Workers enjoying alcohol in a restaurant. Workers enjoying alcohol in a restaurant.

What kind of Drug Tests do Schools Use for Employment? The Role of Alcohol in Drug Tests

Separating professional life from personal life is very important for employers and employees. The amount of alcohol people consume has risen; some people drink alcohol daily for different reasons, such as boosting confidence or lifting their mood.

Now, employers cannot control what their employees do outside the office; it is their life. However, employers can ensure that whatever employees do with their personal lives does not interfere with internal performance. That is why drug screening1 is crucial in this era.

1. What Is a Drug Test?

girl using laptop
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A drug test detects legal or illegal drugs by using biological samples such as hair, saliva, urine, blood, and more. The digestive system2 digests everything that is ingested in the body, and what is to be detected in the biological samples are the metabolites of the metabolic reaction3 (breakdown process).

Small samples of your fingernails, saliva, blood, urine, or hair can be used for drug testing. A small amount of blood is drawn from a vein in your arm or hand for a blood sample, which is then sent to a lab for testing. You will be asked to urinate into a clean container that will be provided for you to produce a urine sample.

Sometimes, a nurse or technician may need to verify that the urine sample came from you by having you give it in their presence. A few hair strands are pulled from your head and sent to the lab for testing as part of a hair sample.

1.1. What Kind of Drugs Are Tested for Employers at the Workplace?

Many drugs can be tested for in a workplace, but the following are the ones that are often tested for. Amphetamines4, opiates5, marijuana, and Phencyclidine6.

As mentioned before, what will be found in urine drug tests is not the drug itself but the end products or drug residues after different biological and chemical reactions have broken it down.

There is no need to prepare for a drug test because, most of the time, the employer can decide to do pre-employment drug screening on the interview day. For the current employees, random drug screenings can be done to determine any illegal ingested.

2. Are Drug Tests Important?

Life has changed drastically; people lead different lifestyles in most cases, affecting work performance, which is why drug tests have become essential. Testing employees, however, should be guided by state laws.

When you compare the amount of alcohol used by the current world population and the number of other drugs used, you will discover that alcohol is used more than other illegal drugs, making it crucial for employees to perform alcohol testing.

2.1. Increase Work Efficiency

This is the top reason why employers have drug testing programs. There are a lot of people who claim that certain drugs help them work better, but truth is told, there are a lot of side effects that come with medicines that can affect work performance.

Drugs can slow down productivity, increase accidents at work, especially when workers are not in sound mind, and certainly increase the number of absentees. Most drugs work by interfering with brain and nerve activity. As a result, productivity is reduced. Drug tests allow employers to ensure that all their workers are working.

2.2. Ensure safety

Drug testing, especially alcohol tests, guarantees safety in all aspects of working. Safety can be there, especially for people who use drugs for recreational purposes. Drug and alcohol testing is vital, especially in areas where physical labour is employed, such as construction sites and industrial areas.

These kinds of work require people who are mentally and physically present. Often, drugs interfere with a person’s physical or mental functioning and can increase work risks; therefore, a drug-free workplace policy ensures safety in many ways.

2.3. Promote a Peaceful Working Environment

Drug testing keeps workers in check at all times; that being said, it means that workers will not have worries about that one chaotic colleague or worry about unfinished work that was to be done by someone. A peaceful working environment is crucial in ensuring increased productivity.

2.4. Reduce Insurance Costs

In most cases, when an employee falls sick, the company is responsible for their health insurance. To reduce insurance costs, employers have a role in ensuring that all of these are taken care of even before hiring them.

Previously, employers considered personal health information, but given the increased illegal drug use and alcohol use, that is not enough. Random testing and reasonable suspicion tests can reduce accidents, detect substance abuse, and, in turn, reduce insurance costs.

3. When Do the Employers Do Drug Testing Programs?

There are no specific times that govern when employers are supposed to carry out an alcohol test7 or drug test. However, there are certain occasions when an employer is forced to carry out a drug or alcohol test. Such occasions include:

3.1. Pre-Employment Drug Tests

After oral and technical interviews, when the employer thanks a candidate for qualities, there will be a pre-employment drug test and personal health information, especially for safety-sensitive positions.

When the test results come in, they will determine if the person is finally hired. Pre-employment drug testing is vital in avoiding major issues in the company. A pre-employment positive test will disqualify the candidate.

3.2. Periodic Drug Testing

Other companies have a scheduled drug testing program for their workers. Drug screenings can be based on months or yearly, depending on the company’s operation and budget. This is done for the sake of monitoring the substances that their employees use.

When it comes to periodic testing, the downside that comes with it is the fact that some employers with alcohol or drug abuse issues might prepare ahead of time so that by the day of drug testing, there will be no residue found in their samples that is why random drug testing is necessary.

3.3. Random Drug Testing

Some organizations reserve the right to perform sudden and reasonable suspicion testing on their employees. This can be done when the employers notice something wrong with a certain employee or work performance. A drug test performed on a random is sure to spot illicit drug use and ensure a drug-free workplace.

3.4. Post-Accident Drug Testing

Drugs and alcohol consumption can lead to a lot of accidents at work. Often, when an accident happens, and if it happened carelessly, the employer has the right to conduct a second test on the employee.

The testing that will be conducted can determine the root cause of the accident. If it was because of alcohol or any drug use cause, then the employer has a right to terminate the employee.

4. The Best Methods of Drug Testing

Different methods can be used in drug tests; they all depend on what the medical review officer advises, the federal and state laws set, and the workers’ comfort with the method selected. With large groups of people, using non-invasive drug testing methods is advised.

4.1. Saliva Tests

Saliva contains all substances that have been put in the mouth. Saliva tests are accurate and reliable. It is the most common method that is used in workplaces.

