Managers must overcome challenges with drug testing

Not testing? You may be a magnet for users

Employees have gotten very creative about diverting medications and drugs, and some are using newer anesthetics that aren't easy to test for, warns Bruce Cunha, manager of employee health and safety, and infection prevention and control, at Marshfield (WI) Clinic.

Cunha gives the example of one professional at his clinic who underwent for-cause testing, was found to be positive, and went through substance abuse treatment. When the employee returned to work, he had to undergo weekly drug screening as part of the state's impaired professional program. The managers suspected that the employee was using drugs, Cunha recalls. When the clinic ordered a for-cause drug test, he says, the professional was somewhat cocky and said, "Go ahead. You won't find anything." In fact, the test indicated the employee wasn't using any drugs.

Subsequently, a syringe was found in a bathroom stall, which tested positive for propofol, a drug not included in the random drug screening panel. Apparently, this employee liked the "high" he received from the drug, despite the fact that it cause him to go to sleep immediately for a few minutes.

The director of Marshfield's on-site National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lab subsequently developed a test for propofol, which the clinical now includes as part of the its random testing profile. The professional tested positive and was fired.

It's critical to stay on top of potential drug theft and diversion at your facility, Cunha advises. "You have to wonder: The places that are not testing, are they magnets for people who can't get a job elsewhere?" he asks.

In fact, the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that individuals whose employers do not have a drug testing program reported a nearly 50% higher incidence of illicit drug use, compared to those with drug testing programs: 7.1% compared to 10.5%.