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NIDA

Drug Testing

Brief Description

Some schools, hospitals, and places of employment require drug testing. Testing methods include:

  • pre-employment testing
  • random testing
  • reasonable suspicion/cause testing
  • post-accident testing
  • return-to-duty testing
  • follow-up testing

Drug tests vary, depending on the type of drug being tested and the type of specimen being collected. Urine, hair, saliva (oral fluid), or sweat can be used as test specimens. Drug tests screen for such drugs as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), and opioids.

In federally regulated programs, only urine samples are collected, but the Secretary of Health and Human Services has proposed revisions to include oral fluid specimens.

Drug Testing and Workplace Issues

Studies suggest that many adults who use illegal drugs are employed full or part time.1 In addition, when compared with those who do not use substances, substance-using employees are more likely to:

  • change jobs frequently
  • be late to or absent from work
  • be less productive
  • be involved in a workplace accident and potentially harm others
  • file a workers’ compensation claim

Employers who have implemented drug-free workplace programs have important experiences to share.2

  • Employers with successful drug-free workplace programs report improvements in morale and productivity and decreases in absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, and theft.
  • Employers with long-standing programs report better health status among employees and family members and reduced healthcare costs.3
  • Some organizations with drug-free workplace programs qualify for incentives, such as decreased costs associated with short- and long-term disability and workers’ compensation.3

Drug-Free Workplace Resources

If you are an employer and would like information about creating and implementing a prevention and treatment program for your employees, call the Drug-Free Workplace Helpline at 1-800-WORKPLACE (1-800-967-5752), coordinated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The following resources provide more information about drug testing in the workplace.

Drug Testing in Schools

Following models established in the workplace, some schools conduct drug testing on students suspected of illicit drug use (called reasonable suspicion/cause testing). However, there are some restrictions on random testing of students showing no such suspicion. The goal of testing is to deter illicit drug use and identify students who misuse prescription or over-the-counter drugs or use illicit drugs so they can get help. For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Testing in Schools webpage and our NIDA for Teens website.

References

  1. Substance Abuse Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. SAMHSA. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.pdf. Published September 8, 2016. Accessed January 18, 2017.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Making Your Workplace Drug-Free: A Kit for Employers. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Making-Your-Workplace-Drug-Free/SMA07-4230. Published January 1, 2007. Accessed April 5, 2017.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 14 Short Employer Cost Savings Brief. http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA08-4350/SMA08-4350.pdf. Published 2008. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Other Resources

Past information on many drugs of abuse is available on our Archives site.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies in human volunteers conducted to answer specific health questions. Learn about the NIH-sponsored clinical trials available to you.

Other Clinical Trials information sources:

This page was last updated May 2017

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    Cite this article

    NIDA. (2017, May 4). Drug Testing. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/drug-testing

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