An oral swab is called saliva, and the sample in the swab is put in the lab for testing. Saliva test results can reveal substances such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine8 and opiates

oral swabs for saliva test
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4.2. Hair Drug Tests

Hair samples are collected and then taken for lab testing. This method will determine the substances used, not the consumption amount.

The hair test is convenient as it is non-invasive. Hair collects the substances from blood, sebum, sweat, and the external environment. Hair that is collected is from the back of the head.

4.3. Urine Tests

Urine samples in the lab
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Urine drug test is the most common way of testing drugs because it is not invasive, and substances last in urine for a while.

Urine is the product of all excretion, containing all the waste elements that pass through the bloodstream. One thing about urine samples is that they can also contain residual elements of drugs even when an individual stops using them. A urine test detects many substances, such as alcohol, opiates, and marijuana.

4.4. Blood Tests

This is a sure way of testing for alcohol consumption or drug use, but it is not used as often. There are many reasons why a blood test is not preferred; one could be because it is invasive, and with a blood test, there could be a chance of infection.

4.5. Breath Drug Test

A breath drug test determines the concentration of drugs in the breath. It is used to detect recent drug or alcohol consumption. The downside of this method is that it is not accurate enough. The results can be overestimated or underestimated.

4.6. Sweat Drug Test

As the name suggests, sweat is the biological sample collected under this test. With a sweat drug test, an absorbent pad is worn to absorb all the sweat in the region. The drug consumption will be measured from when the pad has been worn to its removal.

5. How Long Do Drug Tests Take?

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Drug taste can take a few to 24 hours or even 48 hours; it all depends on what is being tested and the reason for the testing. If it is a scheduled drug test, the results may take a while to arrive, but they often take a shorter time for an emergency test. Results obtained in the lab do not show the intensity and frequency into which someone uses certain drugs; they show the drug’s concentration and presence.

There are many cases where false results have been reported. For urine tests, some people try to take in a lot of fluids or diuretics. In other cases, someone might try to submit drug-free samples from other colleagues. It is important to ensure that sample collection is supervised in such situations.

5.1. Positive Results

When a drug test comes in positive, there is always a need for a confirmation test before concluding. Employers should understand that positive results for drug tests do not necessarily mean that the employee is intoxicated at that moment or has disorders in drug abuse.

Sometimes, a positive test can be seen even when someone did not ingest the drugs. False positives can be identified in the initial screen; they can be caused by the ingestion of specific medications or foods that have the same chemical elements as those of certain drug substances.

For example, some depressants may produce positive tests for amphetamine9, and foods such as poppy seed may yield positive results for opioids.

Federal laws allow federal agencies to request a second drug test if the first results are positive. Different organizations should adopt this federal law to clear any false positive results.

5.2. Negative Results

do employers care about alcohol in drug test
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Negative results show that certain substances were not detected, but it does not mean they were not consumed. In addition, negative results do not guarantee that the current employees will not indulge in drug use or alcohol consumption in the future; as an employer, you should stay alert.

False-negative results can also be displayed due to several factors, such as the manipulation of samples by the workers, inaccurate sample collection, or when a drug is not evaluated. So, be it a negative or positive result, a confirmation test should be carried out as well.

After the results are out, the company can decide what to do with the employees. With positive results according to their company policies for most, they can choose to take the employees with an addiction to a mental health services administration; if not, some can decide to hire.

6. The Bottom Line

Controlling people’s lives is difficult, especially with drug use. Many drugs have been legalized in different states and not in other states, making the process complicated for some employers. In such cases, as an employer, you must list conditions before hiring and perform pre-employment tests to avoid problems after employment.

Even though alcohol is legal, it can mess badly with work when not handled with care. In many instances, people get into accidents because of excessive alcohol intake; some have lost their jobs due to uncontrolled alcohol and drug intake.

The side effects of alcohol consumption can manifest in the work environment and the family and friend cycle. For employees, whether an employer cares about alcohol in drug tests or not, it is important to monitor oneself and ensure that your rebound activities or recreational activities do not affect your productivity at work.

  1. Lin, Xiaoqian, Xiu Li, and Xubo Lin. “A review on applications of computational methods in drug screening and design.” Molecules 25.6 (2020): 1375. ↩︎
  2. Li, Cheng, et al. “Current in vitro digestion systems for understanding food digestion in the human upper gastrointestinal tract.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 96 (2020): 114-126. ↩︎
  3. Hatzimanikatis, Vassily, et al. “Metabolic networks: enzyme function and metabolite structure.” Current opinion in structural biology 14.3 (2004): 300-306. ↩︎
  4. Carvalho, Márcia, et al. “Toxicity of amphetamines: an update.” Archives of Toxicology 86 (2012): 1167-1231. ↩︎
  5. Brownstein, Michael J. “A brief history of opiates, opioid peptides, and opioid receptors.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 90.12 (1993): 5391-5393. ↩︎
  6. Baldridge, E. Bradford, and Howard A. Bessen. “Phencyclidine.” Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America 8.3 (1990): 541-550. ↩︎
  7. Els, Charl, et al. “Random drug and alcohol testing for preventing injury in workers.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 12 (2020). ↩︎
  8. Isenschmid, Daniel S. “Cocaine.” Principles of Forensic Toxicology (2020): 371-387. ↩︎
  9. Sassi, Karina Lúcia Moreira, et al. “Amphetamine use in the elderly: a systematic literature review.” Current Neuropharmacology 18.2 (2020): 126-135. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Babita89


  • Oge

    Oge is a passionate content writer and a physiotherapist in the making who aspires to bring creativity to life and add more spice to daily activities, helping you discover things head-on before your eyes meet them.

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