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Drug and alcohol testing

Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace is becoming quite common with many employers adopting a formal drug and alcohol testing policy, particularly in certain industries. This may include testing prior to employment and also routine or random testing throughout.

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Types of Drug and Alcohol Testing

Urine drug testing is the most common in Australia and can be done either by using an instant drug testing kit or by sending off a sample to a recognised laboratory. Instant drug kits do not test for alcohol so these may be accompanied by an alcohol breath test.

Hair follicle testing is being carried out increasingly overseas and is now available within Australia. Significantly more expensive that urine testing, its advantage is that it provides information on a person’s pattern of drug use, with evidence of use over the past three months or so.

In all instances testing must meet Australian standards and the test supervisor has to have completed a recognised training course.

What will my urine be tested for?

A standard laboratory drug screen includes testing for cannabinoids (cannabis), amphetamines, opiates (heroin), benzodiazepines (sleeping tablets/antidepressants), methadone, barbiturates, alcohol and cocaine.

How long do the  drugs remain in the body for?

The length of time each of the drugs stay in the body for varies depending on specific characteristics of the drug itself. As a rough guide the following information can be used:

  • Alcohol 2-14 hours depending on consumption
  • Amphetamines 2 to 4 days
  • Barbiturates: long acting – 2 to 3 weeks / short acting – 24 to 72 hours
  • Benzodiazepines up to 4 to 6 weeks
  • Cocaine 2 to 4 days
  • Cannabinoids: acute use – 18 hours to 5 days / light user (less than once per day) – up to 15 days /heavy user (2-3 times/day for more than 3months) – up to 8 weeks
  • Methadone 3 days
  • Opiates 2 days

What if my specimen is too dilute/too clear in colour?

If you drink more than 2-3 cups of water or a caffeinated drink within 1-2 hours prior to having your urine collected, you may provide a sample which is too dilute for testing. The test supervisor will tell you if this has occurred. If repeated dilute samples are provided (in the absence of prescribed diuretic use or a variety of medical conditions), intentional dilution in order to avoid the test may be considered as a possibility.

 

Do I need to bring anything for the drug screen?

You will need to bring some form of positive identification which has a laminated photo or signature from a recognised organisation (ie drivers licence, passport). Credit cards cannot be accepted as proof of identification since they are not laminated.

Will I be watched when giving the specimen?

The only sure way to confirm that the urine in the sample cup came from the subject concerned is for the sample to be directly witnessed. This will always be done with maximum possible regard for privacy

Can poppy seeds cause a false positive result?

Some sources of poppy seeds that are available in supermarkets or are sold on bread products do contain some morphine and low concentrations of other opiates. Ingestion of reasonable amounts of these products can cause an initial positive result to opiate class medication. Further confirmatory testing will however be able to identify if heroin abuse has occurred by looking for heroin specific metabolites.

This information has been revised and referenced from our Drug and Alcohol Service Provider, Western Diagnostic Pathology. More information can be accessed on their web page. http://saferworkplace.com.au/FAQ.htm

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