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Unveiling the Mystery: What is a Non-Regulated Drug Screen?

Regulated and non-regulated drug testing is a common practice used by employers to screen for substance abuse. Drug testing is an important preventative measure that helps employers maintain a drug-free workplace and minimize the risk of injury or accident – especially if an employee operates heavy equipment or machinery.

Regulated drug testing is a test required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for workers in regulated industries, such as commercial vehicle drivers. Non-regulated drug screening is a test given to workers in industries not regulated by the DOT, often as a condition of employment.

In this blog, we answer the question “what is a non-regulated drug screen?” and explain what these tests involve, how employers can implement a non-DOT drug testing program, and challenges and considerations for workplace drug screening.

Understanding Non-Regulated Drug Screens

Close-up of urine sample for non-DOT drug test

Let’s look at how non-regulated drug testing differs from DOT-drug testing programs.

Definition and Overview

A non-DOT drug test is implemented by employers as part of a workplace drug screening program. Unlike a regulated drug screen, employers have the freedom to choose the mode of testing – urine, saliva, or hair specimens – and select the drugs they want to test for.

Regulated drug screening, or DOT drug tests, are defined by government regulation, specifically DOT rule, 49 CFT Part 40, which describes procedures for conducting workplace drug and alcohol testing for the federally regulated transportation industry. The ruling applies to employees in the transportation industry who are in safety-sensitive jobs, such as commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

Why Non-Regulated Drug Screens are Important

Non-regulated drug screens are an essential part of ensuring workplace safety and efficiency. By filtering out substance abuse, drug testing can reduce risks associated with workplace incidents and potential damages and provide cost savings. It also protects employees and is a deterrent against drug use in the workplace.

In addition, drug screening takes the guesswork out of hiring and promotes a culture of health and wellness.

Types of Non-Regulated Drug Tests

Molecular structures representing drug compounds in non-regulated screens

Non-regulated drug screening is performed at various times during employment. Different types of tests include pre-employment drug tests, random testing, post-accident testing, and return-to-duty tests.

There are a variety of testing methods that employers can use to perform a non-regulated drug screen.

Various Testing Methods

Several methods can be used for non-regulated drug testing, including urine, blood, hair, and saliva tests. Let’s explore these four primary forms of drug tests along with their respective accuracy and detection periods:

  • Urine tests: This method is the most used for drug screening because it is convenient, painless, and cost-effective. Results are typically available within a few days, sometimes even on the same day. However, urine tests have a limited detection window, usually ranging from five to ten days after the sample collection.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests offer high accuracy and can swiftly detect illicit substances within minutes or hours. Nevertheless, they tend to be expensive and inconvenient.
  • Hair follicle tests: Considered more reliable than other drug testing forms, such as urine and blood tests, hair follicle drug screening takes advantage of the fact that drugs and their metabolites persist in the hair as it grows. This method can identify the use of various substances like cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, methamphetamines, PCP, and others. Detection times vary, with scalp hair having a window of three months and body hair extending up to a year.
  • Saliva tests: An effective alternative to urine testing, saliva tests serve as a useful backup if an individual cannot provide an adequate urine sample. They can detect drugs within a short timeframe, typically within 48 hours.

Common Drugs Test in Non-Regulated Screens

Some of the drugs that non-regulated drug tests screen for include:

  • Opiates, amphetamines, and narcotics
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Barbiturates and benzodiazepines
  • Marijuana
  • Antidepressants
  • Stimulants

The most common form of non-DOT drug screen is the five-panel test that detects cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, opioids, and PCP.

Implementing Non-Regulated Drug Screens in the Workplace

Professional non-regulated drug screening in a workplace setting

Setting up a workplace drug screening program involves careful planning and implementation to ensure compliance with regulations, fairness, and accuracy.

