some employers are taking a no tobacco use stance and are within their rights to refuse employment to any applicants testing positive for tobacco use.  Unfortunately, for tobacco users the test for tobacco use is very inexpensive, very accurate, and very sensitive.  A urine specimen is all that is required to test for the tobacco metabolite Cotinine.  Blood nicotine or the metabolite cotinine can linger in the blood stream of a smoker for weeks.  Urine tests can detect cotinine for several weeks to more than a month after a person ceases exposure.  I say exposure because it does not matter whether the tobacco products are inhaled, pipped, chewed, patched, E-Cig, or the exposure can be environmental (2nd hand smoke).

Employer administered drug tests can be performed on blood, urine or both.  Rarely will employers go through the expense of testing saliva or hair.  Hair testing although expensive, can show exposure to what ever is tested for up to six months or more. Some employers can use a reference lab to administer the testing or the employer themselves can use a disposable testing cup which has testing strips contained that will screen for many different drugs of abuse.  Some of these products are available to general public so individuals can test themselves or minor loved ones for the presence of drugs.  The tests available in whatever format or testing medium are accurate, reliable, and sensitive.  If you are going to be drug tested and have used any of the drugs being tested for within the last 24 hours - Bingo you are going to score a big positive.  If drug use was in the last 24-48 hours you may or may not score a positive.  Depending on the drug type, half-life of drug metabolism, etc. a positive screen can occur within the last 2 weeks of exposure or intake.  Alcohol dissipates rather quickly from the body and may not be detected  in less than 24 hours after last exposure.

What should you do if you are accepting an offer of employment?  Expect that you will be screened for drug use.  Expect that if abusing, you are going to score a positive.  If you think you will be able to "fool" the test(s) and/or prepare to test negative while abusing; don't fool yourself.  Drinking large quantities of water to "dilute", excessively exercising, taking other drugs to mask drug abuse,  substituting, are all methods that can get you into hot water.  Testing methods are sophisticated.  Facilities used during the specimen collection process are prepared before the arrival of the applicant and checked after the collection process is complete.  The screen testing available today is inexpensive.  If urine drug screening tests are administered, precautions taken to prevent a non-legitimate or adulterated sample being submitted  are many, well thought out, and will include prevention methods just short of direct observation of the specimen collection process.  Although, direct observation of the urine collection is not out of the question.  I we can walk into a public restroom and pee into a urinal or toilet in font of bystanders, then a supervised urine submission is not out of the question.  Blood testing is 100% impossible to fool the testing via an adulterated specimen because there is a medical person (phlebotomist or nurse) actually performing the needle stick to collect blood directly into blood collection tubes.

The bottom line is if you are seeking employment and are really serious about landing that job if offered to you; stop abusing well before you start looking for a job.  Once an application is submitted for employment the process can progress slowly or rapidly escalate to an offer depending on the needs of the employer and the efficiency of the hiring process.  Don't be caught off guard. Don't abuse.  Commonly, once the offer is made, the applicant is given a period of time to submit to testing and usually that time period is 3 days or less especially if you have to go to a collection facility for the testing to be performed at a clinical reference lab.  Usually, an offer will not be made at the end of a week.  This would give an abusing applicant 2-3 days extra to clean up.  During my search for my current job, immediately after my 2nd interview I was asked to submit to drug testing by the hiring manager.  Before I had left the premises just minutes after the interview ended, I had submitted both blood and urine samples for the screening tests.  I had nothing to worry about.  Now, how embarrassing would it been if I said "no I cannot submit samples that day - I will come back though".  I could have said no.  But, that would probably have jeopardized my efforts of becoming employed.  That is what you can expect if seeking employment at a health care facility especially one prepared and equipped to perform the testing on site.

Bottom line - don't abuse, be clean and be proud to pass a drug test when asked to submit.

Take care friends - be clean

Scott R. Mayorga A.S.S, BS MT(ASCP)H CLS


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