The substance abuse landscape is changing rapidly, and companies are advised to keep up, or there may be a price to pay.


1) What’s in your panel?

A drug test detects only what you test for. If you want to detect Oxycontin, you have to test for it. Many companies have employees that fall under DOT guidelines, most of whom are truck or bus drivers. By law they are tested using a 5 panel test (5 panel= 5 classes of drugs). A DOT 5 panel test includes the following:

• Marijuana
• Cocaine
• Amphetamines
• Opiates (codeine, morphine and heroin)

At first glance, that seems to cover a lot. Although it does cover the majority of commonly used illegal drugs, it’s far from complete. If you want to make sure employees are not misusing drugs like phenobarbital, Xanax, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Valium and others, then you need to test for them.

Your policy should address these things and how your company will deal with positive results. An employee, for example, may have a legitimate prescription that impairs his ability to operate machinery safely. You need to plan for these things before they come up, and chances are they will.

2) Prescription drugs

Many are legit, but abuse in this area is very serious, and potentially deadly—especially painkillers/opiates. They are very addictive and, sadly are a common gateway heroin use. Heroin is cheaper and easier to get, and an addict makes that leap easily. Yes, we have had positive tests in the workplace for prescription meds as well as heroin. And the users did not appear different than anyone else. It’s sneaky stuff.

People addicted to these substances need help. Desperately. And they don’t need to be harming your company or other employers.

A recent study indicates that prescription opioids could be costing employers as much $8 billion annually! That with a “b.”

3) Legal marijuana

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, yet more and more states are legalizing it for medicinal or recreational use. Politics aside, employers need to address it in their substance abuse policies. Know your state law too. Some of these state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against medical marijuana users. Most states, including Illinois, allow employers to maintain a drug-free workplace. But you still need to address it in your policy.

Now is the time to tidy up your policy. You don’t want to be like a recent “emergency” client who had to figure out in a hurry how to deal with a bloody syringe an employee found on the bathroom floor. If you need help creating or rewriting a clear, effective substance abuse policy, let us know.