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Feds Plan Broader Drug Screening

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The420Guy

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NEW YORK - The federal government is planning to overhaul its employee
drug testing program to include scrutiny of workers' hair, saliva and
sweat, a shift that could spur more businesses to revise screening for
millions of their own workers.

The planned changes, long awaited by the testing industry, reflect
government efforts to be more precise in its drug screening and to
outmaneuver a small but growing subset of workers who try to cheat on
urine-based tests.

Some businesses have already adopted alternative testing, despite
criticism by privacy advocates. But others have held back, partly
awaiting government standards. Alternative testing methods would give
employers more certainty about the timing and scope of drug usage than
is now possible solely with urine sampling, said Robert Stephenson II,
an official with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration.

That could be particularly valuable in situations like investigations
of on-the-job accidents, to determine not just whether an employee
uses drugs but if usage occurred recently enough to be a cause.
Alternative testing will "really ramp up our ability to increase the
deterrent value of our program, which is basically the whole bottom
line," said Stephenson, director of the agency's Division of Workplace
Programs.

Stephenson said it would likely be a year until the new policies take
effect for the nation's 1.6 million federal workers. The agency, known
as SAMHSA, sets guidelines and administers the testing.

All federal workers are eligible to be tested. SAMHSA, a division of
the Department of Health and Human Services, tests fewer than 200,000
workers a year. The decision about who is tested often depends on the
sensitivity of their job.

But because its standards are followed by regulatory agencies who
conduct testing in industries they oversee, SAMHSA is responsible for
about 6.5 million of the 40 million workplace drug tests done each
year by U.S. employers.

The agency's testing standards are also widely followed by thousands
of other employers, public and private.

The proposed changes are due out "literally any day," Stephenson said.
He would not discuss details of the proposals before their release.

Changes would not likely go into effect until early next year, after
the agency solicits public comment, finalize guidelines and prepare
for the transition. Once that happens, many other employers could
follow suit, government and industry officials said.

"There's no doubt about it that SAMHSA's guidelines become the
standard for the industry whether you're a regulated employer or not,
and so what SAMHSA does will have wide-ranging impact," said Kenneth
Kunsman, a marketing executive with OraSure Technologies Inc., which
makes a saliva testing kit.

More employers are already using alternative testing. But many have
held back because of the lack of standards, said Laura Shelton,
executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry
Association, which represents test manufacturers and labs.

Alternative tests hold appeal because their accuracy cannot be foiled
with products sold to mask drug residue in urine, say company and
government officials, noting that the tests are extremely accurate.

But privacy advocates express doubts, pointing to cases of police
officers and others who allege false positives because their hair
absorbed drugs around them, as well as research suggesting dark hair
soaks up more drug byproducts than light hair.


Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jan 2004
Source: Daily Camera (CO)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Camera.
Contact: openforum@dailycamera.com
Website: Boulder DailyCamera.com Colorado, News, Business, Sports, Homes, Jobs, Cars and Information - Boulder Daily Camera
 
NEW YORK - The federal government is planning to overhaul its employee
drug testing program to include scrutiny of workers' hair, saliva and
sweat, a shift that could spur more businesses to revise screening for
millions of their own workers.

The planned changes, long awaited by the testing industry, reflect
government efforts to be more precise in its drug screening and to
outmaneuver a small but growing subset of workers who try to cheat on
urine-based tests.

Some businesses have already adopted alternative testing, despite
criticism by privacy advocates. But others have held back, partly
awaiting government standards. Alternative testing methods would give
employers more certainty about the timing and scope of drug usage than
is now possible solely with urine sampling, said Robert Stephenson II,
an official with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration.

That could be particularly valuable in situations like investigations
of on-the-job accidents, to determine not just whether an employee
uses drugs but if usage occurred recently enough to be a cause.
Alternative testing will "really ramp up our ability to increase the
deterrent value of our program, which is basically the whole bottom
line," said Stephenson, director of the agency's Division of Workplace
Programs.

Stephenson said it would likely be a year until the new policies take
effect for the nation's 1.6 million federal workers. The agency, known
as SAMHSA, sets guidelines and administers the testing.

All federal workers are eligible to be tested. SAMHSA, a division of
the Department of Health and Human Services, tests fewer than 200,000
workers a year. The decision about who is tested often depends on the
sensitivity of their job.

But because its standards are followed by regulatory agencies who
conduct testing in industries they oversee, SAMHSA is responsible for
about 6.5 million of the 40 million workplace drug tests done each
year by U.S. employers.

The agency's testing standards are also widely followed by thousands
of other employers, public and private.

The proposed changes are due out "literally any day," Stephenson said.
He would not discuss details of the proposals before their release.

Changes would not likely go into effect until early next year, after
the agency solicits public comment, finalize guidelines and prepare
for the transition. Once that happens, many other employers could
follow suit, government and industry officials said.

"There's no doubt about it that SAMHSA's guidelines become the
standard for the industry whether you're a regulated employer or not,
and so what SAMHSA does will have wide-ranging impact," said Kenneth
Kunsman, a marketing executive with OraSure Technologies Inc., which
makes a saliva testing kit.

More employers are already using alternative testing. But many have
held back because of the lack of standards, said Laura Shelton,
executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry
Association, which represents test manufacturers and labs.

Alternative tests hold appeal because their accuracy cannot be foiled
with products sold to mask drug residue in urine, say company and
government officials, noting that the tests are extremely accurate.

But privacy advocates express doubts, pointing to cases of police
officers and others who allege false positives because their hair
absorbed drugs around them, as well as research suggesting dark hair
soaks up more drug byproducts than light hair.


Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jan 2004
Source: Daily Camera (CO)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Camera.
Contact: openforum@dailycamera.com
Website: Boulder DailyCamera.com Colorado, News, Business, Sports, Homes, Jobs, Cars and Information - Boulder Daily Camera
Our days of cheating the screen are numbered. I'd like to get a medical marijuana permit and defend my non-working hours use of it as private. I'd have to give up on other occasional chemical treats which is sad. I just started a new career by falsely claiming I don't use drugs. I guess it's just a matter of time before hiding our habits becomes impossible. I wonder if the persecution will be legally enshrined into our laws and legally supported discrimination practiced at the workplace. I I have to consider changing my career to one where I have both personal liberty and professional security. Might have been a stoner's utopian pipe dream a decade ago, but the legal status of marijuana is rapidly evolving away from it's dark past. Hallelujah! There's hope yet.
 
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