The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 115 Americans die each day because of an opioid overdose, primarily from prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. This statistic in and of itself is deeply concerning. However, the ramifications of this growing crisis don’t end there. On top of this, some estimates—like those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—say that the opioid crisis is costing the country roughly $78.5 billion a year. Of this, it is estimated that employers are spending approximately $12 billion a year because of opioid abuse.

While drug abuse is dangerous regardless of what occupation the user assumes, it is especially concerning for industries where public safety is a daily concern. In response to this emerging and growing threat, the Department of Transportation (DOT) recently made changes to their drug screening policies by expanding their drug testing panel. In today’s article, we at Affordable Evaluations would like to discuss these recent changes. If you are in need of reliable, confidential, and professional drug testing services, contact us today. In addition to performing DOT drug tests, we also offer return to work programs, probation evaluations, substance abuse treatment, and more!

How DOT Is Handling Opioid Abuse

Prior to January 2018, the DOT required all of their employees to submit a urine test that screened employees for amphetamines, cocaine, phencyclidine, marijuana, and opiates like codeine, morphine, and heroin. While this drug screening did cover a great deal of potentially impairing substances, it did not come close to addressing the full spectrum of drug abuse—especially drugs that are becoming increasingly more prevalent in the U.S. As a result, the DOT announced that as of January 2018, they will add four semi-synthetic opioids to the testing panel as well as methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA). These four opioids include hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone.

Potential Shortcomings of New Policy

Broadening the range of drugs being tested for will surely help improve transportation safety and therefore public safety. However, many critics still have complaints about the limitations and problems with the new regulations. Specifically, they believe the minimum requirements are not stringent enough. For example, many fear that a lot of employers often do the bare minimum of what is required of them. Therefore, if the minimum requirements fall short, so will the efficacy of drug screening. And what’s more is that the industries and employers who are not regulated by the DOT are not subject to being tested for opioid use.

Another problem that is not resolved by the most recent changes is the fact that the update still has one glaring omission: the testing of fentanyl. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made clear with their recently issued warning, fentanyl is without a doubt a threat to public safety. It is 50 times as powerful as heroin and 100 times as powerful as morphine. Despite not requiring testing, it seems that testing your employees for fentanyl is something that should absolutely be considered. 

If you would like to know more about implementing drug screening into your workplace, we encourage you to contact us. In addition to offering a range of affordable, reliable, and confidential drug testing services, we also offer return to work programs. These can be especially beneficial for organizations that do not have set disciplinary actions in place after an employee has failed a drug test or has been put on probation. Our programs are led by substance abuse professionals who are DOT-certified and have experience working with employees to return to work and maintain their sobriety. We can also tailor our services to adhere to the guidelines of DISA, NASAP, as well as other industries.

Although the new DOT drug testing policies are not entirely inclusive, they are a step in the right direction. The new policy will likely improve workplace safety, help fight the drug epidemic, and protect and improve public safety. To do your part, there are steps you can take. For example, implementing a drug-free workplace policy, growing awareness, and requiring regular and random drug screenings can all be effective ways of combating the opioid crisis and protecting your business.