Archive for December, 2009

How Does Drug Testing Associate with “Good to Great” Companies?

I have a tendency of having one thought that leads to another that leads to another.  This diatribe began by thinking about Quest Diagnostics’ recent statistical report that reflects hair drug testing is much more reliable than drug testing with urine specimens.  Keep into consideration that most hair testing laboratories only perform a standard five panel drug test on hair specimens, which do not screen for some of the other more commonly abused drugs such as benzodiazepenes, oxycodone and barbiturates.

Drug testing programs are put into place by employers for health, safety, productivity improvement and other reasons that affect the health and well-being of their employees and customers, as well as liability and bottom-line financials.  So, this thought then led to another, Jim Collins’ book Good to Great .  The main principle I got out of this book was how critical it is to hire the right people in a company’s efforts to grow and be its best.  Ask Bud Hadfield, founder of the International Center for Entrepreneurial Development (ICED).  He knows it is critical to hire the right people versus just capable people; in fact, this was the first question he asked me when we first met, signifying its importance.

Another thought – then, does the definition of the right people include candidates and employees who do not have substance use/abuse problems, even if used on a casual basis?  What we know about testing urine specimens for drug testing purposes is that  [a] attempts at adulteration are most prevalent when compared to other types of samples such as hair, nails or oral fluid; [b] it has a fairly narrow detection window when compared to hair (where the standard is 90 days); therefore, persons “stop” taking drugs to avoid positive test results when they know they are going to be tested for pre-employment or random purposes; and [c] employers many times “plan” the drug testing schedule over a period of time that allows street-wise drug users to implement [b] above.

It’s not just all about the specimen, though.  Why are employers still using the standard five (5) panel drug test for non-DOT purposes?  An employer once told me they have a low positive rate in there company; therefore, their program was working and there was no need to make any “changes”.  Well, maybe there was a low positive rate because the employer was missing commonly used drugs such as benzodiazepenes (eg. Xanax), hydrocodone (eg. Vicodin) or oxycodone (eg. Oxycontin)?  Maybe they allowed too much time to pass between notice given to a candidate and the actual drug test?  Maybe a better reflection of the person’s use of drugs would have been reflected in a 90-day hair test versus a short detection urine test that can be planned around?

My last thought was that so many companies want to be “great”.  They even invest in assessments such as DISC, Meyers-Briggs, Wunderlich, Chally and other types of tools to ensure they are choosing the right person for a specific position.  Yet, they don’t take the heavy implications of drug use into full consideration.  Why not also invest in testing for all of the most commonly used/abused illegal drugs, or getting a real snapshot of a person’s drug use history by looking at a 3 month period versus one week? 

I’ll leave you with a few additional statistics to ponder over, from a survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

People that use drugs are:

2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal/time off

2.5 times more likely to have absences of 8 days +

3 times more likely to be late for work

3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident

5 times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim

 So, if you really want to have a “great” company with happy employees and clients, zero or low accident and incident rates, lower employee turnover…  the list goes on… then shouldn’t a strong, proactive drug testing program be a part of the process?

 

The Holiday Drug Testing Song

(Sing to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas”)

 On my first day back from Christmas my manager said to me

“Drug test time!” and I said “Yippee!”

I arrived at the testing center and the collector said to me

“I need a copy of your photo I.D.”

Because it is drug test time and I said Yippee!

It was time for my appointment and the collector said to me

“Wash your hands to make them clean and bleach-free!”

“I need a copy of your photo I.D.”

Because it is drug test time and I said Yippee!

After locking up my wallet and scrubbing carefully

She handed me a cup and said it’s time to pee.

“Wash your hands to make them bleach-free!”

“I need a copy of your photo I.D.”

Because it is drug test time and I said Yippee!

I am sitting in the restroom and I cannot believe

An-xi-ety!

She said it’s time to pee

 “Wash your hands to make them bleach-free!”

“I need a copy of your photo I.D.”

Because it is drug test time and I said Yippee!

I spoke to the collector who showed me empathy

“Here’s a glass of water that will help, you will see.”

I sat a little while  and knew it was meant to be

I left a specimen finally.

I drove back to the office after being chosen randomly

Now I’ll wait for the test results expectantly.

Because I

                Left a specimen finally

                After drinking something icy

                And an attack of An-xi-ety!

                She said it’s time to pee

                “Wash your hands to make them bleach-free!”

                “I need a copy of your photo I.D.”

