Archive for the 'Drug-Free Work Week' Category

Bath Salts? It’s really a drug and it’s legal!

By now most people have heard of Synthetic Cannabinoids, i.e. K-2, Spice, etc. The newest craze is Bath Salts – watch Dr. Oz report on this.



Rub-a-dub-dub, Drugs in your tub?

Are there new drugs in the market posing as bath salts? Yes this is actually true. Ivory Wave is marketed as a bath salt or plant food and is labeled ‘not for human consumption,’ but the substance’s true purpose is no secret online. Ivory Wave is the newest drug on the market – and it’s legal.

Ivory Wave contains two drugs, Lidocaine and Pyrovalerone, one is used by dentists in anesthesia and the other is a hallucinogen. The drug is popular among meth users and is smoked or snorted to produce a high. Law enforces say it started becoming popular in the U.S. when pseudoephedrine (active ingredient in crystal meth) became only available by prescription. Users of this drug feel paranoia, volatile aggression and believe their hallucinogens are real.

Now lawmakers and law enforcers are scrambling to stop the latest drug fad from taking over the US like it did in the UK, prompting the Home Office to ban it.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said he has had deputies injured trying to arrest salt users and also has seen other people seriously injured by the paranoid individuals. “This is one of the worst behavioral drugs I’ve ever seen,” said Johnson. “They are like mad people and they have no control over it. They are seeing things, hearing things and deputies and first-responders end up in the crossfire. Something has to be done to stop this before is spreads.”

One of the most noteworthy stories from the UK was 35-year-old Sarah Forsyth. She did not start taking Ivory Wave to get high, but as a diet supplement. It worked as an appetite suppressant and she dropped 10 dress sizes. She also endured the side effects like paranoia, aggression and was no longer able to sleep. Even after she lost the weight she was unable to quit using and began to hear voices and have vivid paranoid hallucinations. She soon became very ill, fell into a comma and eventually passed away.

To those of you thinking that Ivory Wave was just another bath salt, you now know the truth.

Do You Require Drug Testing for Your Employees?

Many employers require drug testing as part of their pre-employment assessment process, and may include periodic random drug testing and for-cause and post-accident drug and alcohol testing as part of their company’s workplace substance abuse program.  Nearly 75% of all adult illicit drug users are employed, as are most binge and heavy alcohol users1 and problems related to alcohol and drug abuse cost American businesses roughly $81 billion in lost productivity in just one year2.

Drug and alcohol use by employees result in:

  • Risk, safety and liability issues
  • Loss of production
  • Higher absenteeism and consistent tardiness
  • Increased worker’s compensation costs and claims
  • Increased incidences of theft, embezzlement and other crimes
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Employee behavior issues that affect a company’s morale, culture and image

In fact, industries with the highest rates of drug use are the same as those at a high risk for occupational injuries, such as construction, mining, manufacturing and wholesale3.  These same employers must also be diligent in screening, monitoring and caring for prospective candidates and employees who may work in high risk occupations through more specialized occupational health testing.

Energy Drinks – Are they really good for you?

How energetic do we really need to be?

The popularity of energy drinks has introduced a whole world of problems for those of us in Occupational Health and Safety.  When we have a client come to us for physicals, PFT’s and fit tests and they have an elevated blood pressure or irregular heart rate our first question no longer is, “Do you have a history of heart disease?”  Our first question now is, “Have you had an energy drink today?”

In general energy drinks are considered safe for most people.  When used in moderation they do what they advertise.  They give a boost in stamina and energy.  A good night sleep will do the same thing and you don’t need to drink it out of a can and ingest things that can potentially harm some people.

As it turns out most of the “energy” from these drinks come s from two main ingredients: Sugar and caffeine.  A typical energy drink contains up to 80 milligrams of caffeine (About the same as a cup of coffee).  The amount of sugar varies from brand to brand but in general there is more sugar than a 12 oz can of soda.

Other than caffeine levels, how do these energy drinks differ from sodas or sports drinks?  Soft drinks are mainly water, sugar and flavoring.  They don’t do anything for you; their main function is to taste good.  Sports drinks are designed to replenish fluids lost during activity.  They contain water, sugar, and electrolytes. Energy drink manufacturers have gone a step further and added additional items to help “boost” stamina and energy.

