Instant Drug Test: Guide for Employers and Employees

Instant Drug Test: Guide for Employers and Employees


Drug abuse compromises productivity, business reputation, national economy and national security.  Around 750 billion dollars are lost every year due to the drug-abuse-related accidents, impairments, productivity loss and other consequences.

  • 75% of adults with a substance use disorder are in the workforce
  • Drug poisonings, a category that includes opioid-related overdoses, account for more than half of off-the-job fatalities.

Table Of Contents:

What do the Employers say about the drug impact?

  • 86% of employers were concerned that prescription opioid use was having a negative impact on their workplace.
  • 74% were concerned about heroin and fentanyl having a negative impact on their workplace.

Source:  National Safety Council

White House on the ‘Dangers of Drug’

One of the most tangible examples of the dangers of misusing prescription drugs comes from the opioid crisis, which the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) estimates cost $696 billion in 2018 or 3.4% of GDP and more than $2.5 trillion for the four-year period from 2015 to 2018.  These massive costs point to the nationwide economic destruction from America’s very human “crisis next door.”

Source:  Council of Economic Advisors

What are drugs?

Drugs are the substances that change the physiology and psychology of a person when consumed, resulting in abnormal behavior that affects a person’s social life, personal life, health and occupation.

How are drugs pushed into the market?

There are two ways the traffickers push the drugs into the market.  Traffickers market the drug through their country-wide network using various modes of delivery.  Another network of traffickers divert prescription drugs to the drug market and sell them as recreational drugs.

How does drug abuse affect businesses?

Addiction to Alcohol and other drugs results in considerable damage to employees’ health.  This in turn affects productivity and also the morale of the employees.  Employers have to bear the cost of frequent healthcare claims, damage to the property and machinery, court expenditure besides incurring huge expenditure on recruiting new employees and training them.

The most common consequences of drug abuse at workplaces are:

    • Lack of productivity due to impairment or ill-health
    • Late reporting
    • Drug-abuse related accidents
    • Time lost in dealing with drug-abuse related cases at courts
    • Claims settlements
    • Loss of company’s reputation and consequent loss of business
  • Absenteeism without any reasonable cause
  • Workplace conflicts
  • What type of Instant Drug Test preferred by employers?

    The following drug test is mostly preferred by employers.  Employees who are going to hold sensitive positions will be required to undergo a lab-based drug test as mandated by various government agencies like DOT, FMCSA.

    • Pre-employment drug test
    • Return-to-work drug test
    • Post-accident drug test
    • Random drug test
    • Drug tests on reasonable suspicion
    • Probation drug testing

    Advantages of Drug Testing

    1. Drug testing keeps the workplace safe, sound and healthy

    Employees at the workplace have the fundamental right to be in a safe and healthy environment.  Employers too have benefits in keeping the workplace safe and healthy.  This ensures the safety of equipment, machinery, vehicles, installations, goods (particularly dangerous chemicals and gasoline products), and other infrastructures.

    1. Productivity and drug abuse are inversely related

    Less the drug abuse, more the productivity.  The expenses incurred on instant drug testing are clearly visible on the accounts balance sheet.  The drug-free workforce that contributes to the profit is not visible to the majority of the employers unless some untoward incident results in loss of productivity.

    1. The drugged mind is a devil’s workshop

    We are familiar with the old saying “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop” and so is the drugged mind a devil’s factory.  Instant drug tests like a random test or scheduled test or test on reasonable suspicion keeps the drugs abusers at bay.

    1. Compliance is better than compensation

    A 100% compliance with the state and federal laws will save the employers’ time, labor and money and give the employer peace of mind during lawsuits.

    1. Less the staff turnover rate means more productive

    The rate at which new employees replace the employees who left the workplace (including fired ones and those who are on sick leave or disability leave) is called employee turnover rate.

    • It's prudent to keep the Employees' turnover rate at 3.5% to maintain the current rate of productivity.
    • Hiring, training new employees is not going to be an easy task, not to speak of the competitive packages.
    • Productivity will suffer if employees holding key positions quit the company.
    • Turnover rate higher than 3.5% is a clarion call for introspection.
    1. Saving the goose that lays golden eggs

    The instant drug test is a strong deterrence against the drug abuse at workplaces.  Employees will always think twice before taking drugs.  The biggest advantage of the instant drug test is the potential employees are saved from the drug teasers/traps set up by colleagues or traffickers or even business competitors.

    1. “Prevention is better than cure”

    Just imagine employees who operate sensitive machines or heavy machineries like forklift or cranes work under drug influence.  Not only will this employee pose a threat to self, but also expose colleagues and others to the dangers, besides causing huge loss to factory's machine and infrastructure.  Time, labor and loss of productivity are not accounted here due to the possible mishaps.  The instant drug test is a complimentary to the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’.

