Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler, the chief medical review officer of DriverCheck, leaves little doubt that people are performing safety-sensitive work with drugs in their system.
Thirty-five per cent of people who use cannabis do so three or more days per week, and 26% use the drug five or more days per week, she told an audience of fleet managers during the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s (PMTC) annual meeting.
The minimum safety standard is to avoid cannabis for 24 hours before performing a safety-sensitive task. That’s impossible to achieve if someone is using the drug three or more days per week.
“I guarantee that it affects every single workplace out there,” Snider-Adler said, adding that 69% of those with a substance use disorder are employed and working.
And drug-related challenges in the workplace are not limited to legally accessed marijuana, she said, referring to the opioid epidemic as an example. “This is not something about people who live on the street.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is already looking to update the panel of drugs included in tests for truck drivers. Proposed cutoff levels for morphine and codeine would also rule out positive results that drivers have argued are caused by poppyseed bagels, she said.
Cheating drug tests
Still, urine-based drug tests are prone to widespread cheating, Snider-Adler added. A quick search of the internet identifies products with names like the Whizzinator for that very purpose. Women have been known to insert M&M containers filled with clean urine into their bodies, she said. Even drinking a lot of water can dilute the results.
“Trust me. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
But oral fluid tests, which Snider-Adler believes will eventually be adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, are readily observed and more accurately reflect recent drug use.
A reading of 10 ng/ML confirms marijuana was used within 12 hours, and 2 ng/ML indicates it was used within 24 hours.
“For Canadian companies that don’t need to follow DOT regulations, you have that option,” she said of the oral fluid testing.
The option of testing urine, oral fluids, or hair will vary depending on a testing regime’s ultimate goals, she added, noting how hair tests can be an option for screening those who are returning to work and must demonstrate they’re abstaining from drugs.
“At the end of the day, there is no perfect combination of tests for everybody,” Snider-Adler said. “Maybe you added a substance because, in your area or where your employees are coming from, there are high rates of use.”
But the goal is still to identify disorders and offer treatment.
“It is a deterrent, and it is a very good way to also pick up those people and try to help people,” she said.
“We don’t want to just be doing drug tests and terminating people.”