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What Drugs Should Employers Screen Their Employees for?

Excessive prescription of medications — like opioids — could be a tip-off of a more serious drug problem. And for some employees, certain drugs might already be screens for, like marijuana or benzodiazepines.

Employers would also like to take stock of the prescription medication that their employees bring with them to work each day — things like sedatives or painkillers, antidepressants, and antianxiety medications. In fact, a new medical conference in Quebec recommends that employers screen employees and potential employees for prescription drug use and remove them from the employment process.

The Canadian Legal Information Institute notes that this is a significant change in the law — employers have been screened for a variety of serious crimes — but that since 1985 employers have been screened for drug use if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a member of their staff or their employees is impaired in any way.

Drug screening is often touted as a way to safeguard the employees and members of the community that employers support. After all, people should not be placed in jobs where they are at risk of becoming distracted, impaired, or are unduly stressed to the point of making them miss work or causing danger to the community.

Still, employers and some workers appear worried that drug screening would give employers too much insight into their employees. According to some employers, though, drug screening might actually reduce safety risks.

For example, Jason Spencer, owner of Manor Wood, a retirement home in Victoria, Canada, explains to the CBC that when drug testing was introduced at Manor Wood, some employees began bringing prescription medication with them to work. Eventually, when the employees showed up to work in such a way that they weren’t fit to return to a drug-free workplace, their job was terminated.

“and we saved the lives of many of our employees that were potentially at risk due to their drug and alcohol use,” Spencer tells the CBC.

While drug screening could be a useful way to identify drug use that could affect a workplace, employers need to approach this issue with caution. Most employees do not come to work high on prescription medications. Instead, these drugs can make the employee sleepy, nauseous, or give them diarrhea.

This might not be a danger when people are working in manual labor or in other industries that do not require the use of prescription medications, but it could be dangerous when a worker is supposed to perform a job that requires the use of prescription painkillers, sedatives, or antianxiety medications.

12 Panel Drug Test

A 12 panel drug screen costs $7.50 in California and can yield results in about 15 minutes, according to the California State Board of Pharmacy. The new test will help detect marijuana or prescription drugs such as oxycodone, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Oxycodone is often prescribed to people with chronic pain and inflammation, so clearly some prescription medication could be detected, which means employers would have to be adequately versed in setting aside “false positives” in the results, for hard drugs. Ultimately it’s about testing for those drugs which have the potential to hinder the employees’ ability to do their work properly.