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Drugs and Alcohol Pre-Employment Testing

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If you have just received an offer letter for a new job, congratulations! Now the mental and competence tests are over and done with, the next step is your medicals.

Are you confident you will pass the drug screening tests? Before you start panicking, here are some important things you should know about pre-employment drug tests.

Who performs drug tests?

Drug testing is carried out by almost three-quarters of the Fortune 500, and an increasing number of small to medium sized businesses. Although the popularity of the practice continues to sway, it is believed many companies will continue to perform drug testing well into the near future.

Why carry out drug tests?

It is estimated that 75% of current illicit substance users aged 18 years and older are currently employed. This means, on any given day, a good percentage of workers are showing up at their desks high.

While different companies have their reasons for drug testing, the two main reasons are safety and liability. In transportation, industries such as aviation and bus companies do so to maintain safety of their customers, while others perform tests to avoid exposing business to legal situations. Yet, others conduct tests after a bad experience.

Types of drug tests

There are a variety of employment related drug and alcohol screening tests used by employers. Drug tests are not actually performed to test for the substance in the individual, but its metabolites. The types of drug tests conducted to reveal alcohol or drugs in your system include:

  • Urine sample tests,
  • Blood sample tests
  • Hair sample tests
  • Breath alcohol tests
  • Saliva drug swabs

Urine tests

This is the most common test among employers. It is easy and cheap. A urine analysis reveals the drug metabolites that remain in the body after the feeling has worn off. Drugs screened in urine for employment purposes include amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, meth, opiates, tobacco and alcohol.

Blood drug tests

A blood drug test is often used when job applicants or employees are tested for illicit drugs. A blood test measures the quantity of alcohol or drugs in the blood at that time the blood is drawn. Drugs screened in the blood for employment purposes are amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis, opiates, tobacco and alcohol.

Hair drug tests

This is usually a highly verifiable form of drug tests because it gives a 90-day assessment for drugs used by an individual. However, it doesn’t suggest current impairment due to the substance, only previous use. A hair drug test doesn’t detect alcohol either, but it can recognise cocaine, marijuana, opiates, methamphetamine, and phencyclidine.

Breath alcohol tests

This test is used to determine how much alcohol you have in your blood by measuring the quantity in the air you exhale. There are three main types;

  • Breathalyzer
  • Intoxilyzer (detects alcohol using Infrared)
  • Alcosensor III or IV (discovers chemical reaction of alcohol in a fuel cell)

This is conducted by taking a cheek or saliva swab to detect drugs used from a few hours, to two or three days. It is easy and one of the least invasive methods of screening.

Depending on the industry and the drugs of interest, your prospective employer will perform any of these tests. The best way to pass is to abstain altogether.

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