Here are some of the ingredients you may find in popular energy drinks and what they do in the body:

  • Caffeine-Both a stimulant and a diuretic. As a diuretic caffeine stimulates your kidneys to remove extra fluid from your body.  If you consume energy drinks while sweating these effects can be extremely dangerous because you can become severely dehydrated quickly.  Energy drinks should be avoided in situations such as work or strenuous activities where dehydration could be an issue.
  • Ephedrine-A stimulant that works on the central nervous system.  It is common in weight-loss products and decongestants.  There are many concerns about its effect on the heart.
  • Taurine-A natural amino acid produced by the body that helps regulate heart beat and muscle contractions.  It is now produced synthetically. Studies have now linked it to a variety of illnesses from high blood pressure to strokes and other types of heart disease.
  • Ginseng-A root believed by some to have many medicinal qualities including reducing stress and boosting energy levels.
  • B-Vitamins-A group of vitamins that can convert sugar to energy and improve muscle tone.  Eating a well balanced diet can do the same thing safely.
  • Guarana Seed-A central nervous system stimulant that comes from a small shrub native to Venezuela and Brazil.
  • Carnitine-An amino acid that plays a role in fatty acid metabolism.
  • Creatine-An organic acid that helps supply energy for muscle contractions.  Some experts feel that this creates a feeling of alertness in people.  In reality it makes most people feel tense and unable to stay still.
  • Inositol-A member of the vitamin-B complex (not a vitamin itself, because the body can synthesize it) that helps relay messages within cells in the body.
  • Ginkgo biloba-Made from the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree, thought to enhance memory.

Energy drinks come in variety of formulas.  An occasional energy drink may be safe for most people.  Most of them contain the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee and the same amount of sugar as a soda.  But some contain very high levels of caffeine, sugar and other herbal stimulants that can have a variety of serious effects.  They may cause markedly faster heart rates, elevated blood pressure, irritability, nervousness, insomnia and increased blood sugar levels. 

By itself large amounts of caffeine can increase your blood pressure and impair blood flow to the heart.  It can also trigger abnormal heart rhythms, which in some people can be life threatening.  It is very important to educate yourself about what goes into your body and how it can affect you.  It is important to read the labels on these drinks.  If you any conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes avoid them.  At the very least check with your physician to make sure they are safe for you.

The problems caused by energy drinks becomes very real when we cannot  complete pre-employment testing on  one of our clients because their blood pressure or heart rate are so elevated that it would not be safe to do a pulmonary function test.  There are times that we have to turn a client away to return the next day due to the effect of these drinks.  This can cause costly delays for employers who may be waiting for that individual to complete testing prior to starting a job.

Lou Ann Enis, Registered Nurse and Occupational Health Supervisor

Substance Abuse In A Can – Inhalants

First-time substance users generally don’t find their drugs on the street.  They find it in their home among everyday items used by the family.  Do you have aerosol cans, cleaning fluids, and removers scatters around your house?  These are inhalants, a “gateway” drug easily accessible by young teens.

Inhalants are products that produce breathable chemical vapors that cause mind-altering affects, similar to alcohol.  Because inhalants are breathed, they quickly enter the user’s blood system, causing an almost immediate affect.  According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 729,000 young people, ages 12 and up, used some type of inhalant to get high during the past 12 month period.  70% of these first-time users were under 18.  In fact, according to The Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE), 1 in 5 children will abuse inhalants by the 8th grade.  8th grade students show the highest level of inhalant abuse, with a higher percentage being female.

Why do young people use inhalants?  It’s easy – they can find them anywhere around their own home or garage.  They are also cheap.  Common types of inhalant products include but are not limited to:

  • Spray paint
  • Nail polish remover
  • Hair spray
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Lighter fluid
  • Gasoline
  • Paint thinner
  • Felt-tipped markers
  • Glue

How are these everyday products used to get high?  The inhalant user may sniff or snort the fumes directly from the container.  They may also spray the product directly into their nose or mouth.  Other ways fumes are introduced include “bagging”, where the vapor is sprayed directly into a plastic or paper bag, then placed over the nose and mouth to breathe the fumes; and “huffing”.  Huffing occurs when a rag or clothing is soaked with the product, then it is held over the nose and mouth or even stuffed into the mouth.

