What is drug testing?
Drug testing is the detection of the presence or absence of specified parent drugs and their metabolites (substances produced by the body’s metabolism of those drugs) through the technical analysis of a biological specimen.
Biological specimens that can be used for drug testing include urine, saliva, blood, sweat, or hair.
Drug testing kits are widely used in the legal, medical, and sports fields, but drug testing in the workplace is becoming increasingly common today, especially in the construction, mining, and aviation industries where safety is critical.
What can a drug testing kit detect?
A basic drug test typically screens for the following commonly-abused drugs:
- Amphetamines (speed)
- Benzodiazepines (Serepax, Mogadon – prescription type substances)
- Cannabis Metabolites (THC or marijuana)
- Cocaine Metabolites
- Methamphetamines (ice, ecstacy)
- Opiates (derivatives of opium poppy including Heroin, Morphine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Vicodin, etc)
Basic drug testing is the most common, but extended drug tests might also screen for the following:
- Barbiturates (phenobarbital, butalbital, secobarbital)
- Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers like Valium, Librium, Xanax)
- Ethanol (ethyl alcohol, booze)
- Hallucinogens (LSD, mushrooms, mescaline, peyote)
- Inhalants (paint, glue, hair spray)
- Anabolic Steroids (synthesized, muscle-building hormones)
What types of drug tests are there?
The common types of drug tests include urine drug tests and saliva drug tests, as well as drug testing kits that test using sweat, blood, and hair analysis.
Most commonly used for drug testing in the workplace are urine drug tests and saliva drug tests.
Workplaces typically opt for on-site instant drug testing kits as they are a more cost-efficient method of effectively detecting drug abuse among employees.
Saliva testing is the preferred in workplace drug and alcohol testing, but urine testing can be reasonably implemented on an interim basis.
There are currently two Australian Standards for workplace drug and alcohol testing, i.e.:
- The Australian Urine Drug Testing Standard AS4308
- The Australian Saliva Drug Testing Standard AS4760
For more information on the current legal testing guidelines, you can visit www.standards.org.au.
Which type of drug test is the best or most accurate?
Drug testing is extremely accurate and reliable when all aspects of the testing process are done properly.
Blood drug tests are the most accurate but are not used very often because they are more invasive, need specialised equipment and medically trained administrators. These also make blood tests much more costly.
Saliva, sweat, and urine drug tests are less invasive than blood analysis and are less expensive.
Urine drug tests can detect infrequent or recent single use. Its low cost and accuracy make it the most common drug test.
Hair drug tests can detect only certain types of drugs, typically only for heavy duty and continuous use. It is the least invasive, but might not reveal recent use.
Is drug testing in the workplace legal?
Yes, it is, but to a certain extent.
In Australia, businesses and organisations are required by law to provide a safe workplace for their staff, visitors, and the wider community. In occupations where safety is critical, employers can conduct a drug and alcohol testing program as an effective risk management system to help prevent workplace accidents. Random drug and alcohol testing is considered appropriate.
As an example, employers can refer to the 2009 case between Caltex Australia Limited vs Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, The-Sydney Branch; The Australian Workers’ Union. The case investigated the need for random drug testing for Caltex’s Kurnell Refinery.
The key ruling outcomes from the case had implications for all Australian businesses and organisations as well:
- All employers are legally obligated to maintain a safe workplace without risks to health.
- All employers may justifiably consider the implementation of drug and alcohol testing.
- All workplaces in high risk areas such as manufacturing, mining or construction are especially recommended to consider the implementation of drug and alcohol testing.
However, employers should also consider the Privacy Act when introducing any drug and alcohol policy in the workplace.
The Privacy Act prevents employers from collecting personal information about employees if it is not legitimately connected with their job performance.
People have the right to privacy when it comes to medication, and employees are not required by most companies to disclose what medication they are taking. Employees may have legitimate reasons to object to a drug test, such as if they are taking prescription drugs that they would like to keep private.
For example, employees may want to keep drugs such as diet pills, anti-depressants, and anti-HIV drugs private from their employers, but these drugs will show up in drug tests.
Interested in introducing a drug testing policy at your workplace? Browse our range of drug testing kits or contact us.
For information and assistance with drug testing Australia workplace employees, be sure to talk to our workplace drug testing experts on 1300 800 200 (AU) or +613 8899 6900 (International) for a free consultation.