Drug and Alcohol Testing, Part 1: Introduction 
Instant Urine Drug Test
The World of Drug and Alcohol Testing is a Very Large One
AT THE beginning of another Hub regarding drug abuse, I made the rather obvious statement that drug use in the world (actually, I think I said America) is ubiquitous. The corollary is testing for drug and alcohol abuse in America, but not the world, is just as ubiquitous. It surprised me when I realized I had written so few hubs on drug testing given that is what I do for a living; I guess it is because politics is a lot more fun. As a result, I thought I would begin a series on the rather large drug testing industry and answer questions you might have as we go. If you are interested, check us out. We are Alcohol & Drug Testing Services, LLC, a nationwide on-site testing company that mainly the Department of Transportation regulated companies as well as those private companies and corporations wanting to keep a drug-free workplace. If I don't say so myself, and I don't, our clients and regulators do it for us, we are one of the most respected collection companies in the industry. OK, enough of the self-promotion.
The drug-testing industry, as I said, is absolutely huge. When I talk about drug-testing, I would imagine most of you might think about the federal program for testing all the truck drivers, the testing for steroid use of major league sports players, military drug testing, and the like. If you take all of these kinds of drug testing scenarios and add them all up, they are a drop in the bucket to the gorilla in the drug-testing industry room ... insurance. Yep, blew my socks off. I was visiting one of the laboratories that processes the urine samples we collect when they told us that. We perform roughly 72,000 individual drug and alcohol collections annually for one of our largest clients and that doesn't even get people from the laboratory to blink. The insurance industry is responsible for requesting probably 70 - 80% of all drug and alcohol collections accomplished in America.
This will make my series of hubs much shorter because I am not going to talk about them as they are rather uninteresting. I will also put off talking about sports drug testing as I need to learn more about that area of the business, which I probably should do in any case because it is a lucrative area and my company does not currently perform drug testing for the sports industry. This in definitely NOT an uninteresting topic; it has many different facets that should be very fascinating to investigate.
What I will cover is the portion of the drug (and from here on out when I say drug, I mean drug and alcohol) testing industry my company does participate in which is the non-insurance related corporate world. I hope you find these hubs interesting, entertaining, and even more important, useful.
The Basic Process
TO KEEP these hubs short, I will limit the remainder of this one to cover the very basics of drug testing; especially since I took so long in getting to this point. Our portion of the drug-testing industry is driven primarily by the requirements of the federal Department of Transportation, which requires companies under their authority to setup drug testing programs. The purpose is an attempt to ensure that people who work in safety-sensitive jobs, e.g., truck drivers, train engineers, pilots, etc. are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while involved with safety-sensitive work; this program was started in the late 1980s and, in spite of recent news reports over the last few years, has actually been pretty successful. There is a hidden message in that statement, imagine how bad it was in the mid-1980s and earlier.
Some companies run their own internal drug testing programs from beginning to end, but most don't; those companies hire Service Agents such as my company. Either way, at some point in time, for one of a number of different reasons we will get into in other hubs, a drug test will be ordered. When that happens, what goes on? A lot of things go on, but they can be broken down to the following cycle.
· The employer notifies the donor of the collection. The specimen collection is accomplished
· Assuming it is a urine sample, it is sent to and processed at a laboratory.
· If the sample is positive, it is tested again by a different method at the lab.
· Either the negative or the positive results are sent to a medical review officer (MRO), a doctor trained in these procedures.
· if the results were negative, the employer is notified, who notifies the donor.
· If the results MAY be positive, the MRO contacts the donor to determine if there is a reason for the potentially positive result. The MRO makes a final determination and then notifies the employer who notifies the donor.
It is virtually the same cycle each and every time: notify, collect, test, review, verify, report, notify. In that sequence, my company performs the Collect portion; a laboratory, such as Clinical Reference Laboratory, one we use when asked to, is the tester; a MRO, such as Intermountain MRO, another contractor we use, does the review, verify, and report functions. At either end of this chain is the employer; they begin it with the initial request for a test, and they end it by receiving the report from the MRO and taking any action, if needed, as a result.
A Short Wrap
The whole purpose of the cycle is to ensure as fair a testing process as possible to the donor. In the federal program, there are built-in procedures to protect both the donor's privacy and the donor's rights all along the way from the initial notification that a test is going to be given to the final step of when he or she is notified of the results.
It is amazing how complex this process can get within those simple steps of the sequence; even in what on the surface doesn't seem like a difficult job on our end, after all, how hard is it to collect pee in a cup or have somebody blow into a breathalyzer tube? Problems never seem to end, as you will see if you follow along in this series.