A big change is coming to the world of employment-related drug screening. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) previously allowed only urine drug testing under its guidelines for federally regulated workplaces. However, SAMHSA will now permit oral fluids drug testing and has provided guidelines for the collection and testing of saliva. While the effective date for oral fluids testing is January 1, 2020, there will be a twelve to eighteen month implementation period.
Similar to urine, oral fluids screening may be conducted for a variety of testing purposes, including pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty, and follow-up. Under the new guidelines, employers collecting oral fluids are required to test the specimen for marijuana and cocaine and may choose to also test for opiates/opioids, amphetamines, and phencyclidine. During the actual testing phase, initial tests can be performed using immunoassay or alternate technology. However, confirmatory tests must use mass spectrometric identification. Ultimately, the test must be laboratory-based in order to be accepted under the guidelines. In other words, SAMHSA does not authorize the use of rapid or instant oral fluids tests.
By allowing oral fluids testing for federally regulated positions, SAMHSA has increased the flexibility available to employers because saliva can be collected in various settings. With proper training, saliva can be collected at any location and does not require a special trip to an approved collection site. Furthermore, because oral fluids collection is observed, it can prevent some common issues found with urine testing, including the adulteration or substitution of the specimen itself.
With oral fluids now approved by SAMHSA as a testing method, companies should review the pros and cons of both urine and saliva drug testing and determine how each option best supports their screening programs.
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Want to learn the pros and cons of the various types of drug testing methods? Download our handy infographic here.