How can parents recognize the signs and symptoms of inhalant use?  We would first like to recommend prevention, and this is a good month to get started, National Poison Prevention Month.  Lock up or protect any products that could potentially be abused.  Keep an inventory of items and pay attention to how quickly products are used up.  Then look for these common signs and symptoms:

  • Intoxication similar to someone that has used alcohol
    • A drunken appearance
    • Slurred speech
    • Muscle weakness
    • Impairment
    • Hallucinations/Delusions
    • Confusion
    • A chemical odor on a person’s breath or clothing
    • Stains on a person’s face, hands and clothes
    • Hidden empty spray containers or rags that reek of fumes

Inhalant abuse is not something to be taken lightly.  The products used are toxic and hazardous.  Improper use of inhalants can cause damage to the brain and nervous system; organ damage; convulsions and seizures; choking caused from inhaled vomit; secondary injuries from accidents; and even death.

To learn more about inhalant abuse and how to talk to your teen, visit The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website on inhalants for more information.

Keeping Up With the Trends: Substance Abuse Has Changed. Shouldn’t Your Workplace Drug Testing Program?

Although I am reluctant to admit it at my young age of 44, I read an article in an AARP magazine. It caught my eye on the coffee table because it boasted a list of the top 50 drugs prescribed in 2008. Hydrocodone (a pain reliever) topped the list, and amongst the top ten which consisted of antibiotics, cholesterol medications and hypertension drugs was Alprazolam (for depression) at number nine. I found the list to be painfully depressing, no pun intended.

 A recent SAMHSA Report asked past year nonmedical users of prescription drugs how they obtained the drugs. Can you believe that over half of the nonmedical users of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives said they got the drugs they used most recently “from a friend or relative for free.” In a follow-up question, the majority of these respondents indicated that their friend or relative had obtained the drugs from one doctor.

 It makes me wonder why the most commonly used drug tests do not detect either of these drugs. Wouldn’t it be worth it to find out if these seemingly “easy access” meds have made it into your workforce?

Is drug testing a good idea? Sure I think we can get a consensus on that. Employer drug testing programs not only save employers money by earning them discounts on their worker’s compensation premiums, they also protect the owners from the possibility of having a liability on the job. But once an employer decides to implement a program, how do they know they are creating a robust testing program with options that increase the chance of catching users?

Here’s what I think. A robust program needs to include not only pre employment testing, but random testing also. A recent Quest Diagnostics study backs this up. It also needs to include random specimen type testing so that the detection time for the test may not be known by the donor in advance. Oral fluid, urine and hair testing should be part of the program.

Also, employers need to begin testing for more than just the standard five (Marijuana, Cocaine, Phencyclidine, Amphetamines and Opiates). An underemphasized fact is that the standard five mentioned above, although it does include Opiates, it will not detect Hydrocodone. In most cases, this must be ordered separately.

So, with all of those choices out there, how can an employer screen out the potential liabilities?

  • Utilize a robust pre-employment test including an oral fluid, urine and hair specimens. Combined, this will give a 90 day window into the applicant’s past.
  • Test for more than the standard five drugs mentioned above. ExperTox offers the most robust product line of hair testing that will include the above mentioned synthetic opiate (Hydrocodone) and Benzodiazepine (Alprazolam) class drugs.
  • Random testing of at least 50% of the workforce yearly

Incorporating this into the workplace testing program may sound complicated and expensive. But with the help of providers like Any Lab Test Now and ExperTox, your drug testing needs can be evaluated and performed at an affordable cost. The money you spend on your drug testing program will protect your assets and improve productivity.

And now, I think it is time for me to go to the book store and improve my coffee table literature to something more suiting a youngster like me!

By Laura Bradbury, Toxicology Manager at Any Lab Test Now 

Thanks Laura and Any Lab Test Now for being our guest blogger this week.  Excellent points!

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?


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