    1. Fewer conflicts make workplace more pleasant

    Workplace frictions are common almost everywhere.  Drug abuse results in a high rate of absenteeism, accidents, sloppy work, late reporting, etc.  These issues are faced by almost all employers everywhere.  The drug abusers wouldn't like to see good Samaritans besides them.  Instant drug test deters the potential drug addicts, deviating from their assigned work, besides making the workplace a peaceful and perfect for the job tasks.

    1. Gives a boost to customers’ confidence

    The customer is the king and the company’s future lies in customers’ confidence.  A good drug policy framework ensures public safety, consumer’s trust, employees’ well-being, and a healthy workplace.

    1. Drug abuse is a drag on the company’s progress

    Studies carried over the years on drug abuse among employees show that the workers who were on leave due to impairment or accidents are nearly three times more than the employees who do not take drugs.

    What specimens are required for the drug test?

    The most common specimens used in drug tests are:

    • Urine
    • Blood
    • Saliva or oral fluid
    • Breath
      1. Alcohol detection
      2. Carbon monoxide and cotinine detection
    • Sweat
    • Hair

    Urine drug test is the most commonly used drug test for detecting a large number of drugs.  It’s non-invasive, standardized and preferred by almost all medical practitioners.  Urine drug test is most commonly used for hiring or pre-employment purposes.

    Alcohol Breath Test is commonly administrated by law enforcement personnel for detecting the consumption of alcohol.  This is a non-invasive and easy to do test.

    Saliva or Mouth Swab Test is non-invasive, quick and easy to administer.  This test looks for drug residues that were ingested orally in the last 24 to 48 hours after use.

    Blood Test detects the actual amount of alcohol or other drugs in the blood and also renders an accurate measure of the physiologically active drug present in an individual.  It’s mostly done as a pre-employment test.

    Sweat Test method is not widely used due to compliance issues.  Skin patches are used to measure drugs in the sweat.

    Hair drug test is used to detect the drugs in the human system up to 90 days preceding the test date.  This test cannot detect the drugs taken 10 days previously.

    Rapid Drug Test

    Employers and individuals who need drug test result immediately have the option of same-day drug tests or instant drug tests.  Currently, the popularity of instant drug test is gaining ground all over the world.  Instant drug test or same-day drug test or lab-based drug test has its own merits and demerits when it comes to cost, time and accuracy.

    Same-Day Drug Test:  Numerous drug testing labs deliver the drug test result on the same day.  They are just a phone call away.  This test is done by qualified, trained and experienced lab technicians.  This is a lab-based test, so a variety of drugs can be detected in the lab setup.  The accuracy of this test is also very high compared to the instant drug test.

    Instant Drug Test:  Instant drug test gives the result right away, i.e., right at the point of collection.  It is also called Point of Care Testing.  The main advantage is that it can be done by any person in the workplace with a little training.  Testing instructions are also provided with the instant drug test kits.

    Instant drug tests are cost-effective as there is no necessity for the employees to go to the lab and the test kits are available at the pharmacies and big stores.  The test result of the Instant Drug Test can be either negative or non-negative.  The non-negative sample is sent to the lab for the confirmatory result.  Same-day drug test and instant drug test are administrated on employees for the following purposes:

    • Pre-employment drug test
    • Random drug test
    • Drug test on reasonable suspicion
    • Post-accident drug test
    • Return to work drug test 
    • Probation drug test

    Instant Drug Test for Individuals:  Individuals who are under some obligations like a court order, warrant, at attorney’s request would like to drug test themselves or someone at home or at workplace.  Some people may go to the extent of personal drug tests to refute an allegation of drug abuse by the employers.

    Reasons Why Individuals Drug Test?

    1. Self-drug testing for personal reasons

    The main advantage of the self-testing is that no one will be able to review the results except the person who undergoes the drug test.  Same-day testing or instant drug testing is available for this type of test.  This gives the person a sense of satisfaction and peace of mind.  Armed with the test result, the person can defend in the court or can be confident of passing the pre-employment drug testing.

    1. To challenge an allegation

    If a person feels that there was discrimination or bias against him or her at the workplace at the time of random drug test administration, the person can go for the self-drug test and challenge the result provided by the employer.

    1. Court-mandated drug testing

    In some cases, courts might order an individual to take a drug test.  The person in question can go for the same-day drug test or instant drug test or lab-based drug test depending on the judge’s ruling and nature of the test.

    1. Drug testing mandated by Educational Institutions
    • School mandated drug testing:  It is not very common, but some schools might request parents or guardians to do drug testing for their children.  Parents or guardians are required to obtain drug test letter from the school to perform a drug test on their children under 18 years of age.
    • University drug testing policy:  Some universities have a very solid drug testing policy for their campuses in order to keep the campus free from drug abuse and consequent violence and disturbances.
    1. Divorce case drug testing

    Substance abuse is widespread phenomenon.  Substance abuse and alcohol consumption is the main reason for divorces in the United States.  People in their court petition might accuse their spouses of drug abuse.  The court will not entertain such petitions automatically unless the affected person submits evidence of their spouse’s drug abuse and also the history of drug abuse to the court.  Usually, the court orders the test that is less-intrusive and easy to administer, i.e., urine drug test.  The court may not go to the extent of mandating hair follicle or blood tests even though they are more authentic.

