Reasonable Suspicion and Recognizing Drug Abuse



Reasonable suspicion of drug use is not a new concept for employers. It can, however, be a difficult situation for many employers to adequately and appropriately navigate when it arises.

Drug use is detrimental to workers and organizations within all industries, especially those regulated by government entities such as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In order to understand the severity of employment-related drug abuse in any industry, however, it is important for employers to first understand the various effects controlled substances have on employees.

Currently, the most common and heavily-regulated substances include: Amphetamines, Cocaine, Marijuana, Opiates, and Phencyclidine (PCP). The effects of each drug vary. However, all have the propensity to pose significant safety risks to the user and others, as well as costly property damage. Please refer to the chart below for the common effects of each substance:

Controlled Substance



Decreased motor coordination, lethargy, disorientation, altered time and space perception, lack of concentration, impaired learning and memory, alteration of thought formation, drowsiness and sedation, paranoia and panic, fatigue, psychosis


Loss of inhibition, confused and disoriented behavior, delusions, hallucinations, irritability, antisocial behavior, aggressiveness


Induced sleep, cold and moist skin, restlessness, nausea, slowed breathing, drowsiness, visual distortion, hallucinations, loss of consciousness


Rapid flight of ideas, rapid speech, motor restlessness, hallucinations, psychosis, insomnia, poor impulse control


Flushing, profuse sweating, grimacing facial expression, speech difficulty, muscular incoordination, excessive salvation, nausea and vomiting, severe anxiety, seizures

Reasonable suspicion drug testing may be warranted if and/or when the signs of potential use/abuse are witnessed. It is important to note, however, that employers in certain industries may be required to follow specific protocol to ensure regulatory compliance prior to testing an employee. Employers should familiarize themselves with industry regulations, where applicable. Individual company policies, drafted with the guidance of competent legal counsel, may also provide guidance.

Regardless of industry, it is beneficial for employers to implement the Five-D approach to reasonable suspicion. This approach calls for employers to:

  • Detect the change in behavior and take action
  • Don’t act alone – approach the employee in question with another supervisor/witness for accountability purposes
  • Discuss with the employee – give the employee the opportunity to explain
  • Describe, don’t diagnose – describe what you are seeing; do not be overly-specific or accusatory
  • Document the situation – document anything and everything that could help you build your case

Once these steps have been completed, it is important to communicate findings and results with all required personnel. Once a determination has been made to initiate a drug screen based upon reasonable suspicion, transportation to the testing site and/or an escort should be provided to the employee in question. Industry best practice suggests that employees should never be encouraged or allowed to drive themselves to testing sites.

If your company is interested in learning more about reasonable suspicion or establishing a Reasonable Suspicion program, please contact A-Check Global through our contact page, or by phone at 877-345-2021.

NATCRIM: A Highly-Beneficial Background Screening Resource


For many years, background screening services have been utilized to round out hiring processes, and determine an applicant or current employee’s employment eligibility. As time and technology have advanced, however, the screening methods available to employers have increased and improved drastically – creating better searches and more accurate results on which employers can rely.

One of the most beneficial and recommended of those searches is the National Criminal Locator Database Search, or NATCRIM for short. NATCRIM is a highly-beneficial service and resource for employers, especially those screening candidates/employees within or from the United States. The general purpose of any NATCRIM search is to broaden the scope of a background screen to include records from jurisdictions outside of a candidate’s current and previous residences.

Records found in the NATCRIM come from a variety of public sources such as state and county criminal record repositories, state law enforcement agencies, state courts, traffic courts, corrections departments, prison release and parole files, probation departments, and other state agency records.

The inclusion of these additional records is important because employers often base background searches on areas in which a candidate/employee has lived, worked, or gone to school; without taking into consideration a record might exist in a jurisdiction elsewhere, where he/she may have been temporarily. These records are also important because they pinpoint where, specifically, a particular record can be found, which lends itself to providing additional insight into a candidate’s background.

For FCRA compliance, criminal records found through NATCRIM should be verified at the source. Best practices in background screening cite that NATCRIM should not be used as a standalone service, and recommend it as an added security net for county criminal searches.

A-Check Global employs these and other best practices to provide the most accurate and compliant results to clients. Additionally, A-Check Global’s NATCRIM contains over 500 million criminal records from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories – making it one of the most comprehensive database searches available to employers.

For more information on NATCRIM and/or incorporating this search into your company’s background screening program, watch A-Check Global’s NATCRIM video located in our Resource Library under Informational Videos. You may also contact A-Check Global through our contact page, or by phone at 877-345-2021.