Understanding Drug Screen Reports

drug_test_92572931-56b08ae65f9b58b7d023ef47When speaking with our clients who routinely drug screen even high volumes of employees, we’re often asked questions about reading or deciphering drug screen results. That’s a good thing, because it shows our clients are as committed to making informed employment decisions as we are about providing accurate and compliant information.

Even experienced employers can benefit from some good advice

We’ve seen it all, but one of the more common areas to pay attention to within the Chain of Custody and Control Form (CCF) is the “Reason for Testing.” Employers might incorrectly mark this area, so it’s important to accurately choose one of the major reasons for testing to help minimize and overcome any recurring compliance risks. The reasons for testing listed on most non-federally regulated CCFs are:

  • pre-employment
  • random
  • reasonable suspicion
  • return-to-duty
  • promotion
  • follow-up testing

On every CCF document, a Specimen ID number will also be assigned. The location of the ID can vary from form to form, but can usually be located in the upper margins of the document. The Specimen ID is one of the most important parts of the drug screening process, as it ensures the integrity of the result remains true as it travels between locations.

Location, location, location

Location identification is often another area of confusion, since the complete process of a drug screen is not usually completed in one place.

The first step in the specimen testing process is the collection facility. This step is where the donor provides the initial sample to be shipped to and evaluated at the testing laboratory. The testing laboratory is where the initial positive or negative determination will be made. Once official results have been determined, the testing laboratory will then send non-negative – and all federally regulated – results to the Medical Review Officer (MRO). The MRO is responsible for evaluating medical health and prescriptions to determine any medically valid reasons for any non-negative results.

Understanding the results

After the MRO process, verified results are then made available to the employer. There are four sections that are typically outlined on a drug screen report:

  • substance abuse panel
  • initial test level
  • GC/MS confirmation test level
  • Determined result.

The “substance abuse panel” is the list of drugs that an applicant or employee was screened for. Understanding the “initial test” and “GC/MS” (Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) confirmation levels is where the process can get a little complicated.

Contrary to popular belief, these numbers do not indicate the level that the donor tested at. The initial test level is the threshold that the lab uses to determine negative or positive results. Any results that exceed the initial test level threshold are flagged as positive results.

Once a specimen has been flagged, a GC/MS confirmation test is performed to verify the positive reading. If the confirmation results meet or exceed the GC/MS confirmation levels that are outlined in this field, then the result is reported out to the MRO as a positive.

It is in this field that sub-testing will also be reported. Sub-testing is the practice of testing for different types of a drug category. The most common type of sub-testing is screening for methamphetamine inside the amphetamine category, but sub-testing can also occur for opiates, barbiturates, alcohol, and other drug categories.

While it can be complicated, we’re here as your trusted partner, and available to talk with you about your drug screening program and applicant/employee drug reports. Contact A-Check Global today.

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