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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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Reviewing the Benefits of a Medical Review Officer (MRO)

MRO

An MRO can play an important role in your employment decisions

A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is responsible for providing a medically-verified evaluation on drug screen results. For applicants and employees not regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), this applies to any non-negative laboratory result determination. For applicants and employees who fall under DOT regulation (drivers or fork lift operators, for example), this applies to every drug screen, regardless of the laboratory’s initial determination. DOT applicants or employees are subject to additional requirements because of stricter, federally mandated regulation and “Return-To-Duty” programs.

The entire MRO process is beneficial for both employee and employer, and aims to maximize accuracy throughout the drug screening process.

An added layer of review to assist both applicant/employee and employer

Applicants may disclose any health conditions to a medical professional, allowing them to protect their privacy during the application and screening process.

It is possible for an applicant’s drug screen to show a positive result due to a medical condition or prescribed medication. By presenting drug screen results to an MRO, employers might avoid numerous expenses associated with removing or disqualifying an applicant or employee from employment, only to then discover a medically valid condition.

Additionally, the MRO process might also reveal conditions detrimental to safety. If an MRO believes that a medical condition or prescribed medication associated with an employee can inhibit that worker’s ability to safely perform their duties, they can choose to disclose that information on the final MRO report for the employer. A “Fit-For-Duty” test can also be requested by the MRO to properly assess the worker’s ability to perform job duties and measure any possible impairment concerns.

Drug screening best practices prove the need for MRO services

Dismissing a worker or disqualifying an applicant based on a positive drug screen that has not undergone MRO review is not necessarily congruent with industry best-practice policies and can also prove costly for the employer. For example, according to a 2014 Training Industry Report, onboarding a typical full time employee can cost up to $1,000—and require approximately 40 hours of company provided training. MRO consultation during the drug screening process can help an employer make sound employment decisions before that money is spent.

If your company is interested in taking the next step in drug screening accuracy and fairness in your Drug-Free Workplace policy, contact A-Check Global to get started immediately with MRO and other drug screening services.

Study Finds Highest Level of Positive Drug Screen Results in Last Decade

A-Check Global’s drug screening partner, Quest Diagnostics, recently released their Annual Drug Testing Index revealing a fifth straight year of rising positive drug detection rates in the US workforce. This is the highest rate of positive screens since 2005.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ examined nearly 11 million drug screening results and found that positivity rates had risen from 3.9% of screens returning positive in 2014 to 4.0% in 2015. The last time the rate was found to be at, or above 4% was in 2005. The rise in positive results came from screens completed by both general employees, as well as government mandated employees, such as truck drivers and pilots.

The study also provides a deep look into the drugs most commonly found during screening, exposing that nearly 2% of all urine based tests return positive for marijuana use, making it the drug most often detected by far. Additionally, the study reveals a noticeable jump in positive results for heroin and amphetamine use, with both at higher rates than last year.

For more information regarding drug screening and drug free workplace solutions feel free to contact A-Check Global through our contact page, or by phone at 877-345-2021.

HR Luncheon Event: What Employers Need to Know About Background Checks, Drug Screening and E-Verify / Form I-9 Compliance

Learn from the experts: Join A-Check Global & AppleOne Employment Services for a Special Complimentary Luncheon Presentation Thursday December 4th at A-Check’s headquarters in Riverside, CA. Attendees will earn 2.0 (General) recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute. View Event Flyer (PDF) Continue reading “HR Luncheon Event: What Employers Need to Know About Background Checks, Drug Screening and E-Verify / Form I-9 Compliance”