                Because it is drug test time and I said Yippee!

The MRO then called me and asked “what can it be?”

It’s legal and I’ll get the script immediately.

I stopped by my local pharmacy and asked “can you help me?

 This prescription, I need a copy.”

Then the last day of my random drug test got here suddenly

I passed because I am drug-free – Yippee!

Looking for a Job… Are You Fit for Duty?

ExperTox supports our local Houston-area community by offering occupational health services, in conjunction with drug testing, alcohol testing and occupational exposure testing.  It is our job to ensure that prospective employees are fit for duty. We are making a judgment on cardiopulmonary fitness based on pulmonary function testing (PFT), blood pressure and heart rate checks.

 Checking blood pressure and heart rate may seem unimportant, but it is the basis for all our testing.  A client must have a systolic (top number) no greater that 160 and diastolic (bottom number) no higher than 100 prior to doing any other testing. Doing a pulmonary function test puts a great strain on the heart and lungs.  Performing this test with an elevated blood pressure could harm someone.   Wearing a respirator for 8-16 hours a day while performing hard physical labor can also cause stress to the heart and lungs.  The workers that we see generally are shiftworkers who work long hours with very few days off.  All of these factors cause stress to the body.  They sleep badly, eat poorly and get very little cardiovascular exercise.   Further complicating this issue is that the jobs these people perform could also compromise the safety of other workers as well as the public if they had a sudden loss of consciousness or an acute cardiac event.

 For us, elevated blood pressure is a very big deal.  In this economy when jobs are so hard to come by it is difficult to turn someone down for a job based on one factor.  Even though we explain to people that it’s hard to get a paycheck if you have a stroke, heart attack or worse… die. People have families to take of and bills to pay.  A lot of our clients have been out of work and have no insurance or money to get medical attention.

 We work with people and our client companies to give them more time to get their blood pressure down.  We give them tips and educational materials to help them.  It takes time to get an elevated blood pressure under control and sometimes companies cannot wait and have to hire someone else for the job.  It’s a real problem.  We have some people take someone else’s medicine to try to get their blood pressure down.  That is so dangerous.  These are the extremes people will go to for a job.

 If you are in a position to promote cardiovascular fitness in the workplace, we strongly encourage you to do it! Lunch time safety meetings, handouts, or training sessions are excellent ways to get the word out.  Any way you can reach people and educate them about hypertension could save a life and it promotes healthier employees in the workplace.  There are a lot educational materials available for free from the American Heart AssociationAmerican Lung Association and the  National Hypertension Association to name a few.

 Lou Ann Enis, RN

Supv. Occupational Health

A Cocktail You Don’t Want At a Holiday Party – Your Favorite Drink With a Splash of a Date Rape Drug

My youngest daughter is 21.  She is bright and an all-around great young woman whom I am proud of.  However, she is also socially naïve.  Last night she called to tell my husband and I that she was headed to a club to attend a concert with her friends.  She is very much a homebody, so this was her first venture into the club scene.  My husband turned to me after the call and asked, “Did you talk to her about being careful with anything she might drink at the club?”.

This conversation then reminded me of a call I received the day before from one of our ExperTox clients.  It was filled with urgency, as a father had contacted him wanting to test his daughter for date rape drugs, also called club drugs.  I tried to put myself in that father’s shoes, only imagining what it would be like to face the possibility of someone dropping a little pill in my daughter’s drink, then taking advantage of her loss of inhibitions, memory and possibly unconsciousness.

With the holiday season filled with parties and social activities, now is a good time to talk to your loved ones about how people are drugged by casually and quickly dropping hypnotics, sedatives, even over-the-counter medications into a person’s drink without them even knowing until it is too late.  An article on date rape drugs is posted within ExperTox’s December newsletter.  I want to focus on how to be proactive and aware to avoid an unimaginable situation from happening to you, or your daughter.

  • Keep your drink close to you and within sight at all times.
  • Never leave a drink on a table when heading to the restroom or dance floor.  It is a prime opportunity for someone to add something to your cocktail.  Finish your drink before you hit the dance floor, or get a fresh one when you return.
  • Avoid becoming intoxicated.  This just opens the door for another person to take advantage of the situation and you.
  • Do not drink from communal containers, such as a punch bowl, and do not share drinks.
  • Beware of bartenders – they are not exempt!  If they seem very flirty or the opposite – rude and angry, be cautious and think about heading to different bar area.
  • “I bought you a drink” may not be a flattering attempt to start a conversation.  Do not accept drinks from a stranger, especially if they are bringing it to you.
  • Go out with groups of friends you know and trust, and watch out for each other.