    1. Drug test for drivers

    Drivers who are suspected to be under the influence of drugs will be subjected to field sobriety test by police officer and then the driver is put through breath, blood and possibly urine test.

    1. Warrant drug test

    In extreme cases, based on criminal conduct, a judge may issue a warrant to drug test an accused person.  In such cases, usually the law enforcement agencies perform a urine drug test on the person in question, sometimes by force.

    1. FMCA mandated drug test

    Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), drivers who operate inter-state commercial motor vehicles for interstate commerce are required to undergo drug test to get a commercial deriving license.

    For more details, please visit:

    1. Child Welfare Agencies drug testing program

    Traditionally, Child Welfare Agency and Substance Abuse Treatment Agencies drug test parents for the various objectives.  The main purpose of child welfare agencies and substance abuse treatment agencies is to find drug abuse by the parents, parental care and their primary responsibility towards the child’s well being and progress.

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    1. Prenatal and postnatal drug testing

    Every state has its laws on drug testing pregnant mothers.  Some states persuade mothers to take a drug test to ensure the safety of their fetus.  She is also given full support to undergo the treatment.  Some states take this issue seriously and take punitive measures.  The US Supreme Court prohibits non-consensual drug testing of pregnant mothers.  The US highest court considers this as unconstitutional.  However, newborn babies are tested for the drugs without the consent of the mothers.  Many women who abuse drugs during pregnancy do not come forward fearing punitive actions.

    How to decide on the type of drug test for the employees and individuals?

    How to make choices among the lab-based drug test, same-day result test, and instant drug test?  Well, the choice depends on accuracy, cost and purpose.  For example, staffing company will have to go for instant drug testing to clear off the waiting applicants.  Similarly, a police officer deputed to monitor traffic on US motorways cannot take the erring drivers to the nearby lab for the drug test.  The only option is to use breath analyzer to test for alcohol instantly.  Law enforcement agencies, courts and DOT won’t accept instant drug test as it is not an accurate one.  A lab test can detect almost all types of drugs with high degree of accuracy.

    The lab test is the only option where jobs involve a high degree of safety. lab-based drug test. As far as the states are concerned every state has its drug testing laws. Some accept instant drug tests with a condition to do a confirmatory test for non-negative result and some states do not.

    Drug test for the individuals too depends style="font-weight: 400;"> on the purpose or objective. It may be court-ordered drug test or drug testing for personal reasons or child custody drug testing or warrant drug testing.

    Drug test policy and its benefits for employers and employees

    To safeguard the interests of a company, it should have a flawless drug policy in place.  All the employees are entitled to a safe and healthy environment and all the employers have the right to protect their business from the consequences of drug abuse-related accidents.  A well planned, well balanced and carefully crafted drug policy would be a great asset for the employers as it will help increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, promote harmony, reduce frictions and conflicts, reduce legal expenditures, reduce hiring costs, protect business interests, increase customers’ confidence.

    Drug testing policy assumes more importance in workplaces where heavy machines are operated, chemicals are processed, oil is stored, crude oil is refined or nuclear plants are operated.  Employees in such places need to be highly alert always.  Any lapse can cause huge damage to life and property in the vicinity.  The drug consumed the previous day could affect the person the following day, so the employer needs to administer random drug tests and scheduled drug tests regularly.  To be on the safer side, employers should revise the drug policy of the company periodically to safeguard the interests of the business.

    Finally, as the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’ few simple things could save employers and individuals from great disasters and losses due to drug abuse.  The following tips would be highly useful for the employers to be on the safe side:

    • Conduct health and safety workshop periodically
    • Periodically expand the scope of drug tests and kits to include the latest drugs
    • Conduct educational programs for the employees and their families about the perils of drug abuse
    • Provide necessary support to the employees seeking drug-related treatment
    • Respect modesty and privacy of employees and their families when conducting the drug test
    • The random test is a strong deterrent against frequent violators
    • There shouldn’t be any bias against anyone when it comes to the drug test.  The same treatment should be meted out to all the employees.

    Employers can take simple steps to protect themselves and their employees:

    • Recognize impact of drug misuse at the initial stage
    • Educate and engage workforce on the topic of opioids
    • Enact clear and strong company drug-free workplace policies; ensure consistent and comprehensive communication with employees
    • Expand drug panel testing to include opioids
    • Train supervisors and employees to spot the first signs of drug misuse and impairment
    • Treat substance use disorders as a medical condition that can and should be treated; ensure evidence-based treatment mechanisms are covered by employer health care plans
    • Leverage employee assistance programs and other similar resources to help employees return to work and support employees in recovery

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