Did you know that Proper Employer Drug Testing Panels Can Help Fight the Opioid Epidemic?
Written by Lucas Kibby
A couple weeks ago, President Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law and that the United States use “more opioid pills per person than any other country by far in the world.”
However, declaring the opioid epidemic as a “national public health emergency” is a limited and not-well-funded response trying to tackle a huge problem its source. So what can employers do who fear hiring opioid abusers or worry that the opioid epidemic is affecting the workplace?
Many employers are hoping to avoid hiring opioid-addicted workers, especially in safety sensitive roles, through drug testing. However, even if these companies have pre-employment testing, their current drug test panel may not be testing for any or many of the drugs in the opioid epidemic.
That’s right, the opioid epidemic is more than just prescription pain killers (OxyContin® or Vicodin®). This is usually the gateway into of getting hooked and illegal drugs, such as heroin and Fentanyl.
It should make sense that a 10-panel drug test will screen for more drugs than a 5-panel test. However, many opioid abused drugs are not covered in a 10-test panel. In fact, many 10-panels are testing for drugs such as Methaqualone (brand name Quaalude) which is no longer commercially manufactured in the United States.
What can be done to make sure many of the opioid abused drugs are being tested in the workplace?
Employers need to make sure to drug test for synthetic opioids to ensure their drug test panel includes expanded opiates. For example, due to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) goal to harmonize with the Health and Human Services (HHS) guidelines, the DOT is proposing to add four commonly abused opioids: Hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone to the driver drug testing panel in urine tests. The drugs are generally taken as pain pills.
Since opioid abuse cost employers nationwide $16.3 billion in 2013 in disability claims and lowered productivity, business leaders should take proactive measures with drug testing.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently showed that opioid prescriptions have nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014 and prescription opioid overdose deaths increased similarly during this time period.
So, even if companies have a zero-tolerance policy, having the education component as part of their program, educating employees, and taking a proactive stance is helpful.
When updating your company’s testing panel, your drug and alcohol policy should be updated as well. In fact, your drug testing policy should be fair and reasonable, clearly stated, fully explained and understood across the company, and compliant with local, state, and federal law in the areas the company has employees. Failure to do so may lead to monetary damages and statutory penalties.
Need help updating your policy for a larger drug panel or Reasonable Suspicion? CleanFleet is a best-in-class testing service provider that can help companies with policy development from the ground up. Give us a call at 503.479.6082.