Party safely, and give a special gift to someone you care for by sharing these safety tips.

Other helpful resources:

URL –     National Institute on Drug Abuse

Video – “Be Aware of the Risks of Date Rape Drugs”

Video-  “Date Rape Drugs Story Featured on Dateline

Toxicology Testing – You’re Thinking, “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If There Was an App For That?:

I was reading a blog written on PI Newswire about the difference between reality and perception when it comes to testing, such as toxicology testing for things like drugs, alcohol, poisons, chemicals and toxins.  Shows like CSI and Forensic Files even keep us on pins and needles; however, give the perception that intricate, scientific tests can be completed in one hour, even with commercial breaks.  Wow, the anticipation of a break every 15 minutes….

 This thought then led me to think about how our customers feel once they make a decision to have a test performed.  It is sort of like the holidays when we were children.  First, you knew the holidays were coming as soon as Halloween passed.  You began scouring the department store catalogs and making  lists upon lists of things you wanted from Santa, changing your mind every other day.  Thanksgiving arrived, possibly the first snow and you mailed that final list to Santa.  Anxiety immediately kicked in, causing heart palpitations as you sat on Santa’s lap, made Christmas cookies, held the final holiday party at school where you exchanged gifts.  You just couldn’t take it anymore!  Now it was time to bug the parents – Christmas should have been there by now.  “Mom, when is Santa going to come?”  “Why is it taking soooooo long?”.  You get the drift.  The child’s reality began the moment a twinkling of the holidays showed its face.  For the parents, it is usually a few days before as they rush to complete their shopping, wrap and hide gifts and prepare for the family get-together.

 This is not unlike making the decision to have a test performed.  Different emotions are tied to situations unique to the person who may be requesting a test.  These emotions may be:

  • Urgency – by an employer to get a candidate onto a job site
  • Fear – by a parent that may find out their child is using drugs
  • Anxiety – by a job candidate who needs to earn a paycheck as soon as possible to take care of his or her family
  • Dread – by a young woman who believes she was given a date rape drug at a party

 For the person living their situation, waiting is the last thing they want to do.  Their reality starts the moment they decide to proceed through the testing process.  It is easy to forget that time passes when research is done to figure out where and how to test something; a specimen must be collected or packaged; shipped; then received  by the laboratory.  What is heard is, “your test should be completed in XX days”…. blocking out the remaining part of this sentence, “from the time of sample receipt at the laboratory.”   This is quite understandable, a decision has been made and now the challenge lies in waiting for an answer.

 Believe it or not, laboratory personnel understand these feelings.  They hear the stories every day, which is actually why they continue to do what they are passionate about – sharing their scientific expertise to provide answers and solutions.  Yes, we want the test to be as quick as possible to relieve our customers’ fears and frustrations.  However, at the forefront is ensuring the results produced are accurate and dependable.  No one really wants to trade an incorrect test result for speed.

 So, how can perceptions be managed?  First of all, if you are having a test performed, ask what the turnaround time is, keeping in mind what must happen before the lab can start their technical work.  The specimen must be packaged, collected, and shipped before one bit of testing is started.  Add two to four days onto your expectation to take the pre-work into account.

 Secondly, know that not all testing cases are alike.  Specimens like urine, hair and pills are standard – the laboratory receives these types of samples every day and should be able to provide you test results by the time committed.  However, know that unusual specimens may take longer.  What is unusual?  The list is too long but includes degraded body tissue, stomach contents and old vials of blood.  Yes, we agree – this sounds gross.  But these are some of the unusual samples we do receive.  The point is this – just because a person orders an unknown poisons and toxins analysis does not necessarily mean test results for all types of specimens will be ready in ten business days, ExperTox’s turnaround time for this particular test.  Standard specimens are not a problem.  With unusual samples, the lab may need to try different methodologies just to get the specimen to work, taking extra time.  Some laboratories take several weeks and months for the unusual stuff!

 Third, relax.  Once a sample is submitted, it is out of your hands and placed in ours.  Our reputation relies on getting you test results as quickly as we can, while balancing accuracy and quality.  You will know that once you receive the result, you have a firm, dependable piece of evidence for which to make your next decision going forward.  If you just need some reassurance, we’re just a phone call or e-mail away.

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ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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