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What is a Drug Screening?

Posted on 26/10/2019

Drug screening is common in a number of settings. It’s not unusual for employers to require some type of drug testing or screening when evaluating individuals for potential employment. Depending on the nature of the work associated with a position, some employers may conduct screening on a recurring basis.

Whether in the workplace or other settings, screenings can seem intimidating to many people. The urban myths about testing and screening are often the reasons for the intimidating. By understanding more about the process and what it’s intended to accomplish, many of those fears will go away.

What is the Purpose of Drug Screening or Testing?

The typical purpose for drug screening or testing of any kind is to detect the presence of certain substances in a person’s body. This is often the case when the individual is about to engage in activities that require significant amounts of concentration and a high level of physical dexterity.

There are excellent reasons why employers and others would require this type of testing. One has to do with safety. Employers do not want to place employees or those they work around in situations where substance use could increase the potential for injury. At the same time, employers would be taking on a greater degree of liability by hiring someone who uses certain types of substances on an ongoing basis.  

How is Drug Testing Conducted?

There are a number of different ways of going about conducting a drug test or screening. All of them involve collecting biological samples and using them to check for the presence of different types of substances. Depending on who has ordered the testing, the process may involve using more than one kind of biological sample.

One of the more common approaches is to conduct a urine drug test. This is often part of a screening since the results are available in a relatively short period of time. At the same time the urine sample is provided, a blood sample may also be collected. The blood can also be analyzed quickly and provide prompt results.

There are other types of drug and alcohol tests that may be employed. That includes collecting a saliva sample. Paired with collecting a couple of hair follicles, these samples may be used to detect ongoing substance use as well as recent usage.

Decide that you will cooperate with the testing without any conditions. Rather than an invasion of privacy, see the test as a way to indicate that you are also interested in working or participating in a safe environment.

What Are Some Reasons For Arranging a Drug Screening?

Along with the pre-employment testing that most people are familiar with, there are a few other situations that may call for conducting some type of drug screen or test. Employers may conduct random testing of current employees, even long-term ones. Being selected for a test does not necessarily mean the employer believes the employee is using illegal substances or abusing legal ones. It may be a routine part of considering an employee for a promotion, or it could be something that the employer has in place as a deterrent to substance abuse in general.

Candidates for scholarships, especially sports scholarships, may be required to undergo some type of drug screening or testing. The goal is to make sure the candidate is not utilizing any type of performance enhancing substances in order to improve performance. The testing may occur throughout the student’s college career.

In like manner, professional sports organizations may conduct drug screenings before extending offers to athletes. There may also be random testing conducted as long as the athlete remains in the employ of the sports club or team.

Post-accident testing is not usual. The goal is to ensure that no substance impaired the judgment or the reflexes of those involved in the event.

With each scenario, those who are expected to submit to the screening are provided with a set of drug testing FAQs. This helps them to know more about the type of samples that will be collected, if the testing is using a five-panel model to look for signs of illegal substances, or if a ten-panel approach that also detects prescription medications will be used.

View the testing as one of the ways to keep you safe. By ensuring that others around you are also being tested and found to be free of any type of substance abuse, there is less potential of injury in the workplace or on the playing field.

What is a False Positive?

Many people fear undergoing any type of workplace drug testing or other screenings and becoming victims of false positive. This type of event occurs when something the person eats or drinks leads to what appears to be a confirmation that the individual has taken a particular substance.

Substances that may lead to a false positive are more common than most people think. A classic example is poppy seeds appearing to be signs of marijuana usage. Supplements like B-Complex may also cause this type of result. Many prescription medications may trigger a false positive indicating the use of an illegal substance. For example, the type 2 diabetes medication metformin may cause a false positive.

Preparing For a Drug Screening

If you’re about to undergo a pre-employment drug testing, make sure to prepare a list of every vitamin, herbal supplement, over the counter medication, and prescription medication that you currently take. Include the daily dosage for each one. If you take any of those substances on an as-needed basis rather than a daily dose, include them in the list. Doing so provides the lab conducting the test with a frame of reference for any of the results.

In terms of food items, make sure you are familiar with foods that may cause a false positive. In addition to poppy seeds used in baked goods and dressings, cocoa tea and tonic water could trigger this type of result. The same is true for breads made with certain types of yeast.

Do some research before your test and find out what you eat, drink, and take regularly could lead to a false positive. That will help you be prepared to explain any irregularities in your tests.

A drug screening is typically quick, does not involve pain, and serves as one more indication that you’re in the running for the job, the scholarship, or that no legal or illegal substances contributed to the accident. Have the testing completed as quickly as possible. Doing so helps to move you a little closer to achieving the goal that you seek.