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2010 Trends in Drug Screening

Submitted by Acxiom Information Security Services, Inc., September 2010

More Than Just a Weed-Out Policy
Employees who see random tests carried out on a regular basis are more likely to curtail their use of recreational drugs – but they may not stop. Organizations that utilize random or "surprise" tests should have their policies thoroughly reviewed by legal counsel and conduct self-audits periodicallyi to ensure everyone in the organization is treated fairly. Employers should also carefully consider return-to-work policies and determine what treatment and continuing care should be made available to employees. Many employers believe workers can return safely to the workplace after certain conditions have been met.ii

Employers should always feel welcome to ask their drug screening providers for guidance or samples of employer policies that work in the real world.

Medical Review Officer Services
As prescription and over-the-counter drugs change, so do the ways in which they affect screening results. Reputable drug screening providers may utilize the latest testing methods and provide clients with complete medical review officer services – so when a test result is returned "positive," employers can feel confident that they have accurate information.

A medical review officer provides more than a required signature for an organization’s drug testing compliance. The officer is required to evaluate positive tests and to confirm by different methods if a legal, medical explanation exists for the result – in which case, the test result must be reported as negative.iii The medical review officer also ensures that a firm’s procedures respect the dignity of the individual, maintains confidentiality of medical information and upholds the required medical and scientific standards so employers can be confident their drug screening policies are legally sound. This provides the best possible protection for workers, customers and partners.

Keeping Employers Rolling
In many regulated industries, such as interstate trucking and mass transit, Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations require drug testing and also mandate that drug testing programs employ a physician to act as the medical review officer. Proposed changes in 2010 include following the Health and Human Services (HHS) requirements for both testing procedures and the drugs to be included in tests. This alignment with HHS requirements could result in the possible addition of MDMA ("Ecstasy"), lower cutoff levels for cocaine and amphetamine and conducting mandatory initial testing for heroin.iv

As DOT contractors roll ahead, keeping pace with changes in drug testing policies promises to be a constant challenge. Employers should not be surprised by new DOT regulations and reporting forms, such as those going into effect later this year.v

iWright, CR. Drug Testing Trends and State Law Activity. Human Resources 2007, Thompson Publishing. Accessed here.

iiUnited States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration website, content copyright 2007 and accessed 3/24/10 here.

iiiClark HW. The Role of Physicians as Medical Review Officers. Western Journal of Medicine, 1990. Accessed 3/26/10 here.

ivOffice of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance, Department of Transportation website news page updated 3/11/2010 and accessed 3/26/10 here.

vOffice of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance, Department of Transportation website news page updated 3/11/2010 and accessed 3/26/10 here.

Topics: Background Checks and Drug Screening