Setting Up a Drug Screening Program

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you establish a workplace drug screening program:

  1. Observe legal compliance: Research and understand local, state, and federal laws regarding workplace drug testing. Ensure that your program aligns with legal requirements and regulations.
  2. Define program objectives: Clearly define the objectives of your drug screening program. Determine whether you are implementing pre-employment testing, random testing, post-accident testing, or a combination.
  3. Develop a written policy: Create a comprehensive written drug-free workplace policy. Clearly communicate the purpose of the program, the types of tests used, consequences for positive results, and employees’ rights and responsibilities.
  4. Provide employee education: Educate employees about the drug-free workplace policy. Make sure they understand the reasons for testing, the procedures involved, and the potential consequences of a positive result.
  5. Select a testing method: Choose the appropriate testing methods for your program. Common methods include urine testing, blood testing, hair follicle testing, and saliva testing. Consider the nature of your workplace and the specific drugs you want to detect.
  6. Choose a testing vendor: Select a reputable, certified drug testing vendor. Ensure they comply with industry standards, maintain data privacy, and provide accurate and timely results.
  7. Establish testing procedures: Clearly outline the procedures for collecting and handling samples, maintaining confidentiality, and ensuring the integrity of the testing process. Train designated staff members on proper procedures.
  8. Employ a randomization process: If implementing random testing, establish a fair and unbiased process for selecting employees. This helps ensure that all eligible employees have an equal chance of being selected.
  9. Include a Medical Review Officer: Consider hiring a Medical Review Officer (MRO) or work with a testing partner who has a network of MROs to help interpret and review test results. An MRO ensures that there are no false positives and provides a confidential channel for employees to discuss prescription medications.
  10. Communicate results: Develop a clear process for communicating test results to employees. Respect confidentiality and provide a mechanism for employees to dispute or verify results if needed.

Benefits of Drug Screening for Employers

Drug addiction is one of the most prevalent health issues in the United States. In addition to impacting an individual’s well-being, substance use disorders (SUDs) can have profound impacts in the workplace. According to data from Recovery Centers of America, 70% of people who use illegal drugs are employed either full or part-time and 75% of them remain untreated.

In addition to health and safety concerns, SUDs inflict an annual cost of $81 billion on employers, covering healthcare expenses, disability and worker’s compensation, recruitment costs, and more.

Moreover, it is claimed that employees who test positive for drug and alcohol use are 10 to 60 percent less productive than persons who test negative.

Given these potential impacts, many employers are opting to screen job candidates and employees for drug use. Non-regulated drug screening enhances workplace safety, minimizes absenteeism, saves money, and improves employee performance and productivity.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite the benefits of non-regulated drug testing in the workplace, screening employees for drug use raises ethical, privacy, and accuracy concerns.

Ethical and Privacy Concerns

Workplace drug screening ethical and privacy concerns include the sharing of drug test data without the employee’s consent.

Be sure to research and understand local, state, and federal laws regarding workplace drug testing. Ensure that your program aligns with legal requirements and regulations, particularly as it pertains to data privacy.

To enjoy the benefits of drug testing while respecting the rights of employees, consider partnering with a non-regulated drug testing provider. Select one who understands federal, state, and local laws and requirements, always ensures the security and confidentiality of employee data, and has a network of professional, licensed MROs who can act as impartial gatekeepers and advocate for the accuracy and integrity of the drug testing process.

Remember, transparency, fairness, and consistency are essential elements of a successful workplace drug screening program. Regularly communicate with employees, address their concerns, and emphasize the program’s commitment to a safe and healthy work environment.

Accuracy and Reliability of Results

Non-regulated drug screens are very accurate. And, because a health professional collects the sample, the results cannot be tampered with. However, there may be challenges such as false positives and false negatives.

If an employee suspects a false positive result, they may request a second test of the same specimen sample. Understand that false positives can occur and be willing to accommodate the request.

If, as an employer, you encounter a false negative but have suspicions, confirmatory testing should be requested to determine if it is a false or true negative.

Conclusion: The Role of Non-Regulated Drug Screens in Modern Workplaces

Non-regulated drug screening is a simple way to ensure a safe and productive workforce. These tests can be applied to many use cases, including pre-employment screening, random testing, return-to-work testing, and post-accident testing.

If you are looking to begin a non-regulated drug screening program in your organization, look no further than the experts at Acuity International. We offer in-depth drug test screening for all organizations and industries, including companies that must comply with Department of Transportation drug screening regulations.

Contact Acuity today